AUCD Legislative News In Brief

June 9, 2014

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
   June 9, 2014   |  Vol. XIV, Issue 23
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Congressional Schedule

The House and Senate are both in session this week. The House is scheduled to vote on appropriations for the Departments of Transportation and Housing & Urban Development, as well as bills related to the Department of Veterans Affairs. The House Energy and Commerce Committee plans to consider a bill to reauthorize the Combating Autism Act.


The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, which funds most federal programs that support people with disabilities, will mark up the FY15 appropriations bill for Labor-HHS-Ed on Tuesday, June 10. Thus far, the House has passed three of the fiscal year 2015 appropriations bills, while the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved two bills. None of the bills have yet gone to the full Senate for a vote, though Senate leaders have set aside floor time in June and July for consideration.

Combating Autism Reauthorization Act

AUCD has been meeting with key staff of Members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The House and Senate continue to work together to move a bipartisan bill forward to reauthorize the Combating Autism Act. The House Health Subcommittee approved a bill (H.R. 4631) last week, which the full Committee plans to mark up tomorrow. Senators Menendez (D-NJ) and Enzi (D-WY) plan to introduce a companion bill as soon as this week with markup planned soon thereafter. The Senate bill is expected to be very much in line with the House Committee-passed bill with a few changes to current law, including a change to the title of the law; designating a Department of HHS official to oversee the implementation of the law; a small increase in the number of public members of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee; and a study and report on youth transition services. The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) sent a letter to House and Senate leaders in April signed by 36 national disability organizations supporting the reauthorization (see Autism Speaks article). CCD will be meeting with House and Senate committee staff together over the next several weeks. For more information and to take action on this issue, see AUCD's Action Center alert.


Senator Al Franken (D-MN) has introduced a bill that would fix the "family glitch" in the Affordable Care Act. As currently written, health coverage offered by an employer is considered "affordable" if it does not cost more than 9.5% of family income. However, this is calculated based on the cost of coverage for an individual, rather than the cost for a family. If an employer offers "affordable" coverage, the individual or family is not eligible for advance premium tax credits on the health insurance marketplaces. As a result, some families could face employer-sponsored family coverage that is unaffordable, but still be ineligible for subsidies on the marketplace because the cost of individual coverage would be less than 9.5% of family income. The Family Coverage Act (S. 2434) would clarify that a family can access premium tax credits if the cost of family coverage offered by an employer is greater than 9.5% of family income.

Restraints and Seclusion

AUCD is participating in a national call-in day this Thursday, June 12, to urge Congress to move House and Senate bills to reduce the use of restraints and seclusion in schools (see Action Alert). The Keeping All Students Safe Act (S. 2036 and H.R. 1893), introduced by Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Representatives Gregg Harper (R-MS) and George Miller (D-CA), are ready to move; however, Congress needs to hear from constituents that this issue is important to them. The bill prohibits the use of physical restraint unless a student's behavior poses an imminent danger of physical harm to self or others, while ensuring that personnel receive proper training, that parents are aware of any restraint used with their children, and that the most dangerous types of restraint and seclusion are eliminated. Restraint and seclusion have resulted in numerous serious injuries and fatalities and are disproportionately used on students with disabilities. The call-in day is being planned in collaboration with the national Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), the Alliance to Prevent Restraint, Aversive Interventions and Seclusion (APRAIS), and other coalitions.


The House Education & the Workforce Subcommittee on Workforce Protections will hold a hearing tomorrow, June 10 on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission titled "The Regulatory and Enforcement Priorities of the EEOC: Examining the Concerns of Stakeholders." Last month, the EEOC released an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to implement section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requiring federal agencies to be "model employers" of people with disabilities. A press release from the committee indicates that they will focus on EEOC actions regarding disability and other discrimination. The hearing will be live webcast.

Disability Treaty

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has issued ruling in the Bond v. US case, there are renewed efforts in the Senate to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The court ruling supports what disability advocates and legal scholars have long contended: the Bond case is irrelevant to the process of ratifying the Disability Treaty, a treaty inspired by US leadership and designed to promote the human rights of people with disabilities. AUCD and other advocates are urging the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to hold a vote on the treaty paving the way for the full Senate to ratify the treaty, hopefully before the July 26 ADA anniversary. For more information on the Disability Treaty, visit For more information about the Bond decision and negotiations on reservations, understanding, and declarations, see the Blog, We Can Do This If We Try.

Mental Health

The House Energy and Commerce Committee has indicated that they will divide the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act into smaller pieces, in hopes of passing the less controversial measures. The bill, introduced by Tim Murphy (R-PA) in December, would make major changes to mental health systems, including reorganizing the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), increase access to psychiatric facilities, make involuntary commitment easier, and loosen health privacy laws. It would also cut funding for the Protection & Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness program by about 85 percent. Mental Health America, National Disability Rights Network, and Bazelon Center or Mental Health Law oppose the legislation. House Energy & Commerce leaders have said that they plan to take action on the less controversial measures, including training for mental health services, care coordination, and increased funding for mental health research.


President Obama's "My Brother's Keeper" initiative, which seeks to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color, has issued its first progress report to the President. The report highlighted the fact that children of color are often overrepresented in special education programs, particularly American Indian, Alaska Native, and African-American boys who are disproportionately identified as having an "emotional disturbance." It specifically recommends that the Department of Education collaborate with stakeholders to scale up and implement research-based strategies that improve K-3 literacy and behavior and properly and identify students for special education.

Family Support

The Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus, Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, National Council on Disability, Child Welfare League of America, National Association of Social Workers, and the American Psychological Association are holding a briefing this Wednesday to educate congressional staff about the rights of parents with disabilities to become adoptive or foster parents. Robyn Powell, Attorney Advisor, National Council on Disability and lead author of Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and Their Children, will be among those experts to speak on the panel. Congressman James Langevin (D-RI) has also been invited to speak.

Child Abuse Prevention

The Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities (CECANF) established by the Protect Our Kids Act of 2012 recently had its first meeting and now has a website. The Commission is composed of 12 members, six appointed by the president and six appointed by Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate. Members will take a broad, multidisciplinary approach to studying and making recommendations about key issues, including best practices for and barriers to preventing child abuse and neglect fatalities and risk factors for child maltreatment. The Commission will submit a report to the president and Congress within two years.

Social Security

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold two hearings on the Social Security Administration Disability Determination Appeals Process on June 10 and 11, both at 9:30am. Acting Commissioner of SSA Carolyn Colvin is the only scheduled witness for both hearings. Both hearings will be streamed live on the committee website.

Senate Special Committee on Aging will hold a hearing on June 18 on the "Reduction in Face-to-Face Services at the Social Security Administration." AUCD signed on to a Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities letter expressing concern about the reduction in field office services - benefit verification letters and Social Security Number printouts - that are often essential for accessing disability and other social services.

Health and Human Services

Newly confirmed Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Mathews Burwell will take office today. Learn More about Secretary Burwell on


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