AUCD Legislative News InBrief

January 22, 2008

Congressional Schedule and Outlook

The Second Session of the 110th Congress is in full swing this week as the Senate returns from recess today. A very busy schedule is expected for the beginning of the session. However, the politics of an election year are likely to pose difficulty for anything to move without broad bi-partisan support. President Bush will give his final State of the Union address next Monday, January 28. On February 4, the President will release his budget proposal which will set the stage for the annual appropriations process. Discussions about the economy and negotiations on an economic stimulus plan will take center stage this week.

Economic Stimulus

An economic downturn and possible recession have led to calls for a speedy economic stimulus plan to boost the economy. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has released a report that outlines principles for an effective stimulus package: http://www.cbpp.org/1-14-08bud.htm. Essentially, there is agreement among many that a package should be timely, targeted, and temporary. Last Friday, President Bush outlined his goals for a package that would cost roughly $145 billion, about 1 percent of gross domestic product, the amount most economists say is necessary to pump into the economy. About two-thirds would be geared toward individuals in the form of tax rebates, while the remainder would come as business tax breaks, including small-business incentives. Democrats are envisioning a package in the ballpark of $100 to $150 billion, including business tax breaks, but with a mix of spending and tax proposals and limits on who can benefit from tax relief. A plan would be outside of pay-as-you-go rules.

 

One thing AUCD and other disability and health advocates would like to see included in the package is a temporary increase in the Federal Medial Assistance Percentage (FMAP). This would provide immediate relief to states. Many states have already predicted budget shortfalls for the year and typically one area states often target for cuts is within Medicaid and healthcare. Senator John (Jay) Rockefeller (D-WV), a key Democrat on health issues, and others want to see as much as $15 billion in aid to states to help their squeezed budgets. About half would be targeted to Medicaid, similar to a package agreed to in 2003 and signed by Bush. AUCD signed onto a Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) letter to House and Senate Democratic and Republican leadership urging inclusion of a temporary FMAP increase and other state relief. While not asking for inclusion in the stimulus package, the letter also references the recent Bush Administration regulatory and administrative Medicaid proposals on rehabilitation services, certain school-based services, and target case management that will negatively impact state budgets at a time when immediate assistance is needed.

SCHIP

The House will vote Wednesday on overriding President Bush's second veto of a bill expanding the State Children's Health Insurance Program. Negotiations on a deal broke down last December and an override is not expected. It is largely a symbolic vote on behalf of House Democrats to continue discussions about expanding SCHIP and broader health reforms. A stop-gap bill was passed to maintain current enrollment and extend the program until March 2009, after the Presidential election.

Community Choice Act/CLASS Act

AUCD staff attended a hearing of the Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Health on long term services and supports. Witnesses provided testimony that focused on a broad range of policy issues including the Community Choice Act (H.R. 1621/S. 799), the Community Living Services and Support (CLASS) Act (H.R. 3001/S. 1758) and the Direct Support Professional and Security Act (H.R. 1279). In addition, the proposed Medicaid regulations regarding School-Based Transportation, Rehabilitation Services Options, the interim Rule on case management services were discussed. Last week's hearing resulted in additional co-sponsorships of the Community Choice Act; however, markup of the bill has not yet been scheduled in either the House or the Senate .The hearing and testimony can be accessed on the committee's web page. http://energycommerce.house.gov/cmte_mtgs/110-he-hrg.011608.MedicaidDisabilities.shtml. AUCD released a press release supporting the Community Choice Act and CLASS Act: http://www.aucd.org/template/page.cfm?id=39

 

CCD Annual Meeting

AUCD staff attended the annual meeting of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities last Thursday. The agenda included reports from individual Task Forces, organization of the Board of Directors and Task Forces for 2008, and discussion of overarching goals for the coming year. The all day meeting also included presentations by Michelle Stockwell, Policy Director of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD); Ellen Nissenbaum, Legislative Director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities; and Jennifer Tolbert Health Policy Analyst at the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured. CCD Chair Marty Ford of the Disability Policy Collaboration gave the Chairman's Award to Jeff Crowley, Georgetown Institute for Health Care Research and Policy for his excellent research and analyses in Medicaid and Medicare policy. The CCD Task Force reports are all posted on the consortium website at http://www.c-c-d.org/

 

Disability Policy Seminar

An exciting program is being developed for the upcoming Policy Seminar co-sponsored by AUCD, The Arc, UCP, AAIDD and NACDD March 2-4. Key Hill staff are being invited to discuss legislative proposals including the DD Act, CLASS Act, Community Choice Act, Direct Support Professional Fairness Act, Higher Education Act, NCLB and other legislation that could see action in the Second Session of the 110th Congress. A special Trainee reception is also in the works for Sunday evening. The deadline to register for the seminar is February 7 so please act soon. Also, the deadline for the Hyatt Regency Hotel registration at the discount rate is Feb. 8. However, the hotel room block is almost full. There is a listing of alternative hotels on the AUCD website. Please visit the AUCD website for all the information you need to register for the event and hotel:

http://www.aucd.org/template/event.cfm?event_id=930&id=379&parent=379.