AUCD Legislative News InBrief

February 25, 2008

Congressional Schedule

Congress returns today from the Presidents' Day recess to a busy schedule that includes debate on renewable energy and efficiency tax breaks, negotiations on the farm bill, intelligence laws, and troop withdrawals in Iraq.


Budget and Appropriations

The House and Senate Budget committees this week will continue working on the FY09 budget resolution. Secretary Spellings is scheduled to testify on the Department of Education budget request on Tuesday. Secretary Leavitt will be testifying before the Budget Committee regarding the Administrations HHS budget Wednesday. Democratic leaders hope to complete House and Senate versions before the March recess that begins March 17. Though rarely met, the statutory deadline for completion of a budget resolution is April 15. The budget resolution sets overall spending levels for Appropriations committees. There is some discussion about using reconciliation instructions this year to make changes in the Alternative Minimum Tax. However, debate will surface around making the Bush tax cuts permanent.


Higher Education Act

House and Senate staff have begun pre-conference negotiations to resolve differences between bills to reauthorize the Higher Education Act. Overall, both bills passed their respective chambers with overwhelming support. Both aim to better address abuses in the student loan program and bring greater transparency in tuition increases. Both bills contain positive disability provisions, including new demonstration programs for students with intellectual disabilities, a coordinating center, and access to work study and campus financial aid. They also both reauthorize and expand activities of the current postsecondary projects for students with disabilities in general. The House bill includes additional provisions of a national technical assistance center, a GAO study to explore barriers to higher education, and new activities on accessible print materials for students (Commission and demonstration projects). AUCD has prepared a side-by-side with specific language on disability provision from the House and Senate-passed versions.



A bi-partisan group of Governors and the National Governors Association met with President Bush and other administration officials this morning to urge the enactment of a second economic stimulus plan that would include Medicaid relief to states. A Congressional briefing is scheduled for this Wednesday to educate members of Congress about the impact of the Medicaid Case Management rule on vulnerable populations and hopefully garner support for a moratorium. The Senate will resume debate on the Indian Health Care Act this week which contains moratorium language on the case management rule. However, other vehicles may be necessary.


Last week Governor John Hoeven announced that a new Medicaid "buy in" program for low and middle-income families with children with disabilities will begin March 1, 2008. North Dakota will become the second state to implement the Family Opportunity Act which was signed into law through the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005.


A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday on the State Children's Health Insurance Programs in the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee. Five governors are scheduled to testify at the hearing. State SCHIP shortfalls and a possible moratorium on a regulation issued last year that makes it more difficult for states to cover children whose families are more than 250 percent above the poverty level are issues that will likely be raised by governors.


House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Fortney (Pete) Stark (D-CA) will hold an oversight hearing Thursday on private Medicare Advantage plans. At the hearing, GAO will release a report on how Medicare Advantage beneficiaries share in the costs of their benefits. Chairman Stark is in support of trimming the 13 percent average extra payment to Medicare Advantage plans, which the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission has advised.


Prenatally and Postnatally Diagnosed Conditions Awareness Act

On Wednesday, the Senate HELP Committee will continue mark up of S.1810, the Prenatally and Postnatally Diagnosed Conditions Awareness Act (S.1810). The bill, sponsored by Senators Brownback (R-KS) and Kennedy (D-MA), would increase the provision of up-to-date, science-based information about the life-expectancy, development potential, and quality of life to families who receive a diagnosis of Down syndrome or other prenatally and postnatally diagnosed conditions. It would also increase referrals to providers of supportive services, strengthen networks of supports, and improve available data through CDC.


Rehabilitation Act

The CCD Employment and Training task force met with House Education and Employment Committee staff to discuss priorities for the second session of the 110th Congress. Discussion focused on strategies for passing the stalled bill to reauthorize the Rehabilitation Act and the Workforce Investment Act.


Disability Policy Seminar

The Disability Policy Seminar takes place this weekend, March 2-4 in Washington, DC. Hill staff and policy experts will discuss a wide range of legislative proposals and outlook for the Second Session of the 110th Congress. It is important to schedule your appointments for Tuesday, March 4 with members of Congress before you arrive. The AUCD website contains more information on registration and the seminar, including a list of other participants attending from your state. A link to fact sheets on important disability policy issues is also now on the AUCD website: The fact sheets will help you prepare in advance and are also a good resource for individuals not able to make the Seminar this year. The AUCD Action Center can be used to obtain a list of members from your state and their contact information to call and make an appointment: By clicking on each member of Congress you can also find out what committees they serve on and see if they have co-sponsored important legislation that AUCD tracks and supports. A Trainee reception is scheduled for Sunday evening at 6:30 p.m.


Did you know?

You can read about key legislative issues that AUCD is tracking and then easily inform your Members of Congress about how the specific legislation affects people with disabilities and their families. Best of all, you can email a pre-written letters to your Members of Congress about issues important to you and it only takes about 2 minutes! The service also guides those who want to compose their own letters or print them out onto letterhead.


For copies of this and previous issues of Legislative News In Brief please visit the Public Policy Page of the AUCD website: