Legislative News InBrief

May 7, 2007

FY2008 Budget Resolution
House and Senate conferees will be appointed this week to work out the final details on a joint FY 2008 Budget Resolution (BR). The BR sets the cap for discretionary spending that the Appropriations committees then divide among their 12 appropriations bills. The House BR would provide about $7 billion more than the Senate bill but the main sticking point involves the Senate plan to use projected surpluses to extend some tax cuts. Once the BR is passed the 12 Appropriations Subcommittees can begin to markup their annual spending bills.

Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations
AUCD signed onto a letter developed jointly by the Coalition for Health Funding and the Committee for Education Funding to go to House Appropriations Chair Obey, Senate Appropriations Chair Byrd, and House and Senate leadership, urging that at least a $14 billion increase over FY 2007 be allocated to the House and Senate Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittees for FY 2008. This is the amount needed just to get back to FY 2005 for all programs in the bill and then inflate forward, plus accounting for population growth to FY 2008. Known as the 302b allocation, this next step in the budget process is essential to ensure funding for the NIH in the FY 2008 appropriations bills.

NIH Appropriations
On April 27, a "dear colleague" letter signed by 182 Representatives (145 Democrats and 37 Republicans) was sent to House Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Obey (D-WI) and Ranking Member Lewis (R-CA). The letter was circulated by Representatives Markey (D-MA), Reichert (R-WA), Waxman (D-CA), Shays (R-CT), Schakowsky (D-IL), and Smith (R-NJ). The letter asks for a 6.7% increase in overall NIH funding over the next three years to restore funding lost to NIH since 2003. A similar appropriations letter was circulated in the Senate last week by Senators Kennedy (D-MA), Hatch (R-UT), Dodd (D-CT), and Burr (R-NC). At last count it had 21 signatures (17 Democrats and 4 Republicans).

National Children's Study Appropriations
AUCD signed on to a letter requesting $110.9 million for the National Children's Study (NCS) within the National Institutes of Health Office of the Director. The National Children's Study is the largest and most comprehensive study of children's health and development ever planned in the United States. The study will follow a representative sample of 100,000 children from across the United States from before birth until age 21 examining the potential impacts of a broad range of environmental influences (physical, chemical, biological and social) in order to identify the root causes of many childhood diseases and conditions, including preterm birth, asthma, obesity, heart disease, injury and diabetes. Following an initial investment of $50 million, $69 million in funding was provided in the FY2007 Budget Resolution, which allowed for completion of the study protocol, funding of additional study centers and beginning the recruitment process for the first wave of participants. Additional new money is needed to continue implementation of the study.

CDC-NCBDDD External Partners Group Briefing
The External Partners Group (EPG) of the CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities held a Congressional staff briefing on "Health and Ability" on Wednesday, May 2nd. The event focused on NCBDDD-funded projects addressing three core mission areas: 1) identifying the causes of and preventing birth defects and developmental disabilities, 2) helping children to develop and reach their full potential, and 3) promoting health and well-being among people of all ages with disabilities. EPG sponsors of the briefing included AUCD, the Autism Society of America, the National Organization for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, U.S. Paralympics, and the Lakeshore Foundation. Special guest speaker Susan Katz, 2004 Paralympic Gold Medalist in basket ball and an individual with spina bifida, offered a personal testimonial about the power of sports activity for maintaining mental and physical wellness for persons with disabilities. The event was moderated by EPG chairman Russell S. Kirby of the School of Public Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Community Choice Act
Last week, members of ADAPT descended on Washington, DC for a series of actions. Approximately 100 members of ADAPT were arrested during a civil disobedience demonstration to push for hearings on the Community Choice Act (S. 799 and H.R. 1621) by the House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Health. ADAPT took over the hearing room along with the office of Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), and Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), and filled the horseshoe drive outside the Rayburn front door. ADAPT also met with leadership of the Democratic and Republication National Committees and US Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Alfonso Jackson. Photos and chronicles of the week at available on the ADAPT Action Report website.

AUCD has been working in coalition with other disability and aging groups to garner bi-partisan support for the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act. The coalition has met with key Republican Senators on the HELP and Finance Committees in efforts to find a lead co-sponsor to join Senator Kennedy (D-MA) and replace Senator DeWine (R-OH) who was not re-elected. The CLASS Act would help address the growing needs of the country for long-term care services and pressures being placed upon Medicaid. The bill would create a national program where workers would voluntarily contribute premiums and collect flexible cash benefits based on functional disability. The bill is expected to be re-introduced in Senate within the next month, along with a companion bill in the House.

National Family Caregiver Support Program
During reauthorization of the Older Americans Act last year, AUCD worked in coalition with other groups to insert language into the Act to include aging caregivers of adults with disabilities. There are over 700,000 family caregivers of adults with developmental disabilities over 60 years of age. However, the Administration on Aging has indicated that their legislative counsel is interpreting the new language as still not fully inclusive of this population. AUCD staff have met with several members of Congress to develop a legislative fix to fulfill the intent of Congress to cover aging caregivers of adults in the program.

Head Start
The House of Representatives passed a bill (HR 1429) 365-48 to reauthorize Head Start. The bill would increase the authorization amount from $6.9 to $7.4 billion. Among the five amendments adopted during debate, was one offered by Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) that would make Head Start more inclusive for children with disabilities and make funds available to increase the understanding of services delivered in those classrooms. The next step is for the Senate to take up a companion bill (S 556) introduced by HELP Committee Chairman Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA). The bill is expected to be marked up by the HELP Committee within the next few weeks.

Shaken Baby Syndrome
Senator Dodd (D-CT) introduced The Shaken Baby Syndrome Prevention Act of 2007 (S.1204). Over 900,000 children a year are the victims of abuse and neglect in the United States. Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) describes the trauma resulting from the violent shaking or abusive impact to the head of an infant or young child, which often result in death or severe disabilities. This bill will establish a national public health campaign to raise awareness about Shaken Baby Syndrome, encourage prevention programs, and provide supports to both families affected by abusive head trauma incidents as well as preventative supports for frustrated parents and caregivers. Senator Dodd acknowledged the support of AUCD on this bill in his floor statement.

Hate Crimes Bill
The House passed the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crime Prevention Act of 2007 (HR 1592), by a vote margin of 237-180. The bill would add to federal law definitions of hate crimes motivated by the victim's real or perceived sexual orientation, disability, and gender. Those convicted of such crimes could face life imprisonment if the incident resulted in death or involved a kidnapping, sexual assault or attempted murder. The bill would also authorize grants to law enforcement agencies to help cover expenses associated with investigation and prosecution of hate crimes and grants to programs designed to combat hate crimes committed by juveniles. Senators Kennedy (D-MA) and Smith (R-OR) have introduced a companion bill in the Senate (S 1105), but it has not advanced. The White House has threatened to veto the bill, saying there is no need for it because state and local laws already cover the crimes it addresses, and there is no need for federal enforcement. Under current law, hate crimes are subject to federal prosecution only if the acts of violence are motivated by race, religion, color or national origin. Federal prosecutors get involved only if the victim is engaged in a federally protected activity, such as voting or participating in interstate commerce.

Assistive Technology
The CCD Technology and Telecommunications Task Force met last week to discuss the guiding principles of the newly formed Coalition for Accessible Technology, a group of nearly 50 disability and IT industry leaders who've joined forces to ensure the full inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of daily living through accessible, affordable and usable communication technologies (www.coataccess.org). The task force is also working with the National Telecommunications Administration to ensure that the February 2009 transition from out-of-the-air analog TV signals to digital signals will retain full access to closed captioning and video description technologies. The task force is closely monitoring the federal government's health information technology initiative to ensure that people with disabilities and those who serve as their guardians have full access to private, digitized health records. Several proposals to protect the security and privacy of these records could effectively prevent access by the record owners-the people themselves. Finally, the technology community is awaiting the "refreshed" ADA Title II and III regulations which are expected to better define accessibility of electronic programs, goods and services.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid
President Bush nominated Kerry Weems on Thursday to replace Mark McClellan as director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS). Weems has worked within HHS for 24 years. Bush also nominated Tevi David Troy to serve as deputy HHS secretary. Troy currently serves as deputy assistant to the president for domestic policy.

State Department Advisory Committee
The Advisory Committee on Persons with Disabilities is charged with advising both the Department of State and the Agency for International Development (USAID) "with respect to the consideration of the interests of persons with disabilities in the formulation and implementation of U.S. foreign policy and foreign assistance." During this quarterly public meeting held on May 2, the Committee was briefed on the Foreign Assistance Reform Process (FARP) which is an ongoing process to align operational plans for the State Department and USAID with a goal that by 2009 all in-country USAID missions will have an integrated USAID-State Department plan. The Committee also decided in the meeting that they would write a letter to Secretary Rice endorsing U.S. signing of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which garnered applause from disability advocates seated in the gallery. Advisory Committee members include prominent figures with disabilities Kathy Martinez (World Institute on Disability), John Kemp (U.S. International Council on Disabilities and a principal in the law firm of Powers, Pyles, Sutter and Verville) and Joni Eareckson Tada (author and founder of "Joni and Friends" radio program and current Honorary Co-Chair of the Presidential Prayer Team). Ex Officio members include Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and the Administrator of USAID (currently vacant with the recent resignation of Randall Tobias due to the implication of scandal in the "Washington Madam" case. USAID Disability Coordinator Lloyd Feinberg represented the agency for this meeting).

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Over 1,100 individuals have signed a petition that the American Association of Persons with Disabilities (AAPD) is circulating urging President Bush to sign the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.