Disability Policy News In Brief

October 3, 2016

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October 3, 2016   |   Vol. XV, Issue 92
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The House passed and the President signed a continuing resolution (CR) that avoided a government shutdown.   The CR extends government programs at level funding through Dec. 9.  This action takes the government past the November 8 elections, after which Congress will need to either pass fiscal 2017 spending in some form or extend the CR. The Senate is scheduled to return Nov. 15 and the House Nov. 14. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan both stated their intention to try to pass several fiscal 2017 minibus appropriations bills in the lame-duck session after the elections, rather than an omnibus or full-year CR. AUCD is pleased to report that the CR includes $1.1 billion emergency funding to address Zika (see AUCD statement). 

NIH Research/Health

Sponsors of the 21st Century Cures Act (H.R. 6) have indicated that Congress will not take action on the bill until after the elections in November. The legislation, which provides significant funding for the NIH, was passed by the House fifteen months ago but has faced opposition in the Senate, in part due to additional provisions in the bill that overhaul FDA regulations. The bill's supporters hope to bring it up for a vote during the lame duck session.

Pediatric Health

President Obama signed the Advancing Hope Act of 2016 (S. 1878) into law on September 30. The new law amends the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to broaden the priority review voucher program for rare pediatric diseases so that it includes treatments for sickle cell anemia. The act also forbids a voucher from being issued for a rare pediatric disease product if a voucher was issued for the same product as a tropical disease product.


Last week, the Obama administration highlighted two new actions to further support working Americans: 1)the Department of Labor is finalizing a rule requiring federal contractors to provide paid sick leave to employees, and 2) the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is publishing its final approved collection of summary pay data by gender, race, and ethnicity for businesses with 100 or more employees in order to improve enforcement of our nation's equal pay laws.

Currently, the Healthy Families Act has been stalled in congress, which would allow Americans to earn paid sick time so individuals can address their own health and the health needs of their families.

Overtime Rule

On September 28, the U.S House passed (246-177 vote) HR 6094, the Regulatory Relief for Small Businesses, Schools, and Nonprofits Act, introduced by Rep. Walberg (R-MI) that would delay by six months the roll out of the Department of Labor's Overtime rule ( due to take effect Dec 1). Senator Lankford (R-OK), along with Senators Alexander (R-TN) and Collins (R-ME) also introduced two bills 1) a companion to the Regulatory Relief for Small Businesses, Schools, and Nonprofits Act (S 3462) and 2) the Overtime Reform and Review Act that would direct the administration to make increases in four stages over a five-year period to give workplaces time to prepare for the rule implementation and would also require an independent "watchdog" study of the rule after the first year. AUCD has not taken a position on any of these bills to date.


Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Bob Casey (D-PA) offered the ABLE Age Adjustment Act (HR 4813/S 2704), the ABLE to Work Act (HR 4795/S 2702) and the ABLE Financial Planning Act (HR 4794/S 2703) as amendments to a pension's related bill in a Senate Finance Committee markup on Wednesday, September 21. All three of these bills make important enhancements to the ABLE Act. The ABLE Age Adjustment Act would raise the age of onset of a disability for ABLE accounts through age 45 (currently through age 25), allowing those who become disabled later in life to open ABLE accounts; the ABLE to Work Act enables ABLE beneficiaries who work and earn income to save additional amounts in their ABLE accounts; and the ABLE Financial Planning Act would allow rollovers of 529 accounts to ABLE (529A) accounts. Senators Burr and Bob Casey (D-PA) urged all three bills to move as a package.  Unfortunately, the significantly higher cost associated with the ABLE Age Adjustment Act ($2 billion over 10 years), prevented its consideration by the committee. ABLE to Work and the ABLE Financial Planning Act amendments passed.  The next step will be for the House to pass companion bills. While Congress has recessed until after the election, these bills may have a chance to move during a Lame Duck session of Congress.


On September 23, 2016 Reps. Phil Roe (R-TN) and Joe Courtney (D-CT) introduced the bipartisan Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education (AIM HE) Act (H.R. 6122). This act promotes instructional technology and content that are accessible to the blind and other students with print disabilities.  AIM HE authorizes a purpose-based commission to develop accessibility guidelines for electronic instructional materials and related information technology so that those materials are accessible to students with print disabilities; provides an incentive for schools to follow the guidelines by offering a safe harbor from litigation; and restates that schools are still obligated to meet the equal access mandate under current law.  A similar bill was introduced in the previous Congress.  AUCD has signed on in support of this legislation.


Iceland ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), becoming the 167th country to do so. The United States has signed CRPD but has still not ratified it, having failed to do so in the Senate in 2013.

Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All                   

During this week's edition, Tuesdays with Liz, Liz interviews Jennifer Mathis in a two part series about mental health and the connection to people with disabilities. In case you missed last week's edition, Liz interviewed Michelle Bishop about the importance of voting.


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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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