Disability Policy News In Brief

July 18, 2016

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July 18, 2016   |   Vol. XV, Issue 81
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Congressional Schedule

Both the House and Senate are on recess. Members will be in their states until September 6. Be sure to schedule appointments with your Senators and Representatives!


On July 12, the House Appropriations Committee released its committee report language a day ahead of its markup, which occurred on July 13. On July 14, the Committee approved the FY 2017 Labor-HHS spending bill. More than 30 amendments were considered, many of them from Democrats who sought to restore funding to key priorities that were cut in the bill (e.g., funding for Zika, gun-violence prevention research, and lead poisoning and safe water efforts). AUCD network programs fared well in the House bill with small increases recommended for both UCEDD and LEND programs.  Upon returning to Congress in September, the chambers will likely pass a continuing budget resolution and put off completion of FY 2017 spending bills until after the new Congress and Administration forms in January. That has been the practice more often than not in every election year since 2002, according to Congressional Quarterly. For more details and information on other agencies and programs, please see the full committee report language posted on the committee website. Meanwhile, AUCD will continue to work on the best possible funding levels and best possible report language as these bills inch forward. 


AUCD signed onto a letter, along with several other organizations, to Speaker Ryan, Minority Leader Pelosi, Majority Leader McConnell, and Minority Leader Reid, regard the Zika spending package. The letter strongly expressed the need for Congress to send a bipartisan Zika emergency spending bill to the President by the end of last week to combat the terrible threat this virus poses to pregnant women and their babies. Despite our efforts, Congress failed to reach a compromise on the Zika conference report before adjourning for the seven week recess.  Instead, the Senate voted again on the same conference report from late last month, and again, it failed. AUCD will continue working to get this much needed funding as over 3,600 Americans have been diagnosed with Zika virus, over 2,500 in the territories, and more than 1,100 in the states. Most alarmingly, 320 pregnant women in the states and another 279 in the territories have been diagnosed with Zika and are being followed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is possible many more people are infected and unaware of their status, since 80% of Zika cases cause no symptoms. 

Health Care

Child Welfare and Mental Health

Despite strong leadership from Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR), efforts to pass the critically important improvements in Family First Prevention Services Act (H.R. 5456) by unanimous consent before the Senate left for summer recess were unsuccessful. However, there is strong resolve from Senators Hatch and Wyden, advocates, and others to pass H.R. 5456 when the Senate returns in September. Senator Wyden released a statement expressing that the Senate "can and must" pass H.R. 5456 and stressed how important this legislation is to vulnerable children and families.


The House voted 407-5 last week to approve the conference report on the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. This was followed by a Senate approval of 92-2 and being signed into law by the President. An outline of the package can be found here. Before the vote, Senate Democrats sent a final letter to the Republican leadership calling for funding to be added to the bill. Advocates that support the bill plan to seek funding to implement the bill through the FY2017 appropriations bills.


On Thursday, July 14, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing, ESSA Implementation: Perspectives from Education Stakeholders on Proposed Regulations. It was the Committee's fifth hearing on the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) taking place immediately preceding the Senate's seven week summer recess. The hearing focused primarily on the Department of Education's (ED) proposed accountability regulations. Before the hearing's end, Senator Paul discussed with panelists the possibility of getting real world practitioners (e.g., scientists, artists, physicians) to teach and lecture in schools either in person or through a "tele-health" like model. Chairman Alexander went through a list of questions raising doubts about the feasibility of the timeline of the proposed regulations and critiquing ED for its loose interpretation of legislative language. More information about the hearing, including written testimony and an archived webcast can be found here.

Special Needs Trust Fairness Act

On July 13, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce approved the Special Needs Trust Fairness Act (H.R.670). This bill will allow individuals to establish special needs trusts on their own behalf as opposed to current law that only allows a parent, grandparent, legal guardian, or a court to establish a Trust for an individual; this led to unnecessary legal expenses for eligible individuals who do not have a guardian or a living parent or grandparent. The Senate approved its version, S.349, in September of 2015.


The final Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) regulations have been posted in advance of their publication in the Federal Register and will be available on the Federal Register Public Inspection website. The CCD Employment and Training Task Force, of which AUCD is a member, played a very active role in providing comments on the regulations, which can be found here.


The U.S. Senate has unanimously approved legislation to provide tracking devices and other resources to help individuals with forms of dementia (such as Alzheimer's) or developmental disabilities (such as autism) who are at risk of wandering. With a voice vote late Thursday, the Senate passed the bill known as Kevin and Avonte's Law. The measure authorizes the U.S. Department of Justice to provide grants to state and local law enforcement agencies and nonprofit organizations for education, training, and technology to help prevent and reduce the harm from wandering (or "elopement"). Under the Senate bill, $2 million would be directed annually to the program, which can include tracking devices as well as training and other efforts to address wandering. The measure expands an existing federal program that provides resources to people with Alzheimer's disease who have a tendency to elope. The House has yet to approve the companion bill.


On July 13, the Netherlands ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, becoming the 166th country to do so. This means all European Union member states have now ratified the CRPD, apart from Ireland. The United States failed to ratify the treaty, following Senate vote in 2013 that did not reach the necessary two thirds majority.

Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All       

This week's edition of Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All, Liz interviews Nicole Leblanc from Green Mountain Self Advocate about the ABLE act and other policy issues. In case you missed last week's edition, Liz interviewed Carol Wright, Assistant VP of Mobility & Transportation at Easter Seals, about the new transportation center called National Aging and Disability Transportation Center and its website.


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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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