AUCD Legislative News InBrief

October 22, 2007


The Senate began debate on the Labor-HHS-Education spending bill last week. Senate leaders hope to end debate and vote on the bill as early as Tuesday.  President Bush continues to threaten to veto the bill because it provides about $11 billion more than what he wants to spend on these programs.  Democratic leaders will try to get enough votes to override an anticipated veto, stating that the President's budget does not contain enough money for these programs.  The bill includes modest but important increases for some disability programs, including special education, employment, research and DD Act programs that would be level funded or cut under the President's budget plan.  AUCD sent an alert to the network last week urging members to educate Congress and the leadership about the importance of these programs to people with disabilities. AUCD will need the help of the network, individuals with disabilities, and families to get a bill passed that provides adequate funding for disability programs. See AUCD's action alert:


Lifespan Respite Funding

Senators Clinton (D-NY) and Warner (R-VA) plan to offer an amendment this week to the Senate L-HHS-ED appropriations bill to reserve $10 million in the HHS Secretary's General Management Fund for the Lifespan Respite Care Act (PL 109-442).  The House-passed bill contains a similar provision that was offered by Reps. Ferguson (R-NJ) and Langevin (D-RI).  The Lifespan Respite Care Act authorizes competitive grants to states to make quality respite available and accessible to family caregivers regardless of age or disability. AUCD signed onto a coalition letter to Clinton and Warner in support of the amendment. See AUCD's action alert:



In a 273-156 vote last Thursday, the House failed by 13 votes to override a veto by President Bush of a bill to reauthorize the Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), H.R. 976. The bill would add $35 billion to SCHIP, providing coverage for the 6.6 million children now in the program, plus another 4 million.  President Bush has proposed spending $5 billion on the program, which would cut 1.4 million children off the program over five years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The President is backing other ways to get children health insurance, such as tax credits to help families purchase private coverage.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that she would send legislation back to the President until a bill is enacted.  She said another bill would be sent to Bush within two weeks.  House Majority Leader Hoyer (D-MD) is scheduled to meet with a group of GOP moderates Tuesday to consider their list of proposed changes that they say could win additional Republican support.  The moderates say tightening language on illegal immigration and capping enrollment at 300 percent of the federal poverty level are among the things that would help ease their concerns about the bill.  It is critical to continue to educate Members of Congress about the importance of this program to families with children with disabilities.  AUCD sent an alert last week asking its members to thank those that vote for the bill and to urge their Representatives that voted against to change their vote the next time.  You can see how your representative voted at the following link:  Also, see AUCD's action alert:


Rehabilitation Act

Senate staff of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee are working on a new draft bill to reauthorize the Rehabilitation Act (Title IV of the Workforce Investment Act or WIA).  Staff met with key stakeholders, including AUCD, last week to seek input into the new bill.  The new bill is a revised draft of the bill that was approved in the Senate in the 109th Congress but failed to be signed into law.  The draft bill significantly improves and expands transition services for students with disabilities, increases the role of employer not only as a source of employment but also as a resource in mentoring and training, and puts more emphasis on supported employment services, among other improvements.  Senate staff hope to complete work on the new draft bill soon but were unsure about the timeline for movement of the WIA bill.



The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a letter to State Medicaid Directors concerning the new 1915(j) option for states to provide self-directed personal assistance services.   This option was created under the Deficit Reduction Act (DRA) of 2005.  It provides states with increased flexibility to provide self-directed PAS without the administrative burden of submitting a waiver or demonstration proposal.  A copy of the letter is at the following link:



AUCD signed onto a Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) letter urging support for the Pathways to Independence Act, S. 1730.  This legislation would allow states to more effectively serve families that include a person with a disability in the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program.   S. 1730 would address the tension between TANF requirements and the requirements of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.  Under this bill, states will receive credit when they engage recipients with disabilities in appropriate work activities.  This provides a powerful incentive - rather than penalties - to states to invest in the supports necessary to help individuals with disabilities succeed in the labor market and achieve a higher degree of self-reliance. The flexibility provided in this bill can improve the overall performance of the TANF program by helping families at greatest risk move toward employment.


Mental Health Parity

Last Tuesday legislation to provide mental health parity (H.R. 1424) was passed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.  Now that the bill has moved out of its third House committee, the full House is expected to consider the bill shortly after the House Budget Committee finds $3 billion offset to pay for it.  The House bill, much like the Senate-passed bill, requires insurers that cover mental health and substance abuse disorders to do so on par with medical procedures.  A major difference between the House and Senate bills is a House provision that mandates insurance companies cover all disorders listed in the American Psychiatric Association's manual.  Republicans prefer the Senate-passed bill that gives insurance companies flexibility to determine which mental health disorders and conditions to cover.


Wages for Direct Support Professionals

The House Education and Labor Committee will hold a hearing Thursday on a bill (H.R. 3582) that would require home healthcare workers to be paid minimum wage and overtime.  The bill is a response to a Supreme Court decision, issued in June, upholding the Labor Department's exemption of such workers from the Fair Labor Standards Act.  Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) is sponsoring a similar bill in the Senate (S. 2161).


New Hampshire Disability Presidential Candidate Forum

Sens. Chris Dodd (D-CT), Joe Biden (D-DE) and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) confirmed their attendance at the "National Forum on Equality, Opportunity, and Access," a presidential candidates forum on disability policy scheduled for November 2 in Manchester, New Hampshire.   AUCD is a co-sponsor of the event (along with 22 other national sponsors). During the forum, each candidate will have an opportunity to present his or her vision for the future of national disability policy and receive questions from an audience. Keynote addresses from Democratic and Republican leadership are also planned. National leaders from the disability community will also be in attendance, including Ted Kennedy, Jr., Tony Coelho, and Cheryl Sensenbrenner. Several other campaigns are expected to announce whether or not they will participate soon.  Network members are encouraged to reach out to the candidates to encourage their attendance.   For more information, see AAPD's election center: or contact AUCD staff.


AUCD 2008 Disability Policy Leadership Fellowship

AUCD is accepting applications for the 2008 AUCD Disability Policy 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:


David Morrissey, the 2007 Disability Policy Leadership Fellow, recently agreed to join AUCD as permanent staff.  He will work in a new capacity as Program Manager, splitting his time between the ADD TA contract and a new initiative that will involve regional meetings on Autism.  David has made significant contributions in many areas of legislative affairs during his fellowship.  AUCD is very fortunate to have him stay with the central office!


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.