AUCD Legislative News InBrief

May 12, 2008

Budget and Appropriations

Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) said Thursday that budget writers are nearing a deal on a FY09 budget resolution.  However, work may be delayed until after the Memorial Day Recess due to delays in the war supplemental.  The Coalition for Health Funding, of which AUCD is a long time member, is, once again, leading the effort to advocate for the highest possible funding allocation (302b) for the House and Senate Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittees.  AUCD signed on to a letter that urges Appropriations Chairs Obey and Byrd to provide $15 billion over FY 2008 funding levels for the Labor-HHS-Ed Subcommittees.  This amount would: (1) restore cuts to core program funding over the last four years, (2) more appropriately account for four years of inflation and population growth to maintain service levels and purchasing power; and (3). return these programs to the FY 2005 level, a high water mark for many. The programs and services administered by the Departments of Health and Human Services, Education, and Labor serve a broad range of constituencies and needs. However, they all share a common, fundamental goal of strengthening this nation by investing in and improving the quality of life of its people, especially the most vulnerable. Unfortunately, the resources they need have been cut, eroded by inflation or stretched thin by swelling numbers of those in need. While Congress has worked to restore some of the cuts, many programs still remain far below their FY 2005 level, and others lost all funding. The President's FY 2009 budget request continues or deepens cuts for most of the programs in the Labor, HHS, and Education Appropriations bill.

 

Medicaid and War Supplemental

The House is expected to bring the war supplemental to the floor this Thursday.  It is expected to include about $105 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through the rest of the current fiscal year and nearly $70 billion for fiscal year 2009.   The legislation is also expected to include funding for veterans' education benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, and the Medicaid moratoria (see also May 5 In Brief).  The Senate Appropriations Committee is also expected to mark up their war supplemental bill this Thursday.  The Senate version is expected to include $169 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan, including $66 billion for FY09. The legislation would also increase the GI Bill and extend unemployment insurance.  The Senate version is also expected to include the Medicaid moratoria.  However, last week Senator Grassley (R-IA) voiced his opposition to the moratoria.  The White House has also threatened to veto separate legislation containing the moratoria as well as the war supplemental if it contains "extraneous" domestic spending. 

 

SCHIP

The Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee plans to hold a hearing on Thursday on H.R.5998, the "Protecting Children's Health Coverage Act of 2008," concerning the CMS directive issued last year limiting the ability of state to cover children above 250% of the federal poverty level.  The Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Congressional Research Service have found that CMS violated congressional review law in issuing the so-called August 17 Directive on SCHIP.  Subcommittee Chairman Pallone (D-NJ) and Representative Shea-Porter (D-NH) have introduced H.R. 5998 to nullify the directive.

 

ADA Restoration

Members of the disability community leading the effort to pass the ADA Restoration Act (H.R. 3195/S. 1881) have been negotiating since February with the business community to come to agreement on bill language that would restore the original intent of the law.  The ADA has been weakened by several important court decisions since its enactment.  The goal of the bill is to restore Congress's intent under the ADA by shifting the focus from whether a person is disabled, to whether the person was treated unfairly on the basis of disability.  Negotiators are hoping to reach a compromise that will achieve this goal and gain consensus on the bill so that it will have the support required to pass in this Congress and be signed into law before the end of the year.  If the bill is not passed, like all other bills not passed before the end of a Congress, it will have to be reintroduced in the new Congress.  The Legislative Affairs Committee will be briefed on the negotiations during tomorrow's monthly conference call meeting.  Contact Kim Musheno (kmusheno@aucd.org) for more information.

 

Housing

On April 10, Reps. Christopher Murphy (D-CT) and Judy Biggert (R-IL) introduced the "Frank Melville Supportive Housing Investment Act of 2008" (H.R. 5772).  This bill, referred to the House Financial Services Committee, would amend Section 811 of the Cranston-Gonzalez National Affordable Housing Act to improve the program for people with disabilities.  According to leaders of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Housing Task Force working on the bill, the measure includes a number of provisions that will help rejuvenate the program as a viable source of funding for individuals with severe disabilities.  In addition to removing many of the bureaucratic barriers in the Section 811 program, the bill includes a demonstration program to increase the production of new affordable and accessible (and completely integrated) units by leveraging other sources of funding capital, such as Low Income Housing Tax Credits.  The bill also would move the renewal costs of Section 811 tenant-based rental assistance into the general Section 8 program. In addition, it would mandate HUD to direct Public Housing Authorities to ensure that tenant-based rental assistance designed for people with disabilities goes to other people with disabilities on turnover.

 

TBI Act

Congress passed and the President signed the Traumatic Brain Injury Act into law (P.L.110-206) on April 28.  The newly reauthorized law includes language that would provide a set-aside for technical assistance for the Protection and Advocacy Systems. The 1996 TBI Act authorized the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to establish a grant program for States to assist it in addressing the needs of individuals with TBI and their families. It also delegated responsibilities in the areas of research, prevention, and surveillance to the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention respectively.  Appropriations for TBI Program in Fiscal Year 2007 was $8.5 million.

 

Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Program (ESSCP)

As part of the No Child Left Behind Act 2002 Congress expanded the Elementary School Counseling Program to allow secondary schools to apply for the ESSCP grants along with elementary schools. Because of the program's statutory funding trigger, secondary schools cannot apply for grants unless total funding exceeds $40 million, with that base amount reserved for elementary schools. Last week, AUCD signed onto a letter of support to the House and Senate Appropriations subcommittees requesting an increase in funding to $61.5 million. The ESSCP is the only federal program devoted to supporting counseling programs in our nation's schools.

 

IDEA Fairness Restoration Act

AUCD signed on a letter of support for the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act, H.R.4188, introduced by Representatives Van Hollen (D-MD) and Sessions (R-TX).  This bill will allow parents who prevail in IDEA cases to recover their expert witness fees, countering the Supreme Court decision in Arlington Central School District v. Murphy (2006).  AUCD also prepared an Action Alert to gain House co-sponsors on this bill: http://capwiz.com/aucd/issues/alert/?alertid=11349901

 

Nursing Home Safety Hearing

On May 15, the House Energy and Commerce Committee Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee will hold a hearing entitled "In the Hands of Strangers: Are Nursing Home Safeguards Working?"  For more information, see the committee's website.

 

Ohio Presidential Election Forum

The deadline to become a co-sponsor of the presidential candidate forum on disability issues has been extended to May 30.  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.  AUCD emailed details to the network yesterday. There are close to 30 cosponsors, including the Nisonger Center at the Ohio State University.  To become a co-sponsor contact Anne Sommers at AAPD: aapdanne@earthlink.net.