AUCD Legislative News In Brief

November 29, 2010

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
 
  November 29, 2010   |  Vol. X, Issue 48
  
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Congressional Schedule
The House and Senate return from the Thanksgiving holiday to continue the post-election "Lame Duck" congressional session.  Democratic leaders have a full plate as they would like to get some priorities passed and signed into law before the end of the 111th Congress, before they lose the majority in the House and their majority narrows in the Senate (see Nov. 8 issue of In Brief).  The agenda includes passing the FY 2011 annual funding bills, a bill to extend tax cuts (see Tax Cuts below), a defense authorization bill that includes repealing the ban on gays in the military, a food safety bill, Medicare physician payment fix, a nuclear arms treaty, and an immigration bill.  With regard to disability policy, Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) is pushing for action on two bills before he retires at the end of this session.  Dodd's bill to reauthorize CAPTA is on the schedule to be considered by the HELP Committee, and he is still considering introducing a bill to reauthorize the Combating Autism Act before the end of the session (even though it will little chance for passage with so little time remaining). 

Appropriations
The current Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund government programs while Congress works on the annual funding bills expires Friday. Congress will likely pass a two-week extension through December 17, providing time to decide whether to pass an "omnibus" spending bill or a long-term CR that lasts through the end of the fiscal year on September 30. Senate Majority Leader Reid said November 18 that he expects the House to send the Senate an omnibus appropriations bill.  But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) opposes an omnibus bill.  Even if a year-long CR (or an omnibus) is passed, Republicans have stated they will try to move a big rescission package early next year.  AUCD has signed onto numerous coalition letters urging the Congress to pass an omnibus bill that would include important increases to AUCD network programs as well as funding for programs authorized under the Affordable Care Act.

Fiscal Commission
The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform will meet Tuesday and Wednesday to vote on recommendations with a deadline for its final report Wednesday, December 1. Congressional leaders have agreed to consider any policy recommendations to reduce deficits that are adopted by 14 of the 18 commissioners, but most experts consider it unlikely that 14 commission members will reach agreement. Panel co-chairmen Erskine Bowles and Alan K. Simpson have been privately discussing with other commission members possible changes to a draft proposal they released on November 10.  The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities provided an analysis of the Fiscal Commission Co-Chairs' draft proposal. According to CBPP, "unfortunately the plan does not represent a truly balanced approach to bringing deficits under control...as a whole, their package falls far short of an appropriate or equitable plan for the federal budget in the years and decades ahead."  In related news, a separate Bipartisan Policy Center Debt Reduction Task Force, chaired by Senator Pete Domenici and Alice Rivlin, released its own proposal to reduce the national deficit and debt. It is anticipated that recommendations from both of these entities will be influencing the debate and policies in the next Congress.

Tax Cuts
With the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts set to expire at the end of the year, there is urgency to have Congress extend them during this short session, but not much agreement on how.  President Obama wants to extend them for families earning less than $250,000, all but 2-3 percent of households. Republicans demand they be extended for the wealthy, too. A growing number of centrist or conservative Democrats suggest extending them for families with incomes below $1 million. Still others want to extend all the tax cuts, but only for a year or two. Obama has signaled he would sign onto a compromise and has set aside time to meet with congressional leaders this week.

Child Abuse Prevention
On December 1, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) is scheduled to mark up and vote on the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) Reauthorization Act of 2010 (S.3817). This marks the third time in the past three months that the HELP Committee has planned to vote on the bill, only having to postpone action twice for lack of a quorum.  The process in the committee has been frustrating; just when the bill's sponsor, Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT) thought the bill was ready for committee approval in September, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) announced that he would not let the bill proceed to markup or to the floor with the increased authorization levels proposed by Dodd. As a result, S. 3817 leaves the authorized funding at current levels.  The National Child Abuse Coalition reports that Dodd plans to introduce a manager's amendment making minor technical changes to the bill as introduced, authorizing a study on shaken baby syndrome, and expanding the CAPTA list of crimes which would prevent reunification of a parent and abused or neglected child.

Education
Today marks the 35th Anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, first enacted as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (P.L. 94-142).  This landmark law supports states and localities in protecting the rights of, meeting the needs of and improving results for children with disabilities and their families. AUCD staff attended a celebration during which the Department of Education's Office of Special Education & Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) brought together leaders from the White House and Congress, educational leaders, advocates, educators, academics and government officials to commemorate the anniversary.  The Department has created an IDEA webpage, where comments made by ED Secretary Arne Duncan and Assistant Secretary Alexa Posny can be found.  President Obama and Melody Barnes also issued remarks in celebration of the anniversary today.

OSERS has set up a webpage listing all requests submitted by states for a one-year waiver of the state maintenance of financial support requirement under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.  The page includes the guidelines that the Department uses to evaluate these requests, all documents submitted by the states and OSERS' responses. To date, six states (KS, IA, SC, WV, NJ, AL) have submitted waiver requests and three have been approved (KS, IA, WV).

Home Visiting
The Pew Center on the States is partnering with Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and Every Child Succeeds to sponsor a
"National Summit on Quality Home Visiting Programs: Connecting Research to Policy and Practice."  Set for February 16-17 in Washington, D.C., the Summit will focus on evidence-based solutions to improving the quality of home visiting policies, programs, and outcomes for families.  Registration is open for the interactive forum for home visiting researchers, program leaders, and policy makers concerned about improving home visiting system quality and family outcomes.  Discussion session topics will include: emerging innovative practices in home visiting, establishing a quality improvement program in home visiting, defining the core elements of a home visiting program, building a state infrastructure to support quality home visiting, and integrating home visiting into early childhood systems.

Lifespan Respite
Representative Jim Langevin (D-RI) and 11 of his colleagues sent a letter to President Obama Monday asking him to recommend $50 million in funding for the Lifespan Respite Care Program in his FY 2012 budget request.  According to a 2007 study by AARP, the economic value of uncompensated family caregiving to the US economy was estimated at $375 billion.  The Lifespan Respite Care Program is the only federal program to address respite accessibility and affordability issues for families regardless of age or disability.  Thanks to all those who contacted their Representatives and urged them to sign this "Dear Colleague" letter.

Disability Policy Seminar: New Champions Needed!
Register for the 2011 Disability Policy Seminar today at www.disabilitypolicyseminar.org!  Pre-register by January 11.  Make hotel reservations by Jan. 11 online or call 1-888-421-1442. The Seminar takes place February 14-16 at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, DC.  This two and one-half day event is chock full of information you can use to be a better advocate for yourself or the people and programs you may represent.  Join with hundreds of disability advocates from around the country at the Seminar to discuss a wide range of public policy issues affecting people with disabilities and their families.  It is so important for AUCD network members to come to this particular event since there over 100 new Members of the new 112th Congress resulting from the Nov. 4 elections.  For more information, see the seminar event page or email kmusheno@aucd.org.

  

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=164

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