Legislative News Inbrief

July 10, 2006

Kim E. Musheno
Director of Public Policy
[email protected]

Congressional Schedule
Congress returns from the July 4th recess to a very busy schedule with much work to do prior to adjourning for the month long August recess. Financial matters will dominate both houses to start this week with the Senate to focus on appropriations and the House to take up legislation to reform the bond rating market. The Senate will begin today by considering the FY2007 Homeland Security Appropriations bill and the full Appropriations Committee will mark up the District of Columbia Appropriations bill and the Commerce-Justice-Science bill later in the week (see appropriations story below for more details). The full Senate is scheduled to begin debates on bills regarding stem cell research and pension plan reform for the remainder of the week, as the House takes up bills regulating internet gambling and the extension of the Voting Rights Act.

Labor-HHS Appropriations
With only about 44 legislative days left in this Congress, it is looking more and more likely that Congress will not finish all their annual appropriations bills individually. They may have to resort to an omnibus bill that wraps several bills together into one. If Congress does not complete work on all the appropriations bills before the Oct. 1 start of the new fiscal year, it will be necessary to pass continuing resolutions to keep those programs running that do not have appropriations bills enacted. The L-HHS-ED appropriations bill is the least likely to be passed before the elections because of several contentious issues, including that the bill does not contain enough money for health and human services programs. Both House and Senate bills fall about 2-3 billion short of being able to provide level funding for most programs. Regardless of these issues, House and Senate leaders are still trying to work out these issues and pass the bill before the August recess. The Senate L-HHS-Ed Subcommittee is tentatively scheduled to mark up its bill on July 18th with full Committee action on July 20. The House L-HHS-ED bill has stalled due to a minimum wage increase that was passed as part of the bill that passed the full Appropriations Committee.

The Department of Health and Human Services is considering the release of regulations to withhold $9 billion of Medicaid funding that would reimburse schools for related services and transportation for students with disabilities who are Medicaid eligible. This comes after the discovery that some school districts may have improperly billed Medicaid for reimbursement. Meanwhile, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) will likely introduce legislation with bipartisan support that would clarify the IDEA/Medicaid billing process for related services and transportation without harming the services to students.

Section 508 Update Activities
On July 6, 2006, the U.S. Access Board announced a new advisory committee to "assist in updating its access standards for electronic and information technologies procured by the Federal government." On that same day, AUCD participated in a CCD Technology and Telecommunications Taskforce meeting to discuss how the disability community can influence the recommendations of the committee. It is still unclear whether the committee will focus solely on technical standards, policy issues, or a combination of both. AUCD will continue to participate in this discussion and will provide updates in the future. It is noteworthy that the only higher education representative on the advisory committee is the National Center on Disability and Access to Education, a project of Utah's UCEDD (www.ncdae.org). Jared Smith is the NCDAE contact. For additional information regarding the advisory committee, visit the U.S. Access Board at www.access-board.gov.

Emergency Management Conference
The AUCD and entire DD network was well represented at the Working Conference on Emergency Management and Individuals with Disabilities and the Elderly held in Washington DC June 28th to June 30th. The conference was in response to the lack of adequate planning, response and recovery regarding the needs of people with disabilities and the elderly after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Secretaries Leavitt (HHS) and Chertoff (DHS) sent a joint letter to Governors asking them to appoint a representative from the State emergency management and health officials. Administration on Developmental Disabilities Commissioner Pat Morrissey asked each state DD Network to appoint a representative to be included in their state's delegation. Attendees heard from leading experts in the field of aging, disability, and emergency response and key administration officials before heading off each day to meet with their delegations in the afternoons. These intensive working sessions focused on ways to collaborate in planning, response and recovery to and how to integrate the expertise and current efforts within state and regional emergency management framework.

Workforce Investment Act
The Senate passed its bill to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act, which includes the Rehabilitation Act, on June 29. The next step is for conferees to be named to work out significant differences between the two bills. Negotiations will center on two provisions in the House version that are not in the Senate bill: one to allow faith-based groups that receive funds to base their hiring decisions on the religion of the job applicants; and the other to create a $3 billion block grant to states to replace several separate job training programs. The Center for the Study and Advancement of Disability Policy is currently preparing a side-by-side of the disability-related provisions in the House and Senate bills that will be shared as soon as it is finalized.