Disability Policy News In Brief

April 27, 2015

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April 27, 2015   |   Vol. XV, Issue 17
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The House and Senate Conference Committee on the Budget met last week, on April 20.  The purpose of the conference committee is to work out the differences between the House and Senate budget resolutions that provide a topline funding amount for how much the federal government will spend for fiscal year 2016.  AUCD does not support either budget proposal because it provides austere caps on discretionary spending and provides reconciliation instructions to authorizing committees to make significant cuts to entitlement programs (see March 30 In Brief for more details.)  If Congress passes a joint Budget Resolution this year, it will be the first time since 2009.


Meanwhile, even without finalizing a joint Budget Resolution, the House Appropriations Committee adopted fiscal 2016 subcommittee allocations, also known as 302(b)s, by voice vote following the a committee markup last week. The allocation for the Labor-HHS-Education funding bill is $153 million, 2.4 % lower ($3.7 billion) than the previous fiscal year. This bill provides funding for the AUCD network programs and most discretionary programs that support people with disabilities.  Earlier this month, AUCD signed onto a joint letter of the Coalition for Health Funding and the Campaign to Invest in America's Workforce calling for a restoration of the L-HHS-ED allocation to at least the FY 2010 level of $163.6 billion.  These programs have been cut by 12% ($21 billion) since FY 2010, adjusted for inflation, the letter says.  "The allocation adopted will make it virtually impossible to fund important initiatives - such as combating antibiotic resistant bacteria and the opioid epidemic; fulfilling the promise to raise the federal government's share of funding for IDEA special education closer to the promised level of 40 percent and providing resources to meet the health, safety and quality requirements established by the recent bipartisan Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) reauthorization-without deep cuts in other equally important initiatives."

Just before the Committee markup, the White House also weighed in on the discretionary spending limits. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) director, Shaun Donovan, wrote a letter to the Committee chairman saying that the limits on discretionary spending are "inadequate and unworkable."  Donovan also said, "the President has been clear that he is not willing to lock in sequestration going forward, nor will he accept fixes to defense without also fixing non-defense."

The Senate is expected to release its 302 (b) allocations soon, with Appropriations Subcommittee markups currently planned for June or early July.

On Wednesday April 29, the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Humans Service, Education, and Related Services will hold a public hearing on program funding under its jurisdiction. AUCD will be submitting written testimony for the hearing.

On Thursday April 30, the Senate Subcommittee on Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies has scheduled a hearing to examine the President's proposed FY 2016 budget for the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Family Support

AUCD signed on to an aging and disability coalition letter thanking Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Representatives Diane Black (R-TN), and Lujan Grisham (D-NM) for creating the bipartisan and bicameral Assisting Caregivers Today (ACT) Caucus.  These four Members will co-chair the caucus and seek to inform, educate, and motivate other Members regarding family caregivers.  With over 45 million family caregivers providing unpaid care to adults and children due to medical, behavioral, or other condition or disability, AUCD is pleased with the goals of this caucus to find solutions and bring greater visibility to the value of family caregivers, forge an environment and context conducive to reaching bipartisan solutions, and help create a sense of urgency to act.

AUCD also signed onto a National Respite Coalition letter to Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK) and Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education to advocate for respite and other critical family support programs within the FY 2016 L-HHS-ED funding bill.  The coalition requests $5 million for the Lifespan Respite Care Act; $150 million for the National Family Caregiver Support Program within the Older Americans Act; $6.8 million for the Native American Caregiver Support Program; and $15 million for the new Family Support initiative proposed in the President's FY 2016 Budget.  AUCD staff also joined other coalition members on Hill visits to educate appropriators about the value of these programs.

Hill Briefing on Autism

Last week, Congressmen Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Mike Doyle (D-PA), Co-Chairs of the Bipartisan Autism Caucus, hosted a congressional Hill briefing on "Autism and the Aging Out Crisis." The briefing featured experts on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and transition planning, including AUCD member Dr. Anthony Antosh, Director of the Paul V. Sherlock Center on Disabilities at Rhode Island College (UCEDD) and self-advocates including Jonathan Kratchman, a high school senior. Dr. Antosh spoke specifically about the gap in services young adults with ASD and other developmental disabilities experience when they graduate from high school, and how federal and state agencies can help bridge this gap. He also highlighted a monograph developed by the AUCD network entitled A Collaborative, Interagency Approach to Transition, available on the Association's website. Dr. Paul Shattuck of the the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute also discussed a recently published report entitled "National Autism Indicators Report: Transition into Young Adulthood," which focuses on transition for youth with ASD.  The full briefing can be viewed on YouTube.  See also AUCD press release.

Attorney General

Earlier today, Loretta Lynch was sworn in as attorney general, an important role for promoting and upholding civil rights at the Department of Justice.  Last Thursday, Lynch was confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 56-43 making her the first African American female attorney general.  Ms. Lynch will succeed Eric Holder who announced his resignation last November. The national disability community supported the nomination of Lynch, who has a strong record for enforcing civil rights for all, including those with disabilities. 

The US Department of Justice commemorated the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by publishing a blog post highlighting the advancements made under the law.  The Department of Justice specifically emphasized the work being done through Project Civic Access, the department's wide-ranging initiative to ensure that cities, towns, and counties throughout the country comply with the ADA.   Over the past 15 years, nearly 220 communities have signed agreements with the Department of Justice to ensure that their citizens with disabilities enjoy the same services, programs and activities that all others enjoy.  For information on how jurisdictions can participate in Project Civic Access visit www.ada.gov

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

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