Legislative News InBrief

September 4, 2006

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

Congressional Schedule
The House and Senate return from a five week recess this week. House and Senate Republican leaders have announced agendas in the final weeks of this Congress that are heavily weighted to issues they perceive as strengths heading into the November elections such as counter-terrorism, national security and border protection. Absent from the stated agenda are any pending legislative issues important to people with disabilities and their families, such as the reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act, Older Americans Act, Lifespan Respite Care Act, Combating Autism Act, Direct Support Professionals Act, and the CLASS Act. Any legislation that is not passed by the end of the 109th Congress will "die" and have to be reintroduced in the new Congress. Please use AUCD's online Action Center to urge your Members of Congress to support legislation that promotes the full participation of people with disabilities in the community.

FY 2007 Appropriations
There are also very limited legislative business days left before the start of the new fiscal year on Oct. 1 with 12 appropriations bills still unfinished. The full Senate has yet to consider any FY2007 appropriations bills (all were approved by the Appropriations Committee). The House, on the other hand, has passed all of its appropriations bills except the Labor-HHS-ED funding bill. It is unclear when the House will take up the L-HHS-ED bill due to the fact that an amendment raising the minimum wage was attached to it by the Committee. There are significant differences between the House and Senate Appropriations Committee L-HHS-ED bills. In some cases (like Special Education Part B grants) the funding level in the House is higher than in the Senate. While in other cases the Senate number (like with the National Institutes of Health) is higher. However, the Senate's overall funding level for the Labor-HHS bill is $1 billion higher than the House's overall number. The Labor-HHS-ED appropriations bill is usually the most contentious bill to pass and this year may be even more difficult than most due to significant differences in approaches taken by the two chambers. As a result, it is highly unlikely that the bill will be passed before the election in November. It also seems increasingly likely that a number of the FY07 spending bills will have to be passed in a large omnibus spending bill during a lame duck session after the election.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) revised its estimate of the Fiscal Year 2007 federal deficit, projecting it at $260 billion, which is $112 billion below the CBO estimate in March. Unfortunately, The CBO report showed that while the FY06 deficit is decidedly lower than previously anticipated, it is projected to increase from FY06 to FY07, to exceed $300 billion again in FY09, and to exceed $325 billion in FY10. The projections beyond FY10 also show a $1.75 trillion debt increase if the tax cuts sought by the Bush Administration are made permanent.

Combating Autism Act
On August 3 the Senate passed by unanimous consent S. 843, a slightly amended Combating Autism Act. The bill, if passed, would greatly expand the amount of money authorized for research on autism through NIH and CDC. In addition, S. 843 would authorize a significant amount of money for expansion of the LEND program, both to expand current programs and establish new ones. Even though the Senate has passed the bill, little action has taken place in the House. H.R. 2421 was introduced in May 2005 and no action has taken place on it since that time. The version of the bill that passed the Senate is significantly different than the one that was introduced in the House. AUCD may be contacting you to ask for your assistance in getting the bill moving in the House and keeping the positive changes made in the senate bill in the final version. See summary and full text of the legislation on AUCD's website at http://www.aucd.org/aucd_legisaffairs.htm. AUCD will be working hard to urge House members to quickly take up and pass the Senate-passed bill before the end of the 109th Congress.

Final IDEA Regulations Published
The Department of Education published the final Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) regulations on August 14. The regulations go into effect on October 13. The regulations cover the IDEA Part B State Grant Programs and the Preschool Program. Regulations for implementation of Part C (Early Intervention) and Part D (National Activities) Programs are still in development. The regulations are available through the Department of Education's website go to: www.ed.gov/legislation/FedRegister/finrule/2006-3/081406a.html . OSERS will hold eight regional meetings this fall to provide training on the regulations. For the schedule go to:
http://www.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/idea2004-schedule.html . The regional meetings will also be a means for OSERS to distribute their toolkit on the regulations. To access this toolkit go to: http://www.osepideasthatwork.org/toolkit/index.asp

Child Abuse Prevention
AUCD recently signed onto two letters prepared by the National Child Abuse Coalition to Members of Congress regarding reauthorization and appropriations for the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Programs. Congressional staff hope to move the reauthorizing measure soon after Congress reconvenes after Labor Day. The letter urges Congress to reauthorize the program and to quickly work out the differences between the House and Senate bills (S.3525 and in H.R.5640). The Coalition supports the approaches taken in both bills to target these new funds authorized in the recently passed Deficit Reduction Act at addressing serious issues confronting the child welfare system's efforts to prevent child abuse and neglect: to improve outcomes for children who are in harm's way as a result of a parent's substance abuse; and to improve the ability of caseworkers to protect children.

The letter from coalition members to the appropriators urges Congress to reject the cut proposed by the Senate and to increase to the full funding level if possible.The House HHS appropriations bill sets level funding for Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program grants at $434.1 million. The Senate's bill would cut the funding by $14 million. The discretionary funding for this program has never reached its fully authorized level, even though President Bush proposed full funding in his budget two years ago. (For FY07, the Administration has requested level funding.) Appropriations may not be addressed until after Election Day in an omnibus funding resolution.

In related news, AUCD's Kim Musheno will participate on the FRIENDS National Advisory Committee (NAC). The Advisory Committee's role is to provide advice and guidance to the activities of the resource center.

TANF Regulations
AUCD signed onto comments prepared by the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities TANF Task Force to the interim regulations called for in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (DRA) as Congress reauthorized the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Program. CCD is concerned that in the absence of regulatory language that supports the provision of services to people with disabilities an even larger proportion of people with disabilities will be sanctioned or their assistance will end without the person getting the services and supports they need to become economically self-sufficient. The comments provide detailed recommendations to alter the regulations to offer all TANF recipients with disabilities a chance to succeed. The recommended changes would make reasonable accommodations on work activity definitions for individuals with disabilities; make reasonable accommodations on hourly requirements when necessary; better accommodate individuals with disabilities and parents caring for a family member with a disability; and modify the definition of "work-eligible" individuals to exclude from the participation rate calculation those individuals who are so disabled that they cannot participate in any work activities. The CCD recommendations will be posted on the AUCD and CCD websites soon.

NCSL Meeting and Exhibit
Staff from the University Centers in Tennessee joined AUCD Legislative Affairs staff joined together at the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) to educate state legislators about the national network of University Centers. The Tennessee disability network also exhibited their state-wide disability collaborative efforts. Over 2,000 state legislators and their staff visited the exhibits while attending meetings on issues like education, health care, state budgets, homeland security, and energy. The annual NCSL meeting and exhibit provides a great opportunity for collaboration between the AUCD National Office and the host state's University Center programs to promote the work of our programs with state legislators, NCSL staff and other attendees. AUCD looks forward to continuing these collaborative efforts at future conferences. The 2007 Conference will be held in Boston August 5-9.