AUCD Legislative News In Brief

July 13, 2009

Congressional Schedule
The Congressional schedule is packed with issues of importance to the disability community. These include health reform in both the House and Senate, Fiscal 2010 appropriations, a hearing on the Workforce Investment Act, and hate crimes prevention legislation. The Judiciary Committee will be holding its confirmation hearings this week on Supreme Court nominee Sonya Sotomayor. Several national disability organizations signed onto a letter in strong support for Sotomayor's appointment.

Appropriations
The House Appropriations Subcommittee approved the spending bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education July 10. While little detail is publicly available AUCD has learned that many HHS programs are level funded. However, the bill does include small increases for both the University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (+ $1 million) and the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities programs (+$2 million). The bill also includes an increase for NIH which funds the IDDRC programs. According to a committee summary, the bill would allocate $160.7 billion in overall discretionary spending; this is $52 million less than the President's request and $5.6 billion more than enacted last year. The bill would provide $64.7 billion for the Department of Education (+ $6 billion over FY09); the Department of HHS would receive $73.7 billion, (+$6 billion); the Department of Labor would receive $13.3 billion (+$845 million). The full committee is scheduled to mark up the bill this Friday. The Senate plans to begin consideration of its bill near the end of July. More information will likely be made available following the full committee markup on Friday.

Workforce Investment Act Reauthorization
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee has invited Dr. William Kiernan, Director of the Institute for Community Inclusion (MA UCEDD), to testify at the July 16 Workforce Investment Act (WIA) reauthorization hearing. Dr. Kiernan will be discussing what is working and what needs to be improved in order to assist people with disabilities to obtain and retain jobs in the community. The full list of experts invited to testify is list on the committee website.

Health Reform
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee continues its mark up of it health reform legislation this week. Meanwhile, negotiations continue within the Senate Finance Committee in efforts to reach bi-partisan support, particularly on options to pay for health reform. Timing has also slipped slightly in the House following concerns expressed last week by fiscally conservative Democrats. However, House leadership is still pushing to have a bill on the floor by the August recess.

Long-Term Services and Supports
Last week the Senate HELP Committee approved the CLASS Act contained within the Senate HELP health reform bill, the Affordable Health Choices Act. An amendment offered by Senator Gregg (R-NH) was accepted to require premiums to be adjusted to ensure long term (75-year) solvency of the program. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) the CLASS Act would reduce Medicaid spending by $2.5 billion over the first four years of benefits payments. After the Greg amendment was excepted, strong bi-partisan support was expressed. Prior to the mark up, the Administration expressed their support for the CLASS Act through a letter sent to Senator Kennedy from Secretary Sebelius. AUCD sent a letter to Secretary Sebelius thanking the Administration for their support and encouraging them to also support improvements within Medicaid to reduce the institutional bias and expand home and community-based services. Approval of the CLASS Act generated a lot of positive support including a story on NPR by Joseph Shapiro. AUCD is working with aging and disability organizations to urge the House to include the CLASS Act in the tri-committee bill.

Abuse Prevention/Bullying
AUCD staff attended a House Education and Labor Subcommittee hearing on Strengthening School Safety through Prevention of Bullying on July 8. This hearing examined strategies for improving school safety, including ways to prevent violence, bullying and harassment. Testimony was provided by a variety of witnesses that included a school security expert, school psychologist, principal, non-profit corporation and parent and student representatives. There was no specific testimony or statements regarding students with disabilities as targets of bullying. Additional information is available on the Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee website. Representative Linda Sanchez (D-CA) recently introduced a bill, "Bullying and Gang Reduction for Improved Education Act" (H.R. 1589) aimed at reducing bullying in schools.

Hate Crimes Prevention
The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act (S. 909/H.R. 1913) may be considered in the Senate this week as part of the Defense Authorization Act. Rep. Pat Leahy will sponsor the amendment to the bill in the form of S. 909. The bill was originally introduced by Representatives John Conyers (D-MI) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) in the House and by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) in the Senate. On April 29, 2009, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1913 by a vote of 249-175. The bill, supported by AUCD, gives the Department of Justice (DOJ) the power to investigate and prosecute bias-motivated violence by providing the DOJ with jurisdiction over crimes of violence where the perpetrator has selected the victim because of the person's actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. A coalition of civil rights groups is sponsoring a call in day on Wednesday from 9-5 and offer a toll free number to call in support of S. 909: the number is 866-659-9641.

Housing
AUCD signed onto CCD Housing Task Force comments on a Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA - Docket #FR5332-N-01) for Section 8 Rental Assistance for non-elderly people with disabilities. The letter supports HUD's efforts to tie assistance to Money Follow the Person and other community transition programs.

Medicaid ARRA Guidance
On July 8 the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released one of a series of Medicaid Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) designed to provide guidance on the implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). The fact sheets address questions that have been submitted to the ARRA mailbox, CMSOARRAQuestions@cms.hhs.gov. Future Medicaid FAQs will be issued in the coming weeks and months. These FAQs, along with previous Medicaid guidance on ARRA released by CMS, are available on the CMS website.

National Institute of Health Nomination
President Obama has nominated Dr. Francis Collins as NIH Chief. Dr. Collins is most recently known for his leadership role at NIH on the Human Genome Project (HGP). According to an NIH press release, Dr. Collins has also led efforts to ensure that the HGP is translated into tools and strategies to advance biological knowledge and improve human health. Dr. Collins will direct a $29.5 billion budget for the medical research agency that includes the National Institute on Child Health and Human Development that funds developmental disabilities research. More information on Dr. Collins is available on the National Human Genome Research Institute website.

OSERS Nomination
Alexa E. Posny was nominated by President Obama on July 6th to become the Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) at the Department of Education. Posny currently serves as the Commissioner of Education for the state of Kansas. Prior to this Posny served as the Director of the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) for the U.S. Department of Education. Posny holds a master's degree in behavioral disabilities and a doctorate in educational administration both from the University of Wisconsin Madison.

Assessments and Secondary Education
The Alliance for Excellent Education released a publication entitled Meaningful Measurement a collection of essays by leading experts that discuss important assessment issues, examine promising assessment practices, and offer recommendations on how the federal government can support an assessment agenda for the future. Founded in 2001, the Alliance focuses on the most at-risk secondary school students who are most likely to leave school without a diploma or to graduate unprepared for a productive future. This publication alludes to one of the most significant issues in NCLB reauthorization cited by both Secretary of Education Duncan and the Chairman Miller (D-CA) of the House Education and Labor Committee.

National Conference of State Legislatures
AUCD will be exhibiting and presenting at the upcoming National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) Legislative Summit. Nathan Blum, Ph.D. Director of the PA LEND has been invited to speak at an opening plenary the latest research in developmental disabilities. AUCD will be co-exhibiting with the Pennsylvania Institute on Disabilities/UCEDD. AUCD will also be hosting with Easter Seals a panel presentation on federal and state initiatives on autism spectrum disorders (ASD). David Mitchell, Ph.D. Director of the PA UCDDD at Temple University will also participate on the panel. The NCSL summits attract approximately 6,000 state legislators and their staff for committee meetings and presentations. Please encourage your state legislators to attend this session on July 21. For more information, contact Kim Musheno.