Legislative News InBrief

June 4, 2007

Congressional Schedule
Congress returns from a weeklong recess. The Senate resumes debate on immigration overhaul. The House debates legislation to expand stem cell research. House subcommittees are busy moving the 12 annual appropriations bills (see below).

FY 08 Appropriations
According to Hill reports, the House plans to complete passage of 11 of the 12 spending bills in June, and leave the defense appropriations measure for votes in July. The Senate Appropriations Committee hopes to begin marking up its bills the week of June 11.

The Labor, Health and Human Services appropriations bill that provides funding for the AUCD network programs and many other programs important to people with disabilities is scheduled to be marked up by the subcommittee this Thursday, June 7 with full committee markup the following week on June 14. This ambitious schedule would bring the bill to the House floor for debate on June 21 and 22. The Senate plans to mark up the L-HHS-ED spending bill the week of June 18.

The budget resolution approved by the House and Senate on May 17 sets a total discretionary spending cap across all federal agencies for fiscal 2008 of $23 billion more than the White House request for non-war spending. The White House has indicated that President Bush is prepared to veto any spending bill that exceeds the administration's budget request for that specific measure.

Disability and aging groups are working to find a Republican co-sponsor to join Senator Kennedy (D-MA) on the Community Living Assistance Services and Support (CLASS) Act. Senator Kennedy plans to re-introduce the bill in mid-June at a hearing on long-term services and supports. A companion bill will also be introduced in the House by Representatives Dingell (D-MI) and Pallone (D-NJ). AUCD prepared an Action Alert asking individuals to contact members of Congress and ask them to co-sponsor the bill.

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, plans to consider legislation in June to reauthorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program, a priority for Democrats this year. SCHIP, created in 1997 as part of a budget bill (PL 105-33), now covers about 6 million children and about 600,000 adults. An additional 9 million children are currently eligible but not enrolled. There are currently three leading proposals to reauthorize the program sponsored by Sen. Clinton and Rep. Dingell (S. 895/HR 1535), Sen. Snowe and Rockefeller (S. 1224) and Sen. Durbin and Rep. Emanuel (S. 1364, HR 2147). Although the bills differ in details, all would authorize more money to allow states to enroll more eligible children and provide options to states to cover certain adults. Families USA is hosting a toll free number this week to encourage calls to Senators about the importance of fully funding SCHIP and supporting the reauthorization. The toll-free call in number is 1-800-828-0498. For more information, see Families USA :

Crime Victims with Disabilities
A national online town hall meeting was held last week to launch a new partnership between the National Council on Disability, the National Center for Victims of Crime, and the AUCD Network addressing victims of crime with disabilities. The "Breaking the Silence" presentation drew over 300 participants including victim service providers, disability activists, U.S. Attorney's offices, law enforcement departments, academic institutions, and individuals from across the country to discuss the initiative and identify specific strategies for addressing the needs of crime victims with disabilities. The AUCD Network and its Disability Crimes Action Committee were well represented by Beverly L. Frantz of the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University. This ongoing initiative will be focused in five priority areas: public education, research, policymaking, program implementation, and national services. To continue the dialogue started during the webcast, a message forum has now been created to serve as a vehicle for sharing best practices, ideas, and suggestions for helping crime victims with disabilities rebuild their lives. It may be accessed here . Those who missed the 60-minute webcast may view and listen to the entire program on the ILRU website.

Newborn Screening
AUCD signed onto a letter developed by the March of Dimes urging Senate HELP Committee leaders (Kennedy, Enzi, Dingell and Barton) to mark up the Newborn Screening Saves Lives Act (S. 634/H.R. 1634). These bills authorize funding to enhance the capacity of states to expand and improve their newborn screening programs, provide much needed educational materials to families and improve follow-up care and treatment of newborns detected with a condition. The bill was introduced by Senators Dodd (D-CT) and Hatch (R-UT). The House bill was introduced by Reps. Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and Simpson (R-ID).

On May 25, the House Financial Services Committee, chaired by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), passed the Section 8 Voucher Reform Act (SEVRA) of 2007 (H.R. 1851). Prior to final passage, an amendment to authorize 100,000 new Section 8 vouchers over the next 5 years passed by voice vote. SEVRA makes important reforms to the housing voucher program and related changes in the laws governing public and assisted housing. SEVRA's provisions would establish a stable, fair, efficient funding formula for the voucher program. Other sections of the bill would simplify rules governing housing quality inspections and calculation of tenant rent contributions, establish a dedicated funding source for HUD's Family Self-Sufficiency asset development program, direct HUD to issue guidance instructing housing agencies to keep some vouchers set aside for people with disabilities, and make it easier for housing agencies to allow vouchers to cover additional rent as a reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities. The House Financial Services Committee approved SEVRA with strong bi-partisan support on May 25. The bill is expected to move to the House floor in the coming months. For more information, see an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities on SEVRA.