AUCD Legislative News In Brief

May 18, 2009

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Congressional Schedule

Congress faces a week of big-ticket deadlines before lawmakers head home for the Memorial Day recess, including completing a climate change markup and finalizing work on both a  $91 billion dollar war supplemental and a measure to tighten rules on credit card practices.

Budget and Appropriations

Last week, the Obama Administration released its detailed FY 2010 budget request to Congress. See AUCD's May 13 Special In Brief analysis of the President's budget in regards to disability program funding.  This week, congressional committees will begin hearings on the President's Budget. Education Secretary Duncan will testify at a House Education and Labor Committee hearing on his department's budget. It will receive $47 billion in discretionary spending under the administration's FY10 budget, an increase of $1.3 billion over FY09.  The most significant proposed change is a plan to end the Federal Family Education Loan program and use the money to fund Pell Grants. The budget would also make Pell Grant spending mandatory. The student loan plan is also the subject of a Thursday House Education and Labor Committee hearing, where lawmakers will hear from student lenders and other stakeholders over whether or not to end the FFEL program in favor of Direct Lending. The CBO estimated the plan would save the government $94 billion over 10 years.

On Thursday, the Senate Appropriations' Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education will hold a hearing on the FY10 Budget Request for the National Institutes of Health. 

Health Care Reform

The Senate HELP and Finance Committees are close to introducing their respective health care reform bills.  Last week, the Finance Committee held its final roundtable and released policy options to expand  coverage.  While these are only options, and primarily options under jurisdiction of the Finance Committee, there are many positive things to note.  First, long-term services and supports are included.  The Community Choice Act was not included in the list of options.  However, there are positive incremental options, including fixes to the Medicaid State Plan Option and a 1% increase in the federal match for home and community-based services.  Another positive note is that some recommendations on data collection of health disparities and disability were included.  AUCD will play a leadership role in submitting comments on behalf of CCD.  Comments are due this Friday.   

The Senate HELP Committee plans to introduce its health care reform bill this Friday.  However, there is a chance this may slip until after the Memorial Day recess.  AUCD participated in a stakeholders meeting last Friday led by Connie Garner from Sen. Kennedy's (D-MA) office and other HELP Committee staff.  Disability leaders made a variety of key points relevant to individuals with disabilities in health care reform such as inclusion of long-term services and supports, an adequate benefits package for individuals with disabilities participating in the exchange, inclusion of health disparities for individuals with disabilities, and addressing the direct support professional workforce.  

Long Term Services and Supports

The AUCD network overwhelmingly responded to the long term services call-in day on May 13th. Over 7,300 calls were made to Senate offices. The call-in day not only demonstrated the strength of the AUCD network to mobilize but also the ability and power of the aging and disability communities to work together in coalition. AUCD helped forge this collaboration and joined many of these organizations on a full page ad in Roll Call, the leading daily legislative newspaper on Capitol Hill. More information as well as a copy of the ad can be found on the AUCD Homepage.

Autism

On May 14, Reps. Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Chris Smith (R-NJ), co-chairs of the Congressional Coalition for Autism Research and Education, introduced the Autism Treatment Acceleration Act of 2009 (HR 2413), a companion to the bill of the same name introduced in the Senate in April as S. 819. The bill is nearly identical to the Senate version, except that it excludes the proposal for federal support of a National Registry and minor changes to the sections regarding networks and insurance.  The House bill's section regarding interdisciplinary training to increase the number of professionals skilled to work with individuals with ASD is identical to the Senate bill. Reps. Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Hank Johnson (D-GA) were also original co-sponsors.  With assistance from AUCD's Autism Workgroup and Legislative Affairs Committee, AUCD recently submitted suggestions to improve the bills.  AUCD will also be assisting the CCD to develop and submit comments. For more information, contact Kim Musheno at kmusheno@aucd.org.

Social Security

AUCD signed on to testimony that will be submitted on behalf of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) for a May 19 hearing of the Subcommittee on Social Security of the House Ways & Means Committee.  The hearing will focus on the Social Security Administration's Employment support programs for disability beneficiaries, including how to improve the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act (TWWIIA) that is up for reauthorization. The main focus of the testimony is to reduce the barriers to employment many beneficiaries face such as overpayments of SSI benefits which are a disincentive for beneficiaries to maintain employment as well as implementing the practices developed by a benefit offset demonstration pilot project that could serve as a powerful incentive for SSDI beneficiaries to work without losing cash benefits thereby helping to make individuals more financially independent. 

Abuse and Neglect

Congressman George Miller, Chair of the House Education and Labor Committee, will hold a hearing tomorrow entitled, "Examining the Abusive and Deadly Use of Seclusion and Restraint in Schools".  For more information, see the committee website: http://edlabor.house.gov/hearings/2009/05/examining-the-abusive-and-dead.shtml.  In addition, at the urging of advocates, the Obama Administration has scheduled a White House meeting on the issue of restraints and seclusion in schools.  Donna Gilles Associate UCEDD Director of the Partnership for People with Disabilities in Richmond, Virginia and chair of AUCD's workgroup on maltreatment will represent AUCD at the White House meeting.

Workplace Flexibility 2010

AUCD staff attended a briefing on a public policy initiative spearheaded by the Georgetown University Law clinic. This project includes a knowledge base on workplace flexibility, a systematic review of laws impacting workplace flexibility as well as a public policy platform aimed at increasing awareness and supporting initiatives to develop a more flexible national workforce environment.  Additional information can be found on the AUCD Employment Policy Page as well as the project website.

CDC Commissioner

On May 15th the White House announced that New York City Health Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden has been selected by President Obama to direct the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.  President Obama called Frieden "an expert in preparedness and response to health emergencies" who has "been at the forefront of the fight against heart disease, cancer and obesity, infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and AIDS, and in the establishment of electronic health records." Frieden's position will begin in June and does not require Senate confirmation.  Several prominent public health organizations, such as the Association of Schools of Public Health and Trust for America's Health have endorsed Obama's selection.

AUCD Stimulus Funding Webinar

AUCD sponsored a national Webinar on opportunities and resources available to network members within Recovery Act (stimulus) funds.  Representatives from the US Department of Education provided up to date information on the status of stimulus funding administered by ED.  The powerpoint presentation will be available on the AUCD Public Policy Page and a conference recording will also be posted.

Disability Policy Seminar

The AUCD Website for the 2009 Disability Policy Seminar contains links to fact sheets, presentations, meeting materials as well as pictures and a thank you note from award recipient House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD).  Be sure to check it out and use the materials for you own advocacy efforts at home.