Disability Policy News

January 9, 2023


Disability Policy News logo, every Monday, from the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) Disability Policy News logo, every Monday, from the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD)
                 January 9th, 2023   |   Vol. MMXXIII, Issue 52

118th Congress Begins on January 3rd

On January 3rd, the 118th Congress began its session. The House of Representatives will be controlled by the Republicans who have 222 seats. Democrats will be in the minority and have 212 seats. There is one vacancy from Representative Donald McEachin (D-VA-4) who passed away after winning re-election. Virginia will have a special election in the coming weeks to fill the vacancy. The House Minority Leader will be Representative Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY-8) and the Speaker of the House will be Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA-23).

The Democrats will continue to control the Senate. The Democrats have 50 seats. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Senator Angus King (I-ME) are Independents who caucus with the Democrats. The Republicans have 48 seats, as former Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) resigned at the end of the 117th Congress and the Governor of Nebraska has yet to appoint a new Senator. Senator Krysten Sinema (I-AZ), who was a former member of the Democratic Party, has changed her party affiliation and will not be caucusing with either party. Vice President Kamala Harris will continue to be able to break a tie as President of the Senate. Committee assignments are expected in the coming days.

Plain Language

On January 3rd, the 118th Congress began its session. This means that all the new members elected from the November elections have started their new jobs. The House of Representatives will be controlled by Republicans, and the Senate will be controlled by Democrats. 

117th Congress Passes Omnibus Bill

On December 29th, President Joe Biden signed the $1.7 trillion spending package that was passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives earlier in December before Congress recessed for the year. The omnibus spending bill combines all twelve Fiscal Year 2023 appropriations bills into a single package.

The University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDDs) and Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LENDs) both received $1 million increase. The omnibus also included a number of other policy provisions that improve the lives of people with disabilities, such as the passage of the ABLE Age Adjustment Act (S. 331 / H.R. 1219) which changes the age of eligibility for ABLE Savings Accounts from 26 to 46 by 2025; extension of the Money Follows the Person program (H.R. 1880) and the Spousal Impoverishment protections (S. 1099 / H.R. 1717) until 2027;  the authority of the Food and Drug Administration to ban devices for one or more intended uses that are not legally marked for that use; and much, much more.

Plain Language

At the end of December, Congress passed a combined bill that gives money to all programs in the federal government. The University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities and Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities both received $1 million increases for the next year. The bill also included many other important policies for people with disabilities.

AUCD’s Policy Priorities for the 118th Congress

With the 118th Congress in session, AUCD has a broad set of policy priorities including federal funding, protecting civil rights education, employment, healthcare, pandemic response and recovery, and mental health.

Plain Language

With the new Congress, AUCD wanted to share our new policy priorities for 2023-2024. Read our policy priorities in plain language here.

Action Steps

As the new session gets underway, now is an excellent time to reach out to offices to begin to build relationships with new offices and/or new staff. Call your Members of Congress and educate them about AUCD’s programs in their state or territory. Share information about your center/program and AUCD’s policy priorities (plain language). You can reach your Members of Congress by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121. If you need more information about how to reach out to offices, read these Policy How-Tos (scroll to bottom of page). Let AUCD know about your outreach at [email protected].

National Institutes of Health Prioritizes Work on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for People with Disabilities 

In 2021, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) created an Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) Working Group on Diversity (WGD) to explore how to increase diversity, equity and inclusion across NIH. As part of the Working Group, a Subgroup on Individuals with Disabilities was created “to dedicate time and resources to identify strategies that support individuals with disabilities in the biomedical research workforce.”, The Subgroup was charged with advising the “NIH Director on how to best support individuals with disabilities in the scientific workforce.” The subgroup was to “systematically identify:

  • Strategies to enhance data collection focused on individuals with disabilities in the scientific workforce;
  • Current data and trends on the prevalence of individuals with disabilities in the scientific workforce at various career stages;
  • Evidence-based practices for supporting individuals with disabilities, accounting for variation in disability type; and
  • Programs with demonstrated success in supporting individuals with disabilities
  • Perspectives of individuals with disabilities.”

The Advisory Committee endorsed the Subgroup’s nine recommendations, which were published on Dec. 30. The Subgroup recommendations included updating the NIH mission statement, establishing an NIH Office of Disability Research, establishing an NIH Disability Equity and Access Coordinating Committee, and more.

Plain Language

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is a part of the Federal government that conducts medical research. Leadership at the NIH has been working to improve NIH’s focus on people with disabilities and increase participation from people with disabilities in their research.

Action Steps

Read the report. Read an article about the report authored by one of the subcommittee members.

National Council on Disability to Host Roundtable on Home and Community Based Services

On January 26th, from 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm EST, the National Council on Disability (NCD) is planning on hosting a virtual roundtable about the status of home and community-based services (HCBS). The conversation will focus on the current system and opportunities for improvement including a plan on how we can expand HCBS for more people. The webinar will focus mostly on the findings of this NCD report Strengthening the HCBS Ecosystem: Responding to Dangers of Congregate Settings during COVID-19. To register for the virtual roundtable, click here.

Plain Language

The National Council on Disability (NCD) is hosting a virtual roundtable discussion on home and community based services, and how we can help more people access services and supports in their homes. To register for the event, click here.

Action Steps

Read the report from NCD. Register for the roundtable.  

Policy related “How To” materials can be found on our website here. Scroll to the bottom of the page to find the resources! 

Tuesdays with Liz: Did you know that Liz has a YouTube Channel? 

'Tuesdays with Liz' is a weekly video series highlighting current issues in disability policy. It is hosted by Liz Weintraub, a long-time disability advocate, and produced by AUCD.

You can help spread her message by:

  • Subscribing to the Tuesdays with Liz YouTube Channel!
  • Liking videos on the channel
  • Making comments on the channel

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For definitions of terms, please see AUCD's List of Policy Definitions