Legislative News InBrief

May 29, 2007

Congressional Schedule
The House and Senate are on recess this week. The House and Senate may consider the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill soon after their return on June 4. The Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee may also take up the Higher Education Act in the near future. Congressional recess is a great time to meet with Members of Congress in their home districts. For talking points on current issues, please visit AUCD's Action Center

Supplemental Appropriations Bill
Last week a compromise was reached on the supplemental appropriations bill to provide war related funding. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 80-14. It also passed the House with two separate votes, one for the war appropriations that passed 280-142 and one for the $22.2 billion in additional domestic spending that overwhelmingly passed 348-73. The total funding for the bill (H.R. 2206) is approximately $120 billion, about $4 billion less than the version President Bush vetoed due to troop withdrawal guidelines. Included in the bill is an increase in the federal minimum wage over two years from $5.15 to $7.25 along with a $4.8 billion package of small business tax breaks. Approximately $393 million is provided for state shortfalls in SCHIP.

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. If the bill is not bi-partisan it is unlikely it will gain any movement in the current Congress. AUCD and other advocates, met with several Republican members on the HELP, Finance, and Special Aging Committees. Hopeful targets include Senators Snowe (R-ME), Collins (R-ME), Lott (R-TN), Specter (R-PA), and Smith (R-OR). Grassroots efforts are needed to reach these Members and others who may be interested in co-sponsoring this bill. For more information see the AUCD Public Policy website

Crime Victims with Disabilities
Addressing the long-neglected needs of crime victims with disabilities is the focus of a new partnership announced last week by the National Council on Disability, the Association of University Centers on Disabilities, and the National Center for Victims of Crime. The ultimate goal of this partnership is to foster greater public awareness about crime victims with disabilities and to forge a national commitment to better serve this particularly vulnerable population. The partnership is hosting a virtual town hall meeting this Wednesday, May 30, 2007, at 3:00 p.m. (EDT). AUCD will be represented at the meeting by Beverly Frantz, MS, from the Institute on Disability at Temple University. To register for the free meeting or to log on, visit the IRLU website

Medicare Waiting Period
The Medicare Rights Center and the Commonwealth Fund released a report on the human costs of the Medicare two-year waiting period. The study followed 21 individuals with disabilities during the 24-month waiting period for Medicare following their eligibility for SSDI. Individuals suffered severe financial hardships, suffering, and death. Senator Bingaman (D-NM) has been a champion of legislation that would eliminate the waiting period and plans to reintroduce this legislation. A House bill (H.R. 154) was introduced by Representative Greene (D-TX) and currently has 11 co-sponsors. A copy of the report is located on the Health Care subsection of the AUCD Public Policy website

The Technical Assistance Collaborative, Inc. and the CCD Housing Task Force have released an updated report on the housing crisis for people with disabilities: Priced Out in 2006. According to the report, the national average income of an individual with disabilities on SSI in 2006 was $632 per month. Average rent for a modest one-bedroom apartment was 113% of SSI and rent for a studio/efficiency was 100% of SSI. The housing situation has severely worsened over the past 8 years since the first edition of the Priced Out Report. A copy of the report is located on the CCD website. This is a good resource to use when talking to policymakers about housing resources in your state.

Supreme Court IDEA Case
The U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision in the case of Jacob Winkelman et al v. Parma. The question regarded the rights of a non-lawyer parent of a minor child with a disability to represent his child in a federal court under IDEA. The case began when the parents of Jacob Winkelman sought to represent him in federal court over a school placement dispute. The Winkelmans lost and, on appeal, the 6th Circuit held that while parents may represent their children in administrative proceedings (such as a due process hearing), they may not appear in federal court to assert their child's substantive rights to a "free and appropriate public education." In February 2006, the case was brought to the Supreme Court and the Bush administration supported the parents' interpretation. The Court ruled that parents do not need to hire a lawyer to sue public school districts over their children's special education plan. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, concluded that "parents have enforceable rights at the administrative stage, and it would be inconsistent with the statutory scheme to bar them from continuing to assert those rights in federal court at the adjudication stage."