AUCD Legislative News In Brief

January 31, 2011

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
 
  January 31, 2011   |  Vol. XI, Issue 5
  
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Congressional Schedule
Senate committees hold their first hearings of the year this week, with panels examining the health care reform law.  The House is not in session.

State of the Union
President Obama delivered the State of the Union Address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday.  In light of the recent shootings in Tucson, AZ which resulted in Representative Gabrielle Giffords' notable absence, some members of Congress broke ranks to sit alongside their political foes in a show of solidarity.  Major domestic themes of President Obama's address included strengthening the economy through debt reduction, innovation resulting in more jobs and a need for higher education to keep up with technological advances.  The President proposed a five-year freeze on annual domestic spending and acknowledged that such a freeze would require painful cuts.  He also mentioned the recommendations of the fiscal commission, including its recommended changes to the Social Security program, stating that "[w]e must [strengthen] it without putting at risk current retirees, the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities..."  Although there was no additional mention of issues specific to the disability community, the President made it clear that employment, education and access to quality, affordable health care will continue to be priorities for his administration.  The President also emphasized his willingness to entertain fresh ideas with regard to health care, but vowed that he is not willing to "go back to the days when insurance companies could deny someone coverage because of a preexisting condition."

FY 2011 Appropriations
Democrats are becoming nervous that the imminent face-off over FY 2011 appropriations could lead to a government shutdown if House Republicans insist on the deep cuts to discretionary spending they have been promising.  House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said that his chamber will consider another continuing resolution (CR) the week of February 14.  That measure would need to be passed before the current CR expires on March 4 to prevent a government shutdown, which would disrupt military funding and programs that Americans count on, such as Social Security. 

The House voted last week to reduce FY 2011 spending to 2008 levels.  The following day, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) forecast a budget gap of $1.5 trillion for this year, but laid the blame not on federal spending, but on the tax package negotiated just before the end of the year extending tax cuts enacted under the Bush administration.  It is unclear whether House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY) would support a package with cuts as extreme as those recently proposed by the Republican Study Committee (see last week's In Brief), but he has announced his intention to scale back this fiscal year's spending to 2008 levels.  He plans to instruct each of the 12 appropriations subcommittees to draft legislation identifying programs under their jurisdictions for spending cuts.

AUCD staff participated in a meeting Monday with Senate Appropriations Committee Democratic staff to discuss their plans to finalize FY 2011 appropriations as well as their strategy for FY 2012.  Staff emphasized the need for unity among those advocating for non-defense discretionary programs and urged the group to remind legislators how these programs affect the daily lives of real Americans.

Health Care Reform
Several committees held hearings on the Affordable Care Act last week.  The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee held its first in a series of hearings examining the effects of the new law, with the first hearing focused on consumer impacts.  An archived webcast and the testimony of each witness can be found here.  The House Budget and Ways & Means committees held hearings on the fiscal impact of the law, as well as its impact on jobs, employers and the economy.

The National Academy for State Health Policy and the Catalyst Center recently released a paper entitled The Affordable Care Act and Children with Special Health Care Needs: An Analysis and Steps for State Policymakers.  The paper examines provisions of the ACA that impact children with special health care needs and provides recommendations for state implementation of the law.  The report and a number of valuable ACA resources can be found on AUCD's Health Reform Hub, an online gateway to resources about the health reform law.  The hub is updated daily with reports, analyses and the latest news about the law's implementation and its effect on people with disabilities. 

ADA
As part of Project Civic Access, a Departmental initiative to increase access for people with disabilities to local government programs, services, facilities and activities, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) initiated an on-site compliance review of Fairfax County, Virginia's buildings, programs and services.  As a result of this review of libraries, polling places, schools, community centers and other facilities housing county programs, as well as the county web site and 9-1-1 emergency services, the DOJ entered into a settlement agreement under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act with Fairfax County, VA on January 27.  The settlement details modifications that the county has agreed to make to its programs and facilities along with timeframes for completion, which are summarized in a Fact Sheet.  The county's efforts will include making physical modifications to facilities, providing accessible polling places, undertaking modifications to ensure equal access to emergency management and ensuring that the county's employment policies comply with Title I of the ADA.

Disability Policy Seminar
The Seminar is just two weeks away!  You can still sign up to attend by visiting
www.disabilitypolicyseminar.org.  The Seminar takes place February 14-16.  The final day of the Seminar is set aside for you to make visits to your legislators on Capitol Hill and let them know what's important to you.  There are more than 100 new Members of Congress and they need to know who you are and what you stand for!  This can be the single most impactful thing you do while you're here, so we've put some information and resources for you online to help you get organized for these visits.  To get the most out of your appointments, you should coordinate with other attendees in your area and visit your legislators together.  You can view the names of others from your area who are attending the Seminar here.  But before you do anything, you need to register for the seminar.  We hope to see you there!

For more information, 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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