Disability Policy News In Brief

December 12, 2016

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December 12, 2016   |   Vol. XV, Issue 102
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On Saturday morning, President Barack Obama signed into law a continuing resolution to extend government funding until April 28. The Senate had voted 63-36 to pass the CR late Friday after intense fighting over health assistance for coal miners.  The House has passed it earlier in the week.  The CR maintains the current budget cap of $1.07 trillion. To stay under the Budget Control Act's post-sequester discretionary cap for 2017, the CR includes an across-the-board cut of 0.19% from FY 2016. Summaries are available from House Appropriations Committee Republicans and Democrats.


The U.S. Department of Education today made available to the public final regulations under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), aimed at promoting equity by targeting widespread disparities in the treatment of students of color with disabilities.  The regulations will address a number of issues related to significant disproportionality in the identification, placement, and discipline of students with disabilities based on race or ethnicity. The final regulations incorporate changes to the Department's initial proposals, including: Better addressing how the risk ratio applies to small districts; states need not calculate risk ratios for any racial or ethnic group that does not meet minimum cell or n-sizes set by the state; explicitly prohibiting the use of quotas or of artificially reducing the number of children identified as children with disabilities; and clarifying that states have flexibility not to identify significant disproportionality in districts that make reasonable progress in lowering risk ratios for two prior consecutive years.


Last week at AUCD's conference, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) announced the introduction of the bipartisan RISE Act (Respond, Innovate, Support and Empower Act) focused on assisting students with disabilities and their families. "The legislation will help break down barriers in higher education, making it easier for students to get help and support as they pursue their education," stated Casey before an audience of over 900 participants.  Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) are also original co-sponsors. The four central elements of the Act would 1) Require colleges to accept IEPs, 504 Plans, military disability statements, and records of service from other colleges as evidence of a disability; 2) Make the process for determining the eligibility for accommodations transparent; 3) Expand data collection on college students with disabilities; 4) Provide more funding for a one-stop resource for information about disability services in college and for a technical assistance center to highlight, and train faculty in, and strategies that help students with disabilities succeed. (See Section 777 Higher Education Act). National Center for Learning Disabilities created a one-page summary of the RISE ACT. AUCD released the following statement upon introduction. While the bill will not likely be passed in the Lame Duck session, Casey, Hatch, and Cassidy plan to reintroduce it early in the next Congress.

White House Capstone Report

Last week, the White House released a new capstone report with updates about projects launched and local progress made in response to the Administration's Rethink Discipline efforts. Rethink Discipline aims to support all students and promote a welcome and safe climate in schools. One of the notable points made in this report is to provide guidance to schools on ensuring equity and providing behavioral supports to students with disabilities.


Last week, Oregon launched its "Oregon ABLE Savings Plan" (which caters specifically to Oregon residents) and its "ABLE for ALL Savings Plan" (which is open to all qualified ABLE beneficiaries nationwide). Both of Oregon's ABLE plans allow qualified individuals with disabilities to save up to $14,000 a year in an ABLE account without jeopardizing their eligibility for federally-funded means tested benefits, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid. The funds in the account can be used for disability-related expenses that assist the beneficiary in increasing and/or maintaining his or her health, independence, or quality of life. For more information on both of Oregon's ABLE plans and how to enroll, please visit Oregon ABLE Savings. For more information related to ABLE programs and accounts in general, and for the latest news regarding other state programs, please visit the ABLE National Resource Center.

Health Care

21st Century Cures Act

President Obama is expected to sign the 21st Century Cures Act at a White House ceremony tomorrow. Vice President Biden will join the President at the event. The "cancer moonshot" is included in the measure (HR 34) and is named for Biden's son Beau, who died of brain cancer.

Kevin and Avonte's Law

On December 8, the House passed Kevin and Avonte's Law (H.R. 4919), which provides support for community-based programs that seek to prevent wandering and locate missing children or seniors who have wandered from safe environments. The legislation was sponsored by Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), co-Chair of the Autism Caucus and was approved with strong bipartisan support. It reauthorizes the Missing Alzheimer's Disease Patient Alert Program to include children with developmental disabilities. Henceforth, it will be known as the Missing Americans Alert Program. The bill also creates local grant opportunities for community-level programming that educates families and caretakers of at-risk individuals about how they can recognize and respond to their needs.  It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Lifespan Respite

AUCD signed onto a letter initiated by the National Respite Coalition, which provides policy recommendations for the Presidential Transition and the 115th Congress. The letter clarifies the definition of respite care, provides an overview of the respite care program, ways it saves money, impact of caregiving and respite care, funding levels, what could be done in the first 100 days, and current barriers to access.

RAISE Family Caregivers Act

Despite efforts from many dedicated organizations, including AUCD, the House will not be taking up the RAISE Family Caregivers Act during the lame duck session. The Senate bill passed unanimously and the House bill has 127 bipartisan cosponsors, including over 60 percent of the House Education & the Workforce Committee.  Many bipartisan Members of Congress have engaged on the issue. AUCD will continue to work with coalition members to get the bill introduced in the 115th Congress.

New Administration

According to reports in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, President-elect Donald Trump is expected to name Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) to lead the Interior Department. McMorris Rodgers is a five-term Republican who represents eastern Washington and the highest-ranking woman in GOP leadership.   She has a daughter with developmental disabilities and addressed the AUCD network at last week's annual meeting and conference.

Public Policy Committee

AUCD's Public Policy Committee met at the annual meeting last week in person.  The committee attracted almost 100 participants.  The committee meets by phone tomorrow at 4 p.m. ET.  AUCD members who are interested in joining the call should contact Christine Grosso at [email protected].

Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All                   

This week's edition of Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All Liz interviews with Oregon State Senator Sara Gelser where they discuss the senator's experience as a mom and how that influenced her career as a policymaker. Senator Gelser also addressed AUCD at the annual meeting last week. In case you missed last week's episode, Liz interviewed Paulina Larenas, DREAM Fund recipient, about Latino families and her dream for her daughter with developmental disabilities.  

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

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