AUCD Legislative News In Brief

March 9, 2009

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FY 2009 Appropriations

On March 5th Senate leaders were forced postpone a final vote on the $410 billion FY 09 omnibus appropriations bill after they were unable to gather the 60 votes needed to clear it.  Since the continuing resolution (CR) expired on March 6, Congress was forced to pass another short term CR to keep programs in those departments operating while the Congress finishes its work.  Senate leaders have reluctantly agreed to hold votes on 12 to 13 Republican amendments to the bill in order to get the votes needed for passage. They hope to finish the bill by Tuesday.  The bill would provide an overall 8 percent increase in discretionary spending, including modest increases for many disability programs.  See AUCD's Feb. 26. special edition of In Brief  with details regarding the final funding amounts for programs within the Departments of Health and Human Services and Education.

Long-Term Services and Supports

Last week, the Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing on including long-term services and supports in health care reform.  An archive of the hearing and testimony is located on the Committee website.  Judy Feder (Center for American Progress) and Henry Claypool (Paraprofessional Health Institute) were among the witnesses that referenced the CLASS Act and Community Choice Act.  The hearing was well attended by aging and disability communities, including many individuals from ADAPT.  Prior to the hearing the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) and the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (LCAO) hosted a national call-in day that generated over 4,400 calls to the Senate.  The AUCD network and COCA contributed to the success of this call in.  The CLASS Act will soon be reintroduced in the House and Senate.  The Community Choice Act will be reintroduced on March 24.  AUCD has issued an action alert to urge members of Congress to become co-sponsors of the Community Choice Act.    

Health Care Reform

Last week President Obama held a summit on health care reform attended by 150 policymakers and stakeholders.  Peter Thomas represented the CCD Health Task Force and delivered excellent comments that offered a disability perspective on reform.  A CSPAN webcast is available of the session at the following link (Peter's comments are 48 minutes into the webcast): http://www.c-span.org/Watch/watch.aspx?MediaId=HP-R-16049.  The White House also issued a statement indicating that over the next month a series of regional health care reform forums will be held in California, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina and Vermont.  The Administration also launched a new website: http://www.healthreform.gov/.  Several hearings are scheduled this week in the House and Senate on health care reform.  Finance Committee Chairman Baucus (D-MT) outlined an ambitious timeline last week, indicating desired committee consideration of legislation as early as June. 

Autism

The Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) announced the release of its first blueprint for autism research.  The IACC Strategic Plan for Autism Spectrum Disorder Research will advise federal agencies and Congress on needs and opportunities for research investigating autism, a complex developmental disorder that affects 1 in 150 children. The plan is available on the AUCD website (http://www.aucd.org/template/news.cfm?news_id=3668&id=16).

Civil Rights

The Senate HELP Committee held a hearing today entitled "Preventing Worker Exploitation: Protecting Individuals with Disabilities and Other Vulnerable Populations."  The topic for the hearing was sparked by the situation recently uncovered at an Atalissa, Iowa Turkey farm, where 21 men with intellectual disabilities were hired to work for years under deplorable conditions and with no oversight.  Senator Harkin (D-IA) recently met with community leaders in Iowa, including Bob Bacon, Director of the UCEDD, to discover how this could happen and how to prevent it in the future. During the hearing, Sen. Harkin suggested that the Dept. of Labor work in collaboration with community partners, such as UCEDDs, to help prevent worker exploitation. Curt Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) was invited to testify. The line of questioning focused on wage and hour laws and oversight.  See more information on the Committee website.

National Service

The HELP Committee, chaired by Sen. Kennedy (D-MA) will hold a hearing tomorrow where a number of witnesses have been invited to testify on the next generation of national service.  The House Education and Workforce Committee, Chaired by Rep. Miller (D-CA), held a hearing on Feb. 25 to examine the importance of national and community service in meeting critical economic needs across the country. Sen. Kennedy is expected to reintroduce legislation in the new Congress to expand and improve national service programs.

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. This week, the Dept. of Education released detailed information about funding related to ARRA including what's required in state application to receive state fiscal stabilization funds for education purposes.  NIH also released a number of announcements for funding opportunities related to ARRA, including opportunities for research directly related to AUCD's mission. Several federal agency pages allow visitors to sign up to receive RSS feeds or email updates. AUCD also encourages you to share strategies and success stories about the use of the stimulus funds at federal and state levels on behalf of people with disabilities. Send stories to Dawn Rudolph (drudolph@aucd.org).

Disability Policy Seminar

The 2009 Disability Policy Seminar will be held on April 27-29, 2009 at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.  Please register online before April 3 to avoid any penalties and to get a spot at the seminar hotel.  The Hotel is already 85 percent filled up!  A list of registered participants are posted online so that participants can coordinate Hill visits. 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