AUCD Legislative News In Brief

March 2, 2009

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FY 2009 Appropriations

The U. S. House of Representatives passed the FY 2009 Omnibus Appropriations bill by a vote of 245-178 on February 25.  The Senate expects to take up the bill this week. AUCD emailed a special edition of In Brief last week with details regarding the final conference report number for the Departments of Health and Human Services and Education.

President's FY 2010 Budget

On February 26, the President released a broad budget outline for Fiscal Year 2010 and did not include funding levels for specific programs.  The budget outline for labor, health and human services, and education is available on the Office on Management and Budget website. A more detailed budget proposal is expected to be released in late April.   Following are some of the highlights from the outline:

·         The Budget establishes a reserve fund of more than $630 billion over 10 years "to finance fundamental reform of our health care system that will bring down costs and expand coverage.  The reserve is funded half by new revenue and half by savings proposals that promote efficiency and accountability, align incentives toward quality, and encourage shared responsibility."

·         A down payment on the President's "Zero to Five" initiative which supports investments in Head Start, the Child Care Block Grant.  It also creates a Nurse Home Visitation program for first time mothers. 

·         The budget invests $330 million to address the shortage of health care providers in certain areas.

·         The Budget includes $211 million in HHS for research into the causes of and treatments for autism spectrum disorder, screenings, public awareness, and support services.

·         Includes $73 million to improve both access to and quality of health care in rural areas. This funding will strengthen regional and local partnerships among rural health care providers, expand community- based prevention interventions, and promote the modernization of the health care infrastructure in rural areas.

·         Provides resources to reduce health disparities, which the President has identified as an important goal of his Administration.

The next step will be for the Congress to develop a Budget Resolution with aggregate numbers and any special procedures such as budget reconciliation.  Over the summer the 12 annual appropriations bills will be considered by the Appropriations Committees so that they are signed into law by the October 1st beginning of the fiscal year.  AUCD is developing an issue brief for Budget and Appropriations Committee members on AUCD's funding recommendations for its network programs.  AUCD sent a letter to House Committee Chairman Obey requesting a spot to testify on AUCD's funding priorities.

2009 Stimulus Funding Watch: http://www.aucd.org/template/page.cfm?id=632

AUCD developed a new webpage to provide information on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The page is divided into three sections: General Stimulus Information, Agency Specific Funding Opportunities and other Resources and Links. AUCD also hopes to collect strategies and success stories of network members' use of the stimulus funds at federal and state levels on behalf of people with disabilities. We ask that you send these to Dawn Rudolph (drudolph@aucd.org). Please check this page often as we expect a steady stream of new information to be posted over the coming weeks and months.

Long-Term Services and Supports

The Senate Special Committee on Aging will hold a hearing this Wednesday at 10AM EST entitled: National Healthcare Reform Must Include Long Term Care.  Witnesses include:  Thomas Hamilton (CMS), Karen Timberlake (Wisconsin DHS), Holly Benson (Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration), Henry Claypool (Paraprofessional Health Institute), Melanie Bella (Center for Health Care Strategies), and Judy Feder (Center for American Progress).  In collaboration with the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (LCAO), CCD is hosting a national call-in day on Tuesday March 3, the day before the hearing (see CCD Action Alert).  Individuals are being asked to call their senators and ask them to include long-term services and supports in health care reform.  A sample script and toll-free call in number are provided.  CCD and LCAO are also meeting with Senate Finance Committee members to discuss the importance of including long-term services and supports in health care reform.          

Direct support

Reps. Capps (D-CA) and Lee Terry (R-NE) have introduced H.R.868, the Direct Support Professionals Fairness and Security Act of 2009 on Feb. 4. Like previous legislation considered during the 110th Congress, H.R.868 helps address the workforce crisis by giving states a much-needed option to secure additional federal dollars for the direct support workforce. Supporters of the bill are now seeking co-sponsors. In the previous Congress, there were 131 co-sponsors of H.R. 1279. Co-sponsors must renew their sponsorship of H.R. 868 in the 111th Congress. If your representative co-sponsored the Direct Support Professionals Fairness and Security Act in the past, please ask them to renew their support and co-sponsor H.R. 868. See more information on the AUCD website (http://www.aucd.org/template/capwiz.cfm). 

Abuse and Neglect

The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved legislation to protect teenagers attending residential programs from physical, mental, and sexual abuse and increase transparency to help parents make safe choices for their children. The Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act of 2009 (H.R. 911) won strong bipartisan support, with a vote of 295 to 102. Investigations conducted by the Government Accountability Office during the 110th Congress at the request of Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, uncovered thousands of cases and allegations of child abuse and neglect since the early 1990's at teen residential programs, including therapeutic boarding schools, boot camps, wilderness programs and behavior modification facilities. The bill would establish minimum health and safety standards for preventing child abuse and neglect at teen residential programs. It prohibits physical, mental, and sexual abuse and requires programs to provide children with adequate food, water, rest, and medical care. The bill allows for civil penalties against programs that violate the new standards. It also requires states, within three years, to take on the role of setting and enforcing standards for both private and public youth residential programs.  AUCD sent a letter of support for this bill to Chairman Miller upon introduction.

Asset Development

Last week the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2009 (ABLE Act) was introduce in the Senate and House.  The Senate bill, S. 493, was introduced by Senators Casey (D-PA), Dodd (D-C-CT), Kennedy (D-MA), Hatch (R-UT), Brownback (R-KS), and Burr (R-NC).  The House bill, H.R. 1205, was introduced by Representatives Kennedy (D-RI), Meek (D-FL), Crenshaw (R-FL), and McMorris Rodgers (R-WA).  This bill would allow individuals with disabilities to establish tax preferred savings accounts for disability-related needs without jeopardizing their eligibility for means-tested disability benefits.  Several different pieces of legislation were introduced in the last Congress.  The disability advocacy community, led primarily by the National Down Syndrome Society, worked with bill co-sponsors to develop consensus around one bill. 

Employment

On February 26, the House Subcommittee on Higher Education, Lifelong Learning, and Competitiveness will held a hearing to examine innovative strategies for improving job training and education for America's workers. The hearing was the second in a series of hearings the House Education and Labor Committee is holding as it works toward reauthorizing the Workforce Investment Act.

Obama Cabinet and Transition

The Senate confirmed Rep. Hilda Solis, D-Calif., to be President Obama's Labor secretary. The vote was 80-17. Her confirmation had been delayed because of Republican concerns about her pro-union positions on some issues and questions about her husband's taxes. 

Today, President Obama introduced Governor Kathleen Sebelius (D), two-term Governor of Kansas, as his nominee to head the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).   As HHS Sebelius would take charge of an agency with 70,000 employees responsible for public health, food safety, scientific research, and the administration of the Medicare and Medicaid programs.  

Last week, President Obama hosted a Fiscal Policy Summit.  Marty Ford of The Arc was participated on behalf of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities. On Thursday President Obama will host a White House Summit on health care reform.  The meeting is expected to include Members of Congress, representatives from the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, medical providers and advocacy groups.

Disability Policy Seminar

A New Era:  Embracing Opportunities In The Face Of Grave Challenges, the 2009 Disability Policy Seminar theme, will explore the unique challenges and opportunities facing the new 111th Congress and Obama Administration brought about by the 2008 election results and the economic crisis. At the 2009 Seminar, hundreds of disability advocates from around the country will gather to discuss a wide range of public policy issues affecting people with disabilities and their families.  We expect the following public policy issues will take center stage: Budget and Appropriations, Entitlements (Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security), Health Care and Long Term Services Reform, Developmental Disabilities Act, and Employment, among others. The seminar will be held on April 27-29, 2009 at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.  This seminar is sponsored by AUCD in partnership with The Arc, UCP, AAIDD, NACDD and our newest partner, Self Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE).  Please register online before April 3 to avoid any penalties and to get a spot at the seminar hotel.  The Hotel is already 80 percent filled up!  All of the information you need is on our Events page.

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