AUCD Legislative News In Brief

September 22, 2014

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
    September 22, 2014   |  Vol. XIV, Issue 38
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Congressional Schedule

The House and Senate recessed Thursday night after easily passing a 10-week continuing resolution. Congress plans return for a "lame duck" session following the mid-term election.  AUCD and other disability advocates were disappointed that the Congress left not only the annual appropriations bills unfinished, but it also did not act on other important legislative priorities such as the Disability Treaty (CRPD) and ABLE Act that were thought to have a chance of passage.  AUCD will be working with our allies to advocate for passage of these and appropriations bills when they return for the special session on November 12.


Just before leaving Washington, Congress passed a $1.02 trillion continuing resolution (CR) to continue federal funding for government programs through Dec. 11, including funding for AUCD network programs.  This was necessary because Congress has not passed any of the 12 annual appropriations bills this year and the new fiscal year begins next week, on October 1, 2014.  The CR included an amendment to provide short-term authorization for the military to train and equip Syrian rebels. The CR also includes $88 million in new funding to address the Ebola outbreak in Africa, as well as additional funds to process disability claims for veterans. These emergency funds necessitated a 0.06 percent across the board cut to stay within discretionary budget caps established by law.  Congress will have to either pass another CR or pass an omnibus funding bill during the post-election special session.  AUCD, along with other members of the Coalition for Health Funding, is urging Congress to make appropriations legislation a priority in the lame duck session, and work in earnest to enact final, omnibus spending legislation for fiscal year 2015 before the end of the calendar year.


AUCD is disappointed to report that the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act was not passed before Congress adjourned.  This bipartisan bill would amend Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code to allow savings over the current $2,000 asset limit imposed by Social Security and Medicaid in order to enable people with disabilities and their families to save for disability-related expenses. These savings accounts could be used for such expenses as education, housing, transportation, employment support, health, prevention and wellness costs, assistive technology, and personal support services. The House bill (H.R. 647) now has 380 bipartisan co-sponsors; the Senate bill (S. 313) has 74 bipartisan co-sponsors.  Unfortunately, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scored the bill very high ($20 billion).  House and Senate staff are trying to find a way to make changes to the bill that will satisfy both the disability community and reduce the cost to just $2 billion. In addition, Congress must find ways to pay for the cost of the bill. These issues have slowed the bill's progress; however, all of the bill's champions are committed to finding a compromise and passing the bill before the end of this Congress.

Economic Self-Sufficiency
The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing on September 18, 2014 highlighting major barriers to economic self-sufficiency for people with disabilities.  This occasion marked the final senate hearing Chaired by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) before he retires.  The hearing was held in conjunction with the release of the committee's report, Fulfilling the Promise, which was researched and written by majority staff of the HELP Committee.  According to the report, living with a disability in American can be both economically and socially costly. In fact, twice as many Americans with disabilities live in poverty compared to those without disabilities; and many people with disabilities fear that earning or saving too much money could cause them to lose access to supports they need to live independently in the community.  AUCD assisted committee staff by distributing a survey to people with disabilities to help inform the report, and providing financial assistance for a self-advocate witness to travel to D.C.  For more information see AUCD's Press Release. The written testimony and archived hearing are available on the committee website.

Disability Treaty (CRPD)

Senator Harkin (D-IA) made an attempt last Thursday to ask the Senate to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) by unanimous consent (UC).  UC is a fast-track procedure that can be used to pass legislation quickly as long as all 100 senators unanimously agree to pass the bill and there are no objections.  Unfortunately, Senator Lee (R-UT) objected to the procedure and the treaty was not passed.  However, the tactic provided Senator Harkin time on the floor to educate other senators about the treaty and the flaws in the arguments of opponents.  It also allowed him to put the treaty on the Senate calendar for consideration in the November special session.  To hear Senator Harkin speak about the treaty, see his special message urging people to share stories or his more detailed July 30, 2014 statement on the floor. For more information and to take action, visit

Education/Restraints and Seclusion

AUCD is working with the Alliance to Prevent Restraint, Aversive Interventions and Seclusion (APRAIS) to achieve its goal of 100 bipartisan/ bicameral co-sponsors for the Keeping All Students Safe Act (S.2036) by the end of the calendar year.  APRAIS has been actively participating in efforts to ban restraint and seclusion in schools through federal legislation via a grassroots movement.  The coalition is targeting 18 different states through their member organizations, with the task of educating representatives about the need for federal legislation to prevent the use of R/S. The coalition has recently updated and released cosponsor recruitment materials


From the AUCD legislative staff: 7 Reasons Why You Are Absolutely Required to Educate Policymakers

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