Disability Policy News In Brief

December 21, 2015

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December 21, 2015   |   Vol. XV, Issue 52
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Congressional  Schedule

Following the passage of the Fiscal Year 2016 omnibus package funding all government programs through the rest of the year, Congress adjourned for the holiday recess.  The Senate plans to return on Monday, Jan. 11; the House is scheduled to return Tuesday, Jan. 5.


On Friday, December 18, President Obama signed into law the $1.8 trillion omnibus spending bill soon after it was passed by both houses of Congress ending the threat of a government shutdown. The bill passed the House on a vote of a 316-11, followed by the Senate vote of 90-10. AUCD is pleased that the final bill provides modest increases for AUCD network programs as well as other important research, education, prevention and family support programs, and all of the cuts that were proposed in the Senate committee-passed bill are restored in the final bill.  See AUCD's funding table and summary analysis of funding for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education.

Tax Credits

Along with the omnibus bill, the House and Senate approved the permanent extension of changes made in 2009 to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC). It passed the House on a vote of 318-109 and the Senate 65-33. AUCD was part of a coalition that signed on in support of these important tax credits.

NIH Research

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) released its new five-year Strategic Plan on December 17. According to the NIH news release, the plan focuses on four essential, interdependent objectives that will help guide NIH's priorities over the next five years. The objectives are to:

  1. advance opportunities in biomedical research in fundamental science, treatment and cures, and health promotion and disease prevention;
  2. foster innovation by setting NIH priorities to enhance nimbleness, consider burden of disease and value of permanently eradicating a disease, and advance research opportunities presented by rare diseases;
  3. enhance scientific stewardship by recruiting and retaining an outstanding biomedical research workforce, enhancing workforce diversity and impact through partnerships, ensuring rigor and reproducibility, optimizing approaches to inform funding decisions, encouraging innovation, and engaging in proactive risk management practices; and
  4. excel as a federal science agency by managing for results by developing the "science of science," balancing outputs with outcomes, conducting workforce analyses, continually reviewing peer review, evaluating steps to enhance rigor and reproducibility, reducing administrative burden, and tracking effectiveness of risk management in decision making.

In related news, as part of a promotional campaign to highlight its research advances during 2015 NICHD is showcasing achievements made this year through a "12 Days of NICHD" event on social media. Interested readers may follow via the NICHD Twitter account (@NICHD_NIH).

Lifespan Respite Care Act

AUCD signed on to a letter (along with 56 other national organizations) in support of the Lifespan Respite Care Reauthorization Act (H.R. 3913). The bill, introduced on Nov. 3 by Rep. James Langevin (D-RI), authorizes $15 million per year to the program for the next five years.   The letter states that although the program has been drastically underfunded since its inception, thirty-three states and the District of Columbia have received grants and are engaged in impressive work such as identifying and coordinating respite services available through various state agencies, including veterans caregiver services; helping unserved families pay for respite through participant-directed voucher programs or mini-grants to community-based agencies; building respite capacity by recruiting and training respite workers and volunteers; and raising awareness about respite through public education campaigns.  The bill was referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.  There is no Senate companion bill to date. 


The Fixing America's Surface Transportation (H.R. 22, FAST) Act was signed into law on December 4.

The law reauthorizes funds for Federal-aid highways as well as highway safety and transition programs.  It authorizes $9 million for Technical Assistance and Workforce Development (Section 5314) from the trust fund, with $5 million set aside for the National Transit Institute, and $5 million additionally authorized from general funds. This is good news in terms of the overall amount available for advocates seeking disability-related funding. The bill also provides local agencies more flexibility on operating expenses if they choose to engage in paratransit improvement activities.  The bill continues funding for the Elderly Persons and Persons with Disabilities grant program (Section 5310), which supports demonstration projects for individuals with disabilities.  Finally, the bill reinvigorates the interagency coordinating council.

Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All

This week, Liz Weintraub, AUCD's advocacy specialist and host of Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All, interviews Denise Marshall of The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) about what implications ESEA reauthorization through the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) will have for students with disabilities and their families. You can watch the video here. In case you missed last week's edition, Liz interviewed Tina Campanella, CEO of the Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities, on supported decision making.


Disability Policy News In Brief will be published again on January 11, 2016. In the interim, please visit AUCD.org for any updates. Have a wonderful holiday, and see you in 2016!

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For updates from our Executive Director Andy Imparato, follow @AndyAUCD.

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

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

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