Congress is in recess this week. Fact sheets and Powerpoint presentations from the Policy Seminar are posted online and can be used as talking points to contact members of Congress while they are in their home states/districts.
Budget & Appropriations
The House is currently marking up appropriations bills based on recently released "302b" allocations that establish their overall spending levels. The allocations follow the $1.028 trillion spending cap set by the recently passed House Republican budget resolution. The House set these allocations lower than the Senate, which is using the caps established in the Budget Control Act last August. The Depts. of Labor-HHS-Education received $150 billion, which is four percent below the fiscal year 2012 amount and five percent below the Senate's FY 2013 allocation. The House's total cap is $19 billion below the Senate's.
The House Budget Resolution also required several committees to make cuts to programs in order to stay within the overall budget resolution's top line numbers. This process of instructing committees to make cuts is called "reconciliation." Last week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted in favor of recommendations that would cut funds for the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid initiatives. Specifically, the proposal would repeal the ACA's Prevention and Public Health Fund, eliminate grants to states for establishing health insurance exchanges, repeal maintenance of effort requirements meant to ensure states maintain current Medicaid eligibility standards, reduce the Medicaid match for U.S. territories, and withdraw performance bonus payments to states that increase their enrollment of children in Medicaid. These recommendations will be included in a larger reconciliation package to be voted on by the full House in May. AUCD is strongly opposed to these cuts. Fortunately, the Senate is unlikely to approve them.
The CCD Fiscal Policy co-chairs recently participated in a meeting of a new broad-based group that is representative of organizations that support non-defense discretionary spending (NDD). The group, referred to as the NDD Summit, has come together as a voluntary alliance to work together in developing a coordinated, community-wide strategy for advocacy regarding the threat of looming automatic cuts and other unbalanced deficit reduction plans. Organizations and coalitions representing education, public health, science and law enforcement, environment, human rights, workforce and foreign affairs all met and agreed to work together to communicate the impact of such huge cuts. The NDD Summit will also work together to urge Congress to adopt a balanced approach to deficit reduction that does not disproportionately rely on non-defense discretionary spending cuts to balance the budget. (See March 19 In Brief for background on sequestration). AUCD is collecting stories related to the impact that cuts of nine percent (9%) or more would have on our network programs and other programs that assist people with disabilities. Please send these impact stories to Kim Musheno at firstname.lastname@example.org to help us make the case that deficit reduction should not solely come from human needs programs.
ADA Rules on Pool Accessibility
On March 15, the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design went into effect, setting accessibility requirements for built-in facilities including swimming pools. However, guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Justice on the rules has been met with extreme resistance by the hotel industry. Several bills have been introduced to prevent DOJ from enforcing its regulations and extend the date by which hotels must comply. H.R. 4200, introduced by Representative David Schweikert (R-AZ), seeks to amend the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 to permanently prohibit the federal government from enforcing accessibility standards for public pools. This bill currently has 17 co-sponsors. Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) introduced two similar bills (S. 2191/S. 2186) which have not gained much support in the Senate. Representative Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) introduced a second House bill (H.R. 4256), which calls for a one-year extension of the ADA deadline for public pools to meet the accessibility standards and would prohibit lawsuits against non-compliant facilities during that time. This bill currently has 56 co-sponsors. AUCD has signed onto letters to House and Senate opposing these bills. The Constitution Subcommittee of House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the pool accessibility rule last Tuesday.
The House Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing on legislation to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act on April 17. The 1998 law's authority expired in 2003, but reauthorization attempts in the last several Congresses were unsuccessful. Ranking Democrat George Miller (CA) voiced concerns about the Republican bill (H.R. 4297), specifically its proposal to consolidate 27 programs into one fund, allowing scarce resources to be shifted away from populations with the greatest barriers to employment, including people with disabilities. Democrats also voiced concern with the bill's requirement that two-thirds of local workforce investment board members be employers, which could have a negative impact on populations that need specialized help to gain employment. Miller cosponsored a Democratic WIA proposal (H.R. 4227) along with Representatives John Tierney (MA) and Ruben Hinojosa (TX) that would consolidate seven workforce programs. Despite their differences, Democrats and Republicans seemed to agree on some of the same goals which could mean there is a bipartisan path forward.
Health Care Reform
The Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday the final rule for the Community First Choice (CFC) Option, enacted in the Affordable Care Act. CFC is a new state plan option under Medicaid that gives states enhanced federal funds for providing community-based attendant services and supports to beneficiaries who are eligible for an institutional level of care. After two years of working to get this option in the ACA, the disability community is celebrating this day as a positive step toward quality community integration for all. CMS also announced the onset of the new Independence at Home Demonstration and a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the 1915(i) Home and Community Based Option, which removes the requirement that individuals meet an institutional level of care in order to qualify for HCBS through Medicaid. That proposed rule includes a revised definition of "home and community" setting on which CMS is seeking public comment. Once finalized, that definition will apply across all of the home and community-based programs: 1915(c) waiver programs, the 1915(i) State Plan option and the 1915(k) CFC option.
The Social Security Board of Trustees released its annual report last week on the financial health of the Social Security Trust Funds. According to the report, Social Security is 100% solvent until 2033, but faces a moderate long-term shortfall. If Congress takes no action before 2033, reserve funds would be depleted but revenue coming into the Trust Funds would still cover about 75 percent of scheduled benefits in subsequent years. You can find further details on the report in the Social Security Administration's press release. AUCD supports proposals to ensure the long-term solvency of the Trust Funds that maintain the basic structure of Social Security, spread the costs and are as minimal as possible.
Representative Jim Moran (D-VA) introduced H.R. 5196, the AUTISM Educators Act last week. This bill would create a five-year grant program to train general-education classroom teachers on the best ways to identify and interact with students with autism spectrum disorders. The grants would be targeted at school systems with high autism rates (10 % or more of the district's special-education population) and would require the systems to partner with a university or nonprofit group to develop the training program. No funding amounts were included in the bill.
Affordable Care Act: Get the Facts
AUCD offers facts about the law and its implementation in this new section of In Brief.
- Essential Health Benefits - The Affordable Care Act ensures all health plans include a comprehensive set of services and items known as "essential health benefits."
Save the Date: National Forum on Disability Issues
AUCD is part of the forum planning committee for the 2012 National Forum on Disability Issues on Friday, September 28th at the Hyatt Regency in Columbus, Ohio. This event is a non-partisan forum where presidential candidates are scheduled to offer their visions of policy that affect people with disabilities. Among the 2012 invitees are President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney. The forum will be live on the web so please be sure to attend as issues central to our community will be addressed by the candidates. If you cannot make it to Columbus, Ohio, please organize a watch party. For general information on the forum contact Sue Hetrick with Ability Center (email@example.com). A formal announcement will be distributed this week!
Disability Policy Seminar
Armed with lots of information following two days of intense sessions on Medicaid, community living, Social Security budget and appropriations, health care, education, employment and other legislative issues impacting people with disabilities, the 670 participants (the greatest number of attendees to date!) blanketed Capitol Hill to educate their members of Congress. Of the 670, approximately 200 identified as members of AUCD and approximately 140 were trainees of network UCEDD or LEND programs - a record representation of the network! A Capitol Hill Reception hosted by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) took place on Tuesday where attendees had the chance to speak with staffers from their home states as well as other advocates and organizations from around the U.S. Congratulations to all of those who made the commitment to travel to DC, study the details, and trek the halls of Congress. Please consider reviewing the fact sheets and presentations online and educating your members while they are in their District/State offices!
For definitions of terms used in In Brief, please see AUCD's Glossary of Legislative Terms.
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