AUCD Legislative News In Brief

January 26, 2009

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Economic Recovery

Congress continues work this week on an $825 billion economic stimulus package.  Last week, several House committees approved portions of the its bill (see Jan. 16 In Brief).  The House version is expected to go to the floor for a vote this week.  Meanwhile, the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committees will mark up portions of the Senate bill as early as Tuesday.  The Senate bill would allocate $365 billion in discretionary spending, approximately $7 billion more than the House.  Both bills would include approximately $87 billion in assistance to states for Medicaid.  While there are slight differences, both bills also include significant funding for health measures.  Both bills extend and subsidize COBRA coverage, provide funding for health information technology, and fund comparative effectiveness research.  The Senate Appropriations Committee plans to provide $3.5 billion to NIH and $5.8 billion for wellness and prevention, with a large share going to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).                     

SCHIP

The Senate appears ready to pass a new bill to reauthorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) this week.  The legislation (H.R. 2) would expand the program by $31.5 billion over the next four and a half years, funded through a 61 cent per pack cigarette tax.  This will provide coverage to approximately 4 million previously uninsured children.  The bill is similar to the bill that passed during the last Congress that was vetoed twice by President Bush.  One difference that has upset some Republicans is the inclusion of a provision to remove a five year waiting period for eligibility for legal immigrants.  

Postsecondary Education

AUCD submitted a letter to the Department of Education supporting the nomination of Stephanie Smith Lee from the National Down Syndrome Society for a negotiated rulemaking committee.  The committee will begin working on regulations for Title IV of the Higher Education Opportunity Act which concerns access to federal financial assistance for students with intellectual disabilities.

Health Care Reform

Senator Harkin (D-IA) will hold a congressional round table tomorrow addressing "Access to Prevention and Public Health for High Risk Populations."  The panel includes Lisa I. Iezzoni, M.D., M.Sc., Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Associate Director of the Institute for Health Policy at the Massachusetts General Hospital, an expert in the area of disability and health care access.  Harkin is leading a task force formulating recommendations on prevention to be included in an overall health reform proposal.

Committee Assignments

The Senate Republican leadership made several key committee appointments last week.  Senator Enzi (R-WY), who is currently Ranking Member on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, was appointed to the Finance Committee.  He will join two other members, Senators Hatch (R-UT) and Roberts (R-KS), who also sit on both committees.   Senator John McCain (R-AZ) was also appointed to the HELP Committee. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) was appointed to the Finance Committee.  New Republican members of the Appropriations Committee are George Voinovich (R-OH), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME).

White House Disability Agenda

On January 20, President Obama announced his Administration's disability agenda on the new White House website (www.whitehouse.gov).  In addition to becoming a signatory of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the plan states that it has four parts: 1) providing educational opportunities; 2) ending discrimination and enforcing civil rights laws; 3) increasing the employment rate for individuals with disabilities; and 4) supporting the Community Choice Act and national long term care legislation.  The agenda includes a separate statement on Autism, supporting research, early identification, education and treatment of individuals with ASD as well as supporting funding for the Combating Autism Act.

AUCD Disability Policy Fellow

Please join AUCD in welcoming our new Disability Policy Fellow, Samantha Marsh, who joined the national office on Jan. 21. Samantha is a doctoral student in the Education Program for Special Education and Disability Policy Leadership at Virginia Commonwealth University and a Trainee at the Partnership for People with Disabilities in Richmond, Virginia. She was also a LEND Trainee and most recently an adjunct faculty member and graduate research assistant at VCU.   At AUCD, Samantha will be assisting the legislative affairs staff in pursuing its public policy priorities, especially in the area of education policy, as well as assisting program staff to fulfill ADD contract activities. Samantha can be contacted at smarsh@aucd.org.

AUCD also wishes all the best to its outgoing Policy Fellow, Tammie Picklesimer.  Today is her last day in the office! Tammie has accepted a position as Director of Policy Development for Special Education for the Washington, DC Office of State Superintendent for Education.  Please feel free to send your well wishes to her at her home address: pickasmile@gmail.com

For copies of this and previous issues of Legislative News In Brief please visit the Public Policy Page of the AUCD website: http://www.aucd.org/template/page.cfm?id=27