AUCD Legislative News InBrief

February 4, 2008

The State of the Union and FY09 Budget

On January 28, President George W. Bush delivered his last State of the Union address. During his 53 minute long address there was little focus on domestic discretionary programs and no mention of disability issues.  The President released a $3 trillion budget today.   His five-year plan increases defense and homeland security spending but holds the growth in non-defense discretionary spending to less than one percent.  DD Act programs are level funded.  A special report with a preliminary analysis of how the President's Budget impacts the AUCD network, people with disabilities and families will be emailed to the network soon.


Economic Stimulus

Last week the Senate Finance Committee approved a $156 billion economic stimulus plan by a vote of 14-7.  The package widened eligibility for the individual rebate ($500 for individuals and $1,000 for couples) to approximately 21 million Social Security recipients and 250,000 disabled veterans who do not have any tax liability.  In comparison with the House, the Senate also included an extension of unemployment benefits and energy tax breaks.  During mark-up Senator Bingaman (D-NM) discussed the recent proposed Medicaid regulations that would shift cost to states when states need economic relief.  Chairman Baucus (D-MT) expressed his interest in taking up the issue of Medicaid regulations outside of the stimulus plan.  Senator Rockefeller (D-WV) planned to introduce an amendment for a temporary increase in the FMAP (Federal Medicaid contribution).  He explained that when unemployment goes up by 1 percent, an additional 2 to 3 million people become eligible for Medicaid.  Unfortunately, the amendment was determined to be non-germane and was not offered.  Senator Rockefeller plans to offer the amendment when the bill goes to the floor, which is expected to be tonight.  His amendment would provide a 1.225% FMAP increase through the first two quarters of FY09 and $6 billion in temporary state fiscal relief.         


Targeted Case Management

AUCD submitted written comments today on the CMS interim final rule on case management services:  The interim rule would result in a $1.28 billion Medicaid cut over five years.  The rule goes well beyond changes contained in the Deficit Reduction Act, which were scored by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) as a cut of $760 million.  Among the changes are restrictions to case management from 180 days to 60 days for individuals transitioning from institutions to the community.  This rule goes against the Administration's New Freedom Initiative and Money Follows the Person demonstrations.  The rules make other changes that would shift costs to states and negatively impact individuals with disabilities.  In addition to submitting individual comments, AUCD also signed on to CCD's comments and ADAPT's comments.          


Higher Education Act

The House is scheduled to consider the College Opportunity and Affordability Act (H.R. 4137) which would reauthorize the Higher Education Act on Thursday. The bill was approved by the House Committee on Education and Labor on Dec. 19. The Senate passed its bill to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (S.1642) on July 24. A side-by-side comparing the disability provisions in both bills is available on the AUCD Postsecondary Education


ADA Restoration Act
AUCD staff attended a House hearing on the ADA Restoration Act of 2007 (H.R. 3195) in the Education and Labor Committee. The hearing was well-attended by Members of Congress and advocates. Majority Leader Hoyer (D-MD), who was the chief House sponsor of the ADA in 1990, was first to testify and urged Congress to act now to restore the original Congressional intent, to ensure that workers with disabilities are treated fairly in the workplace. Additional testimony and the hearing in its entirety can be viewed (here). Through the AUCD Action Center you can see if your members of Congress have co-sponsored the ADA Restoration Act and send a prepared sample letter asking them to become a co-sponsor: AUCD Action Center. Visit the Road to Freedom to follow and/or participate in "the people's movement".


No Child Left Behind

AUCD staff attended a hill briefing on the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. Co-chairs for the Commission on NCLB, former Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy Thompson and former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes are eager to rally support and convince Congress to reauthorize the program this year, although many Hill experts predict that it is unlikely the bill will be reauthorized during an election year. A panel of Congressional staff and U.S. Department of Education officials as well as school and community leaders offered their support for the reauthorization and highlighted the negative impact if Congress does not come together and move forward to reauthorize this year. For more information see the AUCD public policy education and employment web site.


Early Childhood

The National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) in collaboration with Sens. Dodd (D-CN), Alexander (R-TN), Reps. Kildee (D-MI), Castle (R-At Large), Hirono (D-HI), and Yarmuth (D-KY) sponsored a hill briefing on "Response to Intervention (RTI) goes to Pre-K: A comprehensive System for Early Intervention to Promote School Readiness." The briefing underscored the importance of implementing early interventions that may mitigate or prevent later learning problems. A panel of experts provided the most recent data that supports the need for universal early literacy screening and support services before children enter kindergarten. 


Legislative Affairs Report and Goals for Second Session of 110th Congress 

The AUCD Legislative Affairs final report to the board on activities during the First Session of the 11th Congress has been posted on the AUCD Public Policy website.  Also posted are combined legislative goals of AUCD, The Arc, UCP, AAIDD, NACDD, and ANCOR for the Second Session of the 110th Congress:


Disability Policy Seminar

The deadline to pre-register for the 2008 Disability Policy Seminar is this Thursday, Feb. 7!  Hill staff and policy experts will discuss a wide range of legislative proposals and outlook for the Second Session of the 110th Congress.  The Legislative Affairs Committee will meet on Sunday at Noon and a special Trainee reception is being scheduled for Sunday evening. The block of rooms at the conference hotel is now full.  However, there is a list of alternative hotels on the AUCD website: