Disability Policy News In Brief

February 2, 2015

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February 2, 2015   |   Vol. XV, Issue 5
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Congressional Schedule

It's a busy week in Washington! Today, the President transmits his FY 2016 Budget Request to Congress, the first step in the budgeting process. The House is scheduled vote on bills to fund the Department of Homeland Security for the remainder of the 2015 fiscal year and a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The Senate will also take up a bill regarding Homeland Security Appropriations.  The Senate HELP Committee will hold another hearing on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  See more below!

President's Budget

Today begins the first step in the Fiscal Year 2016 Budget and Appropriations process with President Obama releasing his formal proposal on how about federal revenues should be allocated. Similar to last year's budget proposal, President Obama structures his proposals to assist the middle class.  Importantly, the President proposes reversing sequestration cuts in many program areas.  The budget generally raises revenues on high income earners to help pay for proposals that the Administration believes will help the middle class, such as tripling the maximum Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, providing $1 billion additional funding for Head Start, providing funds for universal preschool, increasing funding for K-12 including Special Education, introducing a new free federal-state partnership to provide two years of free community college for eligible students, and increasing research & development funding by nearly 6 percent over 2015, including investments in Precision Medicine, the Brain Initiative, and other areas.  For more details, see the White House summary.

The President's Budget also includes important investments in specific disability related programs.  University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) programs would receive an almost $1 million increase to cover the cost of living increase while maintaining funding for national training initiatives and technical assistance.  Projects of National Significance (PNS) would receive a $5.6 million increase to support the Administration's Youth Transitions Initiative, inclusive employment initiatives, and targeted technical assistance for self-advocacy organizations.   Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and related Developmental Disabilities (LEND) programs would be level-funded. The President also proposes a new $15 million Family Support initiative within the Administration for Community Living to "develop and expand promising and evidence-based state and local approaches" to supporting families.  This new initiative is proposed in addition to increases to the National Family Caregivers Support program and a proposed doubling of the Lifespan Respite Care Act program to $5 million.  For information see, the White House disability-specific fact sheet on the budget. More details will be available in next week's In Brief.


On January 28, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee approved the Strengthening Education Through Research Act (S. 227). The bill, a reauthorization of the Education Sciences Reform Act, passed the House last Congress but didn't get a full vote in the Senate. House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) said last week that he expects the bill to pass both houses of Congress this session.

Last week, the Senate HELP Committee held a hearing on supporting teachers (see the written testimony and watch the archived hearing on the committee website). Tomorrow, February 3, the committee will hold a roundtable for Senators to learn more about innovative schools and best practices in K-12 education. A roundtable format is intended to provide a less formal way of discussing topics with the invited experts.  A full list of witnesses can be found on the committee website.

AUCD submitted comments to HELP Committee Chairman Alexander in response to his request for feedback on a discussion draft bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).  AUCD also helped prepare a response on behalf of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), a national organization of over 100 national disability organizations.  Both letters oppose the draft bill as currently written and urges the committee to work in a bipartisan manner to develop a bill that continues strong accountability for schools to prepare students with disabilities for college and careers.


The Energy & Commerce Committee released a discussion draft bill as part of its 21st Century Cures Initiative. It has five titles that seek to: incorporate patient perspectives into the regulatory process; build the foundation for 21st century medicine, including helping young scientists; modernize clinical trials; accelerate innovation at the NIH, FDA, CDC, and CMS; and modernize medical product regulation. Learn more in a summary and one-pager prepared by the committee.

Last week, Jennifer Mathis, Director of Programs at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, testified on behalf of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) at a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing on employer wellness programs within the Affordable Care Act. See an archive of the hearing and read all of the testimony on the committee's website.

Social Security

The National Council on Disability has released their latest report, Securing the Social Contract: Reforming Social Security Disability. The report includes an examination of current policies and practices and recommendations to improve the employment and earnings of people with disabilities, including a revised disability definition and decoupling cash and health benefits. The report was released at a hill briefing on January 29 attended by AUCD staff.


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For more policy news, follow Kim and Rachel on Twitter at @kmusheno and @racheljpat

For definitions of terms used in In Brief, please see AUCD's Glossary of Legislative Terms 

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