AUCD Legislative News InBrief

October 15, 2007

Congressional Schedule

The Senate is back following a week-long Columbus Day recess.  The Senate plans to take up the FY 08 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education appropriations bill later this week.  House leaders also hope to override the President's recent veto of the bill to reauthorize and expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).  House and Senate leaders report plans to send all 12 annual appropriations bills to the President by Nov. 16.  However, most Hill staff acknowledge that the President's veto threats will make that deadline difficult and that Congress will likely remain in session until just before the Christmas holiday.



The Senate is expected to take up the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (L-HHS-ED) appropriations bill this week.  The full House has already passed their version.  Appropriations staff are already trying to work out the differences between the two bills so that they can quickly conference the two bills and send it to the President.  There is much at stake for people with disabilities in the outcome of this year's appropriations process.  The House and Senate bills contain some small but important increases for programs that support our mission of full integration of people with disabilities.  If our community cannot pull together and help educate Congress and the President about the need for this funding, many programs could see level funding or significant cuts. President Bush continues to threaten to veto the bill because it provides $11 billion more than the Administration's proposed budget. 


AUCD signed onto a large stakeholder coalition letter to the Senate urging Senators to pass the bill.  The letter states that the President's misplaced priorities in his FY 08 budget request continues or deepens cuts for most of the programs in the Labor, HHS, and Education Appropriations bill.  The FY 06 L-HHS-ED appropriations bill was cut by $1.6 billion.  Congress worked to restore some of those cuts in the FY 07 budget resolution but many programs still remain far below their FY 2005 level, and others lost all funding.  AUCD will be sending an alert to the Network this week regarding action needed to help ensure adequate funding in the final L-HHS-ED appropriations bill.



Congress will attempt to override the Presidential veto of the SCHIP reauthorization bill this week.  It requires a 2/3 majority in both the House and Senate to override a veto.  The House is scheduled to vote this Thursday.  The vote is expected to be very close.  Democratic leaders in the House say they need 15 Republicans who voted against the bill, in addition to the 45 who supported it.  You can see how your Representative previously voted on final passage of the children's health bill at the following link:  AUCD sent out an Action Alert last week that included key targets:  The Coalition on Human Needs is sponsoring a call-in day on Tuesday.  Individuals can call the Capitol Switchboard toll-free at 1-800-965-4701 and urge their Representatives to vote for the SCHIP bill. 


No Child Left Behind

The House continues to work on legislation to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act.  Last month AUCD signed onto comments prepared by the CCD Education Task Force on the House Education and Labor Committee's initial draft:  CCD has become increasingly concerned about potential attempts to further exclude individuals with disabilities from assessments or attempts to use the IEP as an accountability measure.  Last week, AUCD signed onto a CCD letter to the Committee strongly opposing the use of IEPs as a measure of student progress in NCLB.  CCD also visited members of the Committee to educate them about the contents of IEPs and why they are not designed as appropriate measures for NCLB.   CCD remains very concerned about the possibility of this issue being offered as an amendment down the road when the bill is introduced and marked up.     


Mental Health Parity

Last week the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee approved mental health parity legislation, H.R. 1424. The bill is scheduled for consideration by the full committee tomorrow.  The House Education and Labor Committee approved the measure in July and the Ways and Means Committee approved it in September.  The Health Subcommittee markup mirrored those in the two other House committees that have considered the bill sponsored by Representatives Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) and Jim Ramstad (R-MN).  Republicans tried unsuccessfully to substitute the House bill with language that passed the Senate last month. That bill is sponsored by Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM).  Both bills aim to require most health insurance companies to cover mental health and substance abuse disorders on par with medical and surgical benefits.


New Hampshire Disability Presidential Candidate Forum

AUCD is co-sponsoring a presidential candidate forum on disability issues along with over 20 other national disability organizations:  The forum will take place November 2 in Manchester, New Hampshire.  Approximately 700 individuals with disabilities, family members, and other New Hampshire voters are expected to attend.  The event will also be nationally webcasted live.  Disability organizations in states, particularly the other early primary states (Iowa, South Carolina, and Nevada), are being encouraged to organize viewing events.  AUCD has submitted questions for the candidates on issues including disability research, training, autism services, transition and post-secondary education, and family support.  Each candidate will receive a block of time to discuss their vision of national disability policy and answer questions.  Democratic and Republican leaders will also provide keynote speeches.  So far, Senator Dodd is the only candidate who has committed to attend the forum.  Last week, AUCD contacted every campaign and sent personal invitations to all Democratic and Republican presidential candidates.                      


AUCD 2008 Public Policy Fellowship

AUCD is accepting applications for the 2008 AUCD Leadership Fellowship in Disability.  The fellowship offers a significant experience in national level activities related to policy and legislative development, advocacy, program development, technical assistance, and association administration.  Applications are due October 26 but will continue to be accepted until the position is filled. The fellowship is expected to begin in January of 2008, but earlier start dates are possible.  For more information:


AUCD Legislative Affairs Committee

The Legislative Affairs Committee will meet at the upcoming Annual Meeting on Sunday, Nov. 11 at 5:30 p.m.  The Committee will also host a briefing for all members on current federal legislative issues.  The briefing is tentatively scheduled for Monday, Nov. 12 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.  Watch for updates on these events in upcoming issues of In Brief.