Disability Policy News In Brief

April 3, 2017

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April 3, 2017   |   Vol. XV, Issue 117
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April 10-21 your members of Congress will be back in their state.

It would be a great time to schedule an in-person meeting! 


Supreme Court

Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court along party lines (11-9).  The Democratic leadership appears intent on using filibuster rules requiring 60 votes for passage.  Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has promised to change the long-standing Senate filibuster rule to allow Supreme Court nominees to pass by a simple majority (the so-called "nuclear option").  AUCD signed onto a letter developed by the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law and signed by over 33 other organizations in opposition to the nomination of Judge Gorsuch.  The letter summarizes case history and outlines serious concerns these organizations have about Judge Gorsuch's commitment to adequately and fairly protect the rights of all Americans, including people with disabilities. For another analysis of disability cases under Gorsuch, see the written testimony of Eve Hill, former Deputy Assistant AG at the DOJ Civil Rights Division. (See also NYT opinion on the nuclear option.)

Department of Labor

On March 30, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted 12-11 to recommend that the full Senate confirm Alexander Acosta to be the Secretary of Labor.


Proposed Federal Cuts

Reports emerged last week that the White House recently shared a list of potential budget cuts with Congressional Appropriations Committees for the current fiscal year (2017) that began six months ago on October 1. These cuts are presented as "options" to help offset the costs of an immediate boost to defense spending and construction of a border wall. One such proposed cut was to the Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant's Special Projects of Regional and National Significance (SPRANS). The SPRANS cut is combined with proposed cuts to programs in the Health Resources and Services Administration's Bureau of Health Professions for a total of $170 million, with no details on how the cuts would be split between the two accounts.  The current budget for HRSA's Bureau of Workforce is $1.2 billion and the SPRANS component represents $77 million of the total $638 million for the Title V MCH Block Grant. These options also include over $3 billion in cuts to health and medical research, including $300 million in proposed reductions to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a $51 million reduction to the Teen Prevention Program (TPP).  The administration also proposes a $100 million cut to the Mental Health Block Grant and $306 million immediate cut and subsequent elimination of the Community Services Block Grant, indicating that block grants are not immune to attack despite repeated stated preference for supporting state flexibility.

Research Funding

On top of an almost 20 percent, or $6 billion for Fiscal 2018, President Trump last week called for a $1.2 billion reduction to the fiscal year 2017 appropriations bill as part of the "options" to offset increases in defense (see March 28 Washington Post articles on this subject as well as a Post article on the impact on Universities).  The NIH budget cut was brought up by numerous Democrats during the March 29 hearing on the President's Budget proposals for programs within the Department of Health and Human Services.  HHS Secretary Tom Price was the single witness (see archive of hearing).  During the hearing Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI-2nd), home to the University of Madison's Waisman Center (IDDRC), invited the Secretary to visit the university to see the NIH-funded research first-hand.

In related NIH news, director Francis Collins recently spoke to CNBC news about his role at the institute under the new Administration, saying that as of now, he plans to stick around.

This week the House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee will hold a hearing on federal support for job training programs (Tuesday) and on opioid abuse (Wednesday). Both hearing will be webcast.

CDC Funding

On March 30, AUCD signed on to a letter by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Coalition, which was sent to leadership of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee recommending at least $7.8 billion in appropriations for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention programs in the FY 2018 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. The letter expresses disappointment that President Trump's initial budget proposal recommends an astounding $15.1 billion or nearly 18 percent cut to the Department of Health and Human Service's budget for FY 2018. AUCD believes Congress should prioritize funding for all of the activities and programs supported by CDC. The letter was signed by over 182 national organizations.

AUCD Network Funding

AUCD submitted written testimony on behalf of the network programs to the Appropriations Subcommittee in March.  This week Rep. James Langevin (D-RI) sent a Dear Colleague letter to all Representatives urging them to sign on in support of the highest possible funding levels for DD Act programs:  University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD), Protection and Advocacy Systems (P&A), and Developmental Disabilities Councils.  The letter has been signed by 24 Representatives so far. The deadline to sign is tomorrow, April 4.

States Face Revenue Shortfalls

On March 30, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities published a report on the potential economic shortfalls faced by states. The report states that during times of economic growth, states can be reasonably confident that the tax collections upon which they base their budgets will come in as predicted; however, in 2017, the analysis finds that 25-33 states are facing or have addressed revenue shortfalls. According to the National Association of State Budget Officers, more states expect mid-year revenue shortfalls than in any year since 2010. The report also highlights several reasons for this tread and provides a state map of shortfalls in fiscal years 2017-18.

Health Care


AUCD signed onto a letter to the House Labor-HHS Subcommittee leadership requesting an increase in funding to support an effective federal response to the Zika virus during FY 2018. The letter requests a $2 billion increase in funding for the NIH, including specific increases for the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), and the Zika in Pregnancy Study (ZIP). It also requests $650 million to HRSA's Title V Maternal & Child Health Services Block Grant, $152.61 million for the CDC National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD), $630 million for the CDC National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID), and $705 million for the Public Health Emergency Preparedness Cooperative Agreement (PHEP). The letter was addressed to Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK) and Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and was signed by 53 organizations.

Medicaid Policy Resources

Today, the Alliance for Health Reform held a briefing on the future of Medicaid.  The briefing is archived by C-SPAN.

See also the latest state to state information on changes in Medicaid policy from our colleagues at Community Access National Network (CANN).


Instructional technology

Last week, Representatives Phil Roe (R-TN) and Joe Courtney (D-CT) introduced the Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education Act of 2017, also known as the AIM HIGH Act (H.R. 1772). This act aims to promote instructional technology and content that are accessible to the blind and other students with print disabilities. Roe said: "No student pursuing their education should be put at a disadvantage because they have a disability". As part of this Act, it will authorize a purpose-based commission comprised of persons with disabilities, developers, and manufacturers, as well as representatives from institutions of higher education. This commission will develop voluntary accessibility guidelines for instructional materials used in postsecondary educational programs.


Disability Services Workforce

On March 28, American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR) released a report addressing the disability services workforce. This report compiles data on the direct support professional (DSP) workforce, offers an historical overview of the workforce crisis, and offers solutions on how it can be addressed. For example, the report found that according to the National Core Indicator's 2016 survey of 17 states, the average turnover rate for direct support professionals is 45 percent.  "This frequent churn of staff is highly disruptive to the development of skills critical to gain independence and access community living, compromises health and safety, and is increasingly impacting the ability of states and providers to serve people and families on waiting lists for services". The full ANCOR Workforce Report is available here and the Executive Summary of the report here.

Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All

In this week's edition of Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All Liz interviews Finn Gardiner about developing a database for Autistic individuals. In case you missed the last week, Liz interviewed Liz Koss, AUCD virtual trainee, about what she does in this role.


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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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