AUCD Legislative News InBrief

July 14, 2008

Appropriations

Democratic leaders appear resigned to passing a continuing resolution (CR) for programs funded through the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education appropriations bill.  Just before the July 4 recess, the Senate managed to move its bill through the subcommittee and full committee.  In the House, however, the bill passed the subcommittee but the process came to a halt when Rep. Lewis (R-CA), ranking minority member of the full committee tried to force a vote on a Republican Interior spending bill easing domestic oil drilling rights.  A frustrated Chairman Obey (D-WI) immediately adjourned the meeting without considering any bills and threatened to halt progress of any appropriations bills.  The impasse has still not been resolved making prospects for a CR even more likely.  A CR would likely continue Developmental Disabilities and other programs under the jurisdiction of the Departments of Labor, HHS, and Education at the current FY 08 funding level.  AUCD is urging Congress to move the annual appropriations bills before adjournment this Fall.  For more information and a table comparing House and Senate funding proposals, see the July 7 In Brief.

 

The Senate L-HHS-ED Appropriations Subcommittee will hold a hearing on FY 2009 funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Both the House and Senate Committee funding bills provide a little over $1 billion increase over FY 08.

 

Medicare

Last week the Senate passed a Medicare bill to stop a scheduled 10.6% cut in physician payments.  The House passed the bill by a veto-proof majority before the July 4th recess.  Senator Kennedy (D-MA) made a dramatic return to the floor to cast his vote.  After the scales were tipped with the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster, nine Republicans changed their vote in favor to allow a 69-30 vote.  In addition to preventing a cut in Medicare physician payments, the bill also includes several other positive provisions that will impact individuals with disabilities.  Among these provisions is an 18 month delay of a controversial competitive bidding program for durable medical equipment that could severely limit access for individuals with disabilities.  The bill also extends the exceptions process for caps on therapies for 18 months and increases reimbursements for mental health services.  At a press conference the day after the Senate vote, President Bush stated his plan to veto the bill. However, both the House and Senate now have the numbers needed to override a presidential veto.

 

Higher Education

House and Senate conferees continue to negotiate differences in the bills to reauthorize the Higher Education Act which is in its seventh extension due to expire on July 31. The major sticking points are two provisions in the House version (HR 4137): 1) a "maintenance of effort" provision that would penalize states financially if they cut back their commitment to higher education; and 2) a provision that would expand an aid program that assists minority based institutions to increase the number of students pursuing graduate degrees to include master degree programs. Efforts to resolve the differences and send the bill to the President is still a priority for this Congress, according to Hill staff involved.    

 

ADA Amendment Act

The Senate HELP Committee is scheduled to hold a "roundtable" (similar in purpose to a hearing) on the ADA Amendment Act on Tuesday July 15. Representatives of both the disability and business community will be providing testimony. Following the roundtable, the Senate intends to introduce a new bill that will be similar to the House-passed HR 3195 which was passed 402-17. The disability and business group alliance hopes that the new bill will move swiftly through the Senate.  Carey McClure, an electrician from George who testified before the House Ed and Labor Committee will testify on behalf of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities at the Roundtable.  Chai Feldblum, professor of the Federal Legislation Clinic at Georgetown University Law Center, will also testify.  AUCD is working to garner bipartisan support in the Senate.  For more information and to take action, please visit AUCD's Action Center: www.aucd.org.

 

Employment

The Social Security Administration (SSA) published new regulations on May 20 to make improvements to the Ticket to Work Program". These changes will take effect on July 21. In preparation for the implementation of the new regulations SSA and its partners will be conducting several national training sessions. For more information on the Ticket to Work Program and upcoming teleconferences visit the AUCD Public Policy Employment webpage.

 

Housing

The Frank Melville Supporting House Investment Act of 2008 (H.R.5772) is scheduled for a full committee markup in the House Financial Services Committee on Tuesday, July 15. The bill is intended to create new permanent supportive housing units and make significant changes and improvements to the Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities program. For more information on the bill, visit the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) Housing Task Force webpage.

 

Ohio Presidential Forum

AUCD and other sponsors of the Ohio Presidential Forum on Disability Issues are working hard to get commitments from Sens. Obama and McCain to either attend in person or send a high level surrogate to this important event.  The event will take place on July 26, 2008, coinciding with the 18th Anniversary of the ADA.  News anchor and journalist, Judy Woodruff ("The News Hour with Jim Lehrer," PBS), will moderate.  AUCD encourages University Centers to organize viewing parties to view the live webcast (more information on how to view the webcast is coming soon). Registration to attend the event in person is opened to the public: http://www.govoter.org/presidential_forum/index.aspx.  The Fox Business website has posted the Forum press release on its website: http://www.foxbusiness.com/story/historic-presidential-forum-unites-thousands-disability-community/. For more information, contact Kim Musheno at kmusheno@aucd.org.

 

Autism/NCSL

AUCD and Easter Seals are collaborating to present to state legislators on the issue of autism at their upcoming annual Legislative Summit in New Orleans.  AUCD Autism Special Interest Group Chair, Cathy Pratt (Indiana UCEDD), will also be presenting at the event scheduled for Thursday, July 24.  AUCD and the Louisiana UCEDD will also be hosting a joint exhibit at the Summit. NCSL expects approximately 3,000 legislators, staff and their families at the event. For more information, see the NCSL program at: www.ncsl.org/summit.

 

Editor's Corrections

The Appropriations table and analysis published in last week's In Brief has been slightly updated and revised.  Please see the revised table and analysis online at http://www.aucd.org/template/page.cfm?id=164. Also, a separate June 26 email to the network gave an incorrect amount for an appropriations amendment for Special Olympics.  The Senate Committee passed an amendment providing $3 million for Special Olympics, not billion.