AUCD Legislative News InBrief

April 28, 2008

Congressional Outlook

Over the next month the House and Senate will debate an emergency supplemental spending bill to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The bill is expected to provide approximately $108 billion in funding for the wars for this fiscal, $70 billion in "bridge funding" for the few months of the next Administration, and upwards of $12 billion in domestic spending.  The war supplemental could provide a vehicle to block or delay seven harmful Medicaid regulations.  However, President Bush has threatened to veto any bill that exceeds $108 billion in funding and some Democrats want to avoid a veto and hold separate votes on domestic proposals.  Meanwhile, negotiators continue to seek an agreement on the stalled fiscal 2009 budget resolution.  A major sticking point is paying for a temporary fix for the alternative minimum tax.  If an agreement on a budget resolution is not reached by May 15, Congressional leadership can proceed with setting budget allocations to Appropriations Committee without a BR.

 

Medicaid

Last week, the House passed the Protecting the Medicaid Safety Net Act of 2008 (H.R. 5613) by a vote of 349-62.  The vote is more than the two-thirds majority needed to override a Presidential veto.  The White House has issued a strong veto threat against the legislation that would delay seven Medicaid regulations.  Also in the wake of the House vote, Senate Republicans are circulating a letter urging their colleagues to oppose attempts to move a similar bill in the Senate.  They are attempting to gain enough Republicans on the letter to demonstrate that the Senate cannot override a Presidential veto.  Late last week, Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) announced plans to bypass the Finance Committee and take H.R. 5613 directly to the floor.  The AUCD Action Center has an alert to gain Senate support for moratorium on Medicaid regulations: http://capwiz.com/aucd/issues/alert/?alertid=11163826

 

Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA)

After nearly a decade, a major victory was achieved last week with Senate passage of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (S. 358) by a unanimous vote of 95-0.  Senator Kennedy (D-MA), a co-sponsor of the bill, described it as "the first major new civil rights bill of the new century" which would bar employers from rejecting job candidates on the basis of genetic test results and health insurance companies from using the information to set premiums or determine enrollment eligibility. Negotiations were held up by Senator Coburn (R-OK) and opposition from the business community and health insurance companies.   The House is expected to pass the amended bill this week. The White House is expected to support the legislation.  Some experts say that genetic testing could lead to improved medical treatments and therapies that are not utilized to its fullest because patients are afraid that employers and insurance companies will use the information against them.  

 

Respite and Veterans with TBI

AUCD provided input into a new draft bill by Senator Clinton (D-NY) that would provide pilot projects on respite for returning veterans with traumatic brain injuries.  The proposal would provide respite training to family members and establish partnerships between institutions of higher education and VA Hospitals to provide students opportunities to provide respite for coursework experience.  AUCD provided suggested language to include students from undergraduate and graduate disability-related programs, including interdisciplinary training programs -which would make opportunities available for UCEDDs or LENDs.  AUCD also recommended that the pilot projects work with lifespan respite networks in states if available.  The bill is expected to be introduced this week.           

 

Newborn Screening

Last week the President signed into law the Newborn Screening Saves Lives Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-204).  The law authorizes funding to help states expand and improve their screening programs, provide educational materials to families and improve follow-up care and treatment of newborns who screen positive for several conditions.

 

Mental Health Parity

Negotiations continue to attempt to reach agreement on House and Senate mental health parity legislation (S. 558, H.R. 1424).  The House approved its mental health parity bill by a 268-148 vote on March 5.  The Senate approved parity legislation in September 2007 by unanimous consent.  On March 18, Senators Kennedy (D-MA) and Domenici (R-NM) offered the House a compromise.  It was reported last week that the House has prepared a counteroffer to a Senate proposal on mental health parity legislation.  A major sticking point has been House language requiring employers to cover all illnesses listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (DSM-IV).

 

No Child Left Behind

On April 22, AUCD staff attended a briefing where ED Secretary Margaret Spellings announced proposed amendments to regulations governing No Child Left Behind (NCLB). These regulations are an effort by the Bush Administration to clarify and strengthen current Title I regulations in the areas of assessment, accountability, public school choice, and supplemental educational services.  One of the most significant changes in the regulations, particularly for individuals with disabilities, is the requirement for States to establish a uniform definition of graduation rate by 2012-2013.  The new regulation would require states to implement the definition consistent with and agreed to by the National Governors Association (NGA).  Public comments are due June 23; AUCD will prepare comments and work with the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Education Task Force on joint comments.  Links to the department's summary and the Federal Register Notice of Proposed Rulemaking are on the AUCD policy webpage: http://www.aucd.org/template/page.cfm?id=491.

 

National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR)

Last week the Department of Education released a notice of proposed priorities for DDRS, RRTCs, and RERCs for fiscal year 2008 and later years.  In addition, a second notice was issued requesting written input regarding NIDRR's long-range plan for fiscal years 2010-2014.  Public comments are due May 22, 2008.  AUCD will work with interested network members to prepare comments. For more information, contact Tammie Picklesimer at tpicklesimer@aucd.org.

 

ADAPT

ADAPT celebrates its 25th anniversary and is in Washington DC this week.  A press conference is scheduled for Tuesday to announce the "best" and "worst" states for community services.  Action will focus on support for the Community Choice Act (S. 799, H.R. 1621).  An alert to gain co-sponsors for the Community Choice Act is on the AUCD Action Center:  http://capwiz.com/aucd/issues/alert/?alertid=9568111

 

Employment

Senate Majority Whip Durbin (D-IL) recently spoke at the Fourth Annual Tony Coelho Lecture in Disability Employment Law & Policy lecture series.  His speech called for the federal government to do more and discussed the importance of the ADA Restoration Act.  A webcast of the event is available at:

www.nyls.edu/coelho

 

Ohio Presidential Election Forum

AUCD has joined a growing number of disability-related national and state organizations to sponsor a presidential candidate forum on disability issues.  The event will take place July 26, 2008 at Veterans Memorial in Columbus, Ohio.   This forum builds on the success of the November primary forum held in New Hampshire: http://jfactivist.typepad.com/jfactivist/2008_election/page/2/.  A large crowd of approximately 2,000 individuals is expected and the event will again be webcasted live.  Organizers hope to gain as many additional state and national organization co-sponsors as possible.  Levels of sponsorship are available at $500 and $1500.  For more information about becoming a co-sponsor contact Anne Sommers by May 7 at AAPD: aapdanne@earthlink.net.