Disability Policy News In Brief

August 27, 2018

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August 27, 2018   |   Vol. XV, Issue 176
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This is the final week of recess for Members of the House, who will return on September 4. A recess is not a vacation for members; they are district work days meant for you to engage with your elected officials locally. Connecting with your Members of Congress during this recess is a terrific way to show that you are interested in partnering for good policy.

If your Senators or Representative voted in a way you agree with, taking the time to say thank you is a great way to build a long-term relationship. If they voted in a way you found challenging, connecting to follow up is the right way to build ties and share how you are willing to be a good resource about the issues that are important to you.

Action Steps:

  • Call your lawmakers' district offices and ask for appointments with your Senators and Representative while they are home.
  • Attend a town hall.
  • Connect with them at a public event (parade, festival, etc.).
  • Submit an op-ed to your local paper.
  • Use Facebook or Twitter to engage your Members of Congress.


Budget and Appropriations

On August 23, the Senate passed an $856.9 billion funding bill (H.R. 6157) which accounts for the majority of FY 2019 discretionary spending. The bill passed by an 85-7 margin and would fund the Departments of Defense, Education, Labor, and Health and Human Services. Lawmakers also approved a manager's package of amendments by unanimous consent. Amendments of note include:

  • S. Amdt. 3964 : To provide for the use of funds by the Secretary of Health and Human Services to issue regulations on direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs and biological products.
  • S. Amdt. 3933 : To improve obstetric care for pregnant women living in rural areas.
  • S. Amdt. 3927 : To provide for the establishment of the National Neurological Conditions Surveillance System.
  • S. Amdt. 3912 : To provide additional funding for activities related to neonatal abstinence syndrome.
  • S. Amdt. 3875 : To provide funding for the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish the Advisory Council to Support Grandparents Raising Grandchildren.
  • S. Amdt. 3862 : To provide $10,000,000 to the Department of Education to fund a demonstration program to test and evaluate innovative partnerships between institutions of higher education and high-needs state or local educational agencies to train school counselors, social workers, psychologists, or other mental health professionals qualified to provide school-based mental health services in order to expand the employment pipeline and address employment shortages relating to school-based mental health services in low-income public elementary and secondary schools.


Civil Rights

Disability Integration Act

The Disability Integration Act (DIA) (H.R. 2472/S.910) is a significant civil rights bill that aims to prevent institutionalization by requiring governments and insurers to cover home- and community-based support services. The bill has bipartisan support and was introduced in the Senate by Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) and in the House by Representative James Sensenbrenner (R-WI-5). Its passage would be an enormous step forward for people with disabilities. A robust set of resources and tailored messages of support can be found at http://www.disabilityintegrationact.org/.

Action Steps:


Supreme Court

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) plans to hold the hearings on nominee Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation September 4, 5 and 6, followed by a confirmation vote by the entire Senate. Kavanaugh would fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Anthony Kennedy.

Action Steps:

  • Every Senator will have a vote, so contacting both your Senators to share your concerns and speaking specifically about the civil rights of people with disabilities is critical. Phone calls and in-person meetings (including in state offices) are the most impactful.
AUCD has two emails you can send your Senators:
  • One that educates Senators about the concerning aspects of Judge Kavanaugh's record. You can find it here.
  • One that asks Senators to oppose the nomination based on Judge Kavanaugh's record. You can find it here.

Communication to the following Senators is particularly important:

Doug Jones (D-AL), Joe Manchin III (D-WV), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Susan Collins (R-ME), Dean Heller (R-NV)

If you live in their states, you are encouraged to activate your networks. If you are not in their states, consider reaching out to friends and urge them to activate their voices.



Federal Guidance on Education

The Special Ed Connection recently published an article on efforts by disability advocacy groups (including AUCD) to seek clarification from the U.S. Department of Education on guidance that has created confusion and prevents some high school students with intellectual disabilities from accessing postsecondary services that they may be entitled to under several federal education laws. The confusion derives from parts of guidance letters issued in 2013 and 2017 which imply that the use of IDEA funds to support postsecondary school attendance could be limited to students in dual enrollment programs that are only established through state law. Disability and education advocates argue that this contradicts the IDEA 2004 regulations, which say that IEP teams should make decisions about whether a student should participate in a transitional program at a college campus.

Earlier in August, AUCD joined more than 70 other organizations in signing onto a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos requesting that the department issue clear guidance that states that IDEA and vocational rehabilitation funds may be used to support students with intellectual disabilities in community-based settings and postsecondary programs.
Additional details are covered in the recent report, Addressing the Policy Tangle: Students with Intellectual Disability and the Path to Postsecondary Education, Employment and Community Living.

Action Step:

  • Share the report as needed in your state to ensure students with intellectual disabilities are accessing postsecondary services fairly and efficiently.



Nomination for Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education

President Trump announced that he will nominate Robert L. King to be Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education. Mr. King is currently the President of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, and previously served as Chancellor of the State University of New York System. He was also the President and CEO of the Arizona Community Foundation and a member of the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars.

The Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education is the last remaining leadership position at the U.S. Department of Education that requires Senate confirmation but has not been filled yet, apart from two other positions that the Trump Administration plans to consolidate or eliminate.



AUCD marks the death of Senator John McCain (R-AZ), recognizing the contributions he made to the lives of people with disabilities. Among Senator McCain's accomplishments was his role in the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, when he played a key role in establishing a national relay system that dramatically improved access to telecommunications for the Deaf community. In 2008, Senator McCain supported the bipartisan ADA Amendments Act, which restored civil rights protections to millions of Americans with epilepsy, diabetes, depression and other chronic conditions. Later, Senator McCain worked with Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and retired Senator Bob Dole (R-KS) to advocate for U.S. ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Just last year Senator McCain affirmed his maverick reputation with a thumbs down vote that was critical to protecting the ACA and Medicaid.

Senator McCain's death leaves a vacant seat in the Senate. His successor will be appointed by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, a Republican. Governor Ducey has indicated he will wait until after Senator McCain's funeral this weekend to announce his successor.


Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All

Join us for this ‘Back to School' special as Liz asks disability advocate and incoming Bryn Mawr freshman Laura Rodgers about how she feels about her upcoming first year of college. Laura talks about how her disability factored into her college selection process and provides an overview of and advice about supports for college students with disabilities.

Visit https://bit.ly/2MK4H1r to learn more about the Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the ADA, and other important civil rights legislation for people with 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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