AUCD Legislative News In Brief

September 15, 2014

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
    September 15, 2014   |  Vol. XIV, Issue 37
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Congressional Schedule

The House and Senate are both in session this week while they work on a continuing resolution to fund government operations in the new fiscal year and other priority legislation before the election and end of this Congress. Congress plans to recess at the end of this week until they return for a "lame duck" session following the mid-term election.


Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Ranking Member of the House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee, announced a democratic proposal to fund programs within the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (L-HHS-ED), today. While the bill would bring many programs important to the AUCD network back up to pre-sequestration levels, the bill is more of a "message bill" since it will not likely be considered in the House. The House has not marked up a L-HHS-ED bill in three out of the last four years. The Senate L-HHS-ED Appropriations Subcommittee approved its version of the bill in June, but a planned full committee markup was cancelled after some Senators threatened to offer controversial amendments. For more information about the House proposal, see the Bill summary, Summary table, Bill one-pager, and Bill text.

Meanwhile, the House and Senate are expected to consider a continuing resolution (CR) this week that would fund government programs through mid-December at current funding levels. This is necessary because none of the 12 annual appropriations bills for fiscal year 2015 have been signed into law (see also last week's In Brief). While the House was originally expected to pass the CR last week, a last minute request from the President for emergency funding for counter terrorism pushed the vote to this week.


Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA)

Senator Harkin introduced two bills last week related to special education. On September 10, 2014 Senator Harkin introduced the IDEA Full Funding Act (S. 2789), a bill to mandate the federal commitment to provide 40 percent of the per pupil expenditure (PPE) for students eligible for special education. Currently, the Federal government only appropriates about 16 percent of the PPE. If IDEA were fully funded, it would help states fulfill their obligation to provide the supports students need to succeed in school. The bill has 13 Democratic co-sponsors. Senator Harkin is seeking more bipartisan co-sponsors.

Senator Harkin last week also introduced the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act. This bill will restore the right of parents who are successful in IDEA cases to recover their expert witness fees. In 1986, Congress adopted legislation that was intended to allow these parents to recover their expert witness fees. But in 2006, the Supreme Court held that parents cannot recover these costs (Arlington Central School District v. Murphy). The IDEA Fairness Restoration Act will restore IDEA's original intent that allowed prevailing parents to recover expert fees just like prevailing plaintiffs in the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VII, and other civil rights laws. This bill is important to protect parents, most of whom cannot afford to pay for expert witnesses. AUCD sent letters of support to Senator Harkin for both bills.

IDEA Congressional Report

The Department of Education has submitted its 35th annual report to Congress on the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, as required by the law. The report describes our nation's progress in providing a free and appropriate public education to all students, protecting the rights of all  children with disabilities, assisting states and localities in providing for the education of all children with disabilities, and assessing the effectiveness of efforts to educate children with disabilities. The IDEA was last reauthorized in December of 2004. There has been very little discussion about reauthorizing the law in the near future, with focus instead on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and Higher Education Act.

Early Childhood/Childcare

A group of House and Senate leaders announced Friday a bipartisan compromise bill (S. 1086) to reauthorize and improve the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CDBG). The CDBG provides funds to states to help low-income families pay for child care while a parent works or is in an education or job training program. The bipartisan, bicameral bill is led by Representatives John Kline (R-MN), George Miller (D-CA), Todd Rokita (R-IN), and David Loebsack (D-IA) and Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), and Richard Burr (R- NC). Among other improvements, the bill creates a three percent set-aside to improve the quality of infant and toddler care; requires states to explain how they will meet the needs of children with disabilities; and ensures that block grant provisions are coordinated with IDEA infants and toddlers and early childhood programs. See Senate summary of changes to the law.

Medicare Coverage of Speech Generating Devices

A bipartisan group of legislators have requested an explanation for recent policy changes in the Medicare program for coverage of speech generating devices (SGDs). Throughout 2014, Medicare has made a number of policy changes that have had the effect of limiting access to SGDs, especially advanced technologies like eye tracking (see full explanation from the ALS Association and American Speech-Language-Hearing Association). The letter, led by Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), John Tierney (D-MA), and Erik Paulsen (R-MN), and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and signed by 27 other Senators and 173 other Representatives, asks Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Marilyn Tavenner several specific questions about how and why Medicare made these changes, and request a response to their inquiry by October 1, 2014.

Disability Treaty (CRPD)

Advocates have not given up on efforts to get 67 Senators (a ¾ majority) to support the ratification of the Disability Treaty. While there may be close to 67 supporters in the Senate, election year politics make a public commitment  from some Senators difficult. Network members in Georgia, North Carolina, Kansas, Nebraska, and Mississippi are to continue reaching out. For more information, see

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

The Department of Labor is seeking nominations for the Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities, created by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. The purpose of the committee is to study and prepare findings, conclusions and recommendations for the Secretary of Labor on (1) ways to increase employment opportunities for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities or other individuals with significant disabilities in competitive, integrated employment; (2) use of the certificate program for subminimum wages; and (3) ways to improve oversight of the use of such certificates. Nominations are due October 14, 2014.

President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities

The President Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities, met in the beginning of September in Washington, DC. Julie Petty, a Project Trainer at Partners for Inclusive Communities at the University of Arkansas, is the first person with intellectual disability to chair the committee. The committee now has five members (including the chair) from the AUCD Network. The committee's main task for the coming months is to write a report to the President on "what matters the most to people with disabilities and their families." See the full list of committee members in the June 23 issue of In Brief


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