Disability Policy News In Brief

December 5, 2016

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December 5, 2016   |   Vol. XV, Issue 101
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Congress was in recess last week for Thanksgiving and returned this week for its "lame-duck" (post-election) session. Its first order of business will be to fund the departments and agencies of government beyond December 9, when the current continuing resolution (CR) expires. Under the CR, spending remains at approximately the same level as last year. House and Senate leaders have decided to take up another CR, which will last through March 31, rather than write an appropriations bill that would set spending levels for the remainder of the current (2017) fiscal year, which ended on September 30, 2016. Thus, final spending decisions for this fiscal year will be made by the new Congress and president. This means that the new President and the new Congress will have to wrap up FY 2017 spending at the same time they are developing a Budget for FY 2018. Republican leaders have also promised funding will be provided to address the problem of lead-contaminated water in Flint, Michigan, most likely in the CR.

Health Care


President-elect Trump has nominated current Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), to lead the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and health consultant Seema Verma to administer the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS). Price is an orthopedic surgeon who was a state lawmaker before his election to Congress. He has introduced his own legislation to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) several times and was part of a group of House committee chairmen who recently developed a Republican consensus document with proposed changes to the health-care system. Verma is an Indianapolis-based health-care consultant who helped designed the most far-reaching Medicaid experiment under the ACA that the Obama administration has allowed. This plan (Indiana's HIP 2.0) is based on the idea that beneficiaries should be required to take responsibility for their health and their finances. Under this plan, even some of Indiana's most low-income residents were required to pay for part of their care.

21st Century Cures Act

On November 30, 2016 the 21st Century Cures Act passed the House (by a 392 to 26 vote). The bill is intended to advance medical innovation and accelerate the translation of research to cures. The bill also increases funding at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for President Obama's Precision Medicine Initiative, cancer prevention and research, as included in Vice President Biden's "Cancer Moonshot", Alzheimer's research through the BRAIN Initiative, and regenerative medicine. It also makes major mental health system reforms and offers grants to states to address the nation's opioid crisis.

Although the bill is bipartisan in both the House and Senate, and is supported by the administration, it is not without controversy. Some consumer groups believe that it weakens FDA regulations too much, thus comprising safety. Generic drug manufacturers are disappointed that it does not include provisions to speed the development of generic drugs. Some Democrats, particularly in the Senate, are unhappy that the new version of the bill would only authorize additional appropriations for NIH - of about $4.8 billion - rather than provide mandatory funding that does not have to go through the annual appropriations process.


On December 2, 2016, the Department of Labor's Civil Rights Center (CRC) announced publication of a final rule to update the Section 188 WIOA Nondiscrimination and Equal Opportunity Regulations (29 CFR Part 38). The final rule is available on the Office of Federal Register's (OFR) public inspection web site. The rule goes into effect on January 3, 2017 (30 days after publication in the Federal Register).  More information can be found on the Civil Rights Center's website.            


Free, Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) - U.S. Supreme Court

AUCD joined with our partners at the NACDD and NDRN on an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court case Endrew F v. Douglas County School District. This is the first case since Rowley in which the Court will squarely address the substantive content of a state's duty to provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE).   The brief was written by Sam Bagenstos, Arlene Mayerson (DREDF), and Ron Hager (NDRN). The case was brought by parents who pulled their son with autism out of his Colorado school and sent him to a private school. They then sought reimbursement from the School District arguing that their son was not provided FAPE. The U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado found in favor of the school district, saying that FAPE was provided because the boy received "some" educational benefit. The US Court of Appeals agreed. The U.S. solicitor general agreed with the parents that the IDEA requires schools to provide more than minimal benefit to students with disabilities.  The DD partner brief supports this.  It argues that, while the definition of FAPE is unchanged, IDEA and ESSA amendments over the past 35 years support high expectations and high state standards for students with disabilities.

ESSA Guide for Advocates

Earlier this week, The Leadership Conference Education Fund's ESSA Guide for Advocates was virtually launched.  It is the hope that this new and important resource will help provide the necessary tools to be a strong advocate for equity in the implementation of ESSA at the state level. You can access the guide online or a hard copy by emailing Paul Cange (be sure to include your name, mailing address, number of copies being requested, and a brief description of how and where you plan to use the guide). The Education Fund also created an ESSA checklist and fact sheets which can be found here, and the National Down Syndrome Congress has created a state-by-state information guide.

Civil Rights

AUCD signed on to an open letter prepared by  the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (LCCHR), to Majority Leader McConnell, Democratic Leader Reid, Chairman Grassley, and Ranking Member Leahy in strong opposition to the confirmation of Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to be the Attorney General of the United States. Andy Imparato, Executive Director of AUCD, spoke at a press conference on December 2 regarding this nomination.


December 3 marked the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities. International disability rights advocates celebrate several achievements this year, including the enactment of the Marrakesh Treaty (which removed copyright restrictions on reproducing books in Braille in 20 countries), and the ratification of the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) by eight more countries. This raises the total number of states parties to the treaty to 168. This month also marks the tenth anniversary of the adoption of CRPD by the UN General Assembly, which triggered its signature and ratification by countries around the world.

Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All                   

This week's edition of Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All Liz interviews Paulina Larenas, DREAM Fund recipient, about Latino families and her dream for her daughter with developmental disabilities.  In case you missed last week's episode, Liz celebrated the 100th episode of TWL! To celebrate this milestone, Sara Luterman, communication assistant at AUCD, interviewed Liz Weintraub, advocacy specialist about her thoughts and dreams for Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All.


AUCD Conference

This week marks the 2016 AUCD conference - Navigating Change: Building Our Future Together. This year we reached a record high of more than 900 attendees from all states and territories! Plenary sessions include many notable speakers including Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA), and Oregon State Senator Sara Gelser. Sessions focused on AUCD network members' activities over the past year and strategic approaches that AUCD can take as the country transitions to a new administration as well as a number of other topics. All Powerpoints will be available on AUCD's website following the conference.

Harkin Summit

Also this week, December 8-9, AUCD will co-host the inaugural Harkin International Employment Summit in Washington D.C. The summit is an initiative implemented by AUCD and Handicap International on behalf of the Harkin Institute, and seeks to promote a broader global dialogue about fostering employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Speakers include senior officials from the World Bank, the former President of Malawi, disability employment advocates from Fortune 500 companies, and many grassroots activists. More than 100 attendees from 27 countries will be represented. The summit is the very first event of its kind anywhere in the world.


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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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