Legislative News InBrief

January 2, 2007

Congressional Schedule
Happy New Year! The First Session of the 110th Congress convenes on Thursday. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), incoming Speaker, has said the House of Representatives will begin voting on their priority agenda that they plan to pass in the "first 100 legislative hours." The following initiatives are included in their much publicized plan:

  • Draining the swamp - break the link between lobbyists and legislation and commit to pay-as-you-go budgeting, no new deficit spending"
  • Making America more secure - implement the independent 9/11 Commission recommendations
  • Giving Americans a raise - increase the minimum wage
  • Making college more affordable - cut the interest rate in half on federally subsidized student loans
  • Making health care more affordable - negotiate for lower prescription drug prices
  • Ending subsidies for Big Oil
  • Giving hope to families with devastating diseases - allow stem cell research

House Democrats begin the new session with a 16 seat majority while Democrats in the Senate hold a majority with an extremely thin 51 to 49 seat margin.

Combating Autism and Lifespan Respite Bills Signed into Law
The Combating Autism Act (S. 843) and the Lifespan Respite Care Act (HR 3248/S. 1283) were both signed into law by President Bush just before the holiday recess. The Combating Autism Act was signed into law as P.L. 109-416 on December 19, 2006 and the Lifespan Respite Care Act was signed on December 21, 2006 as P.L 109-442. An announcement regarding their enactment was sent to the network that same week. AUCD will be working with Appropriations Committees in the coming year to fund these important programs.

Budget and Appropriations
Just before the holiday break, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV.) and Rep. David Obey (D-WI), incoming chairmen of the Senate and House Appropriations Committees, announced their plan to finalize FY 2007 appropriations by passing a year-long continuing resolution (CR). This means that most programs (with some exceptions) within the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations bill would be funded at FY 2006 levels. AUCD signed onto a Coalition for Health Funding letter sent today urging the incoming leadership to provide an additional $2 billion in the CR for programs in the Departments of Labor, Health and Humans Services and Education. This action would be consistent with the Specter-Harkin amendment to the Senate budget and the promise made in the House budget resolution. AUCD staff will participate in a meeting with staff of Sen. Harkin (D-IA), incoming chairman of the L-HHS-ED Appropriations Subcommittee, tomorrow regarding the CR.

Medicaid Commission
The Commission's second and final report reflecting recommendations for the future long-term sustainability of the Medicaid program was issued December 29, 2006. The next step is for Congress to consider making any changes to the program based on the recommendations. Few of the disability community's recommendations were incorporated in the final recommendations. However, the chairmen of the committees with jurisdiction over Medicaid made statements upon release of the draft report that indicated that most of the recommendations would not be supported by the majority.

Archived Legislative Affairs Teleconference
AUCD's Legislative Affairs Committee hosted a teleconference last month on the recent elections, appropriations, Deficit Reduction Act implementation and Medicaid reform. Access to the archived presentation is available on AUCD's website for the next couple of weeks.

Disability Policy Seminar: March 4-6, 2007
AUCD's Legislative Affairs Committee is working with its partners at The Arc, UCP, AAIDD (formerly AAMR) and NACDD to develop an exciting program for the 2007 Disability Policy Seminar. A preliminary program and agenda are now available on the AUCD website (scroll to links in both Word and PDF formats). Online registration is also available. For questions about the Seminar registration, please contact AAMR/AAIDD at 202-387-1968.

AUCD Legislative Priorities
AUCD's Legislative Affairs Committee is currently formulating its legislative priorities for the new Congress. The priorities are based on AUCD's mission and input from the association's network as well as taking into account laws that are up for reauthorization and the current political atmosphere. In addition to developing its own priorities, AUCD also, for the first time, partnered with The Arc and UCP Disability Policy Collaboration (DPC) legislative goals for the 110th Congress. AAIDD and ANCOR also partner with the DPC on their legislative goals. The DPC goals will be sent to the network as soon as they are finalized. For more information, contact Kim Musheno at kmusheno@aucd.org.

Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) Annual Meeting
AUCD legislative affairs staff participated in the CCD annual meeting in December where they heard from staff of Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) and House Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) regarding the leadership's legislative priorities related to health and disability. Representatives of the United Nations Declaration Convention also addressed the membership. JoAnn Barnhart, outgoing Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, was given the Chairman's Award for her strong disability advocacy during her public service. Marty Ford of The Arc was unanimously elected to replace Curt Decker of NDRN as Chair of the 100+ member coalition. AUCD's Kim Musheno, a CCD Board member, volunteered to again co-chair the Fiscal Policy, Developmental Disabilities, Long Term Services, and Ad hoc Child Abuse Prevention Task Forces. She will also participate on the Rights, Education, and Employment Task Forces. Annual task force reports will be posted on CCD's website at www.c-c-d.org.