AUCD Legislative News InBrief

March 17, 2008

FY09 Budget

Following a contentious week-long debate and 45 roll-call votes, the Senate early Friday morning approved, on a 51-44 vote, its budget resolution. Two Republicans, Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, voted for the resolution, while only Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana voted against it. An amendment by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) to impose a yearlong moratorium on earmarks was easily defeated. The House passed its version March 13 on a mostly partisan vote of 212-207. Both budget plans would provide more money for non-defense discretionary spending than the President's budget ($22 billion more in the House bill and $18 billion more in the Senate). However, there are significant differences in the bills that will make the job of working out the difference in a conference committee difficult. The biggest difference is that the House bill contains reconciliation instructions to the Ways and Means Committee to find savings to pay for Alternative Minimum Tax reforms and physician fee fixes. The Senate is opposed to using reconciliation for these purposes.


During the Senate debate, several amendments of importance to the disability community were successful. An amendment by Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) to add $2.1 billion for NIH research passed 95-4. The Specter-Harkin amendment would bring the total increase for NIH to $3 billion. Another amendment by Sen. Clinton (D-NY) to fully fund Lifespan Respite programs also passed (see Lifespan Respite below).One amendment offered by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) would have added $10 billion to IDEA Part B and other human services programs was defeated by a vote of 43 to 55.


The House and Senate will begin reconciling differences between the bills following the two week Easter recess.


Lifespan Respite

The Senate passed an amendment by unanimous consent to the Senate Budget Resolution reserving $53 million for the Lifespan Respite Care Act. The amendment was offered by Senators Clinton and Warner (R-VA). While this amendment does not guarantee an appropriation for the program, it is a critically important step in the process and will make it that much easier to secure the funding during the upcoming appropriations process. Last week, Representatives Langevin (D-RI) and Ferguson (R-NJ) sent a "Dear Colleague" letter with 28 signatures to the House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations subcommittees asking for the full $53.3 million in funding for the Lifespan Respite Care Act.



Last week House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Dingell (D-MI) and Representative Murphy (R-PA) introduced bipartisan legislation to impose a one year moratorium on the seven Medicaid regulations recently issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The bill, H.R. 5613, would prohibit CMS from taking action to implement these regulations until April of 2009. The regulations include CMS regulations limiting Medicaid payments for: case management services, rehabilitation services, school-based transportation and outreach services, governmental providers, provider taxes, and hospital outpatient services. Senator Rockefeller (D-WV) is expected to introduce a similar, but slightly different, bill in the Senate in the near future. Co-sponsors are needed for these bills to show support to address these regulations.

Higher Education

Representative Hinojosa (D-TX) is circulating a "Dear Colleague" letter in the House to maintain funding for the existing Demonstration Projects in the Higher Education Act concerning students with disabilities. As in past years, the President's Budget eliminates funding for these projects for next year. They currently receive approximately $6.8 million. Several UCEDDs have been involved with these demonstrations in past years. The pending reauthorization of the Higher Education Act would expand the scope of possibly activities these grants could pursue. AUCD is actively working with the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) Education Task Force to gain House signatures on the letter. To date only 3 members of Congress have signed on the letter. More signatures are needed. The deadline to sign on is tomorrow, March 18. The House and Senate are conferencing the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. A one-month extension passed the House last week and the Senate the previous week, which extends the current Act until April 30, 2008.


Asset Development

Last week two bills designed to assist individuals and families to save money for future needs of individuals with disabilities were introduced. Overall, both bills would allow individuals and families to create tax-preferred disability savings accounts that not jeopardize government benefits such as Medicaid or Social Security. Senator Dodd (D-CT) introduced the Disability Savings Act of 2008 (S. 2741), and Senators Casey (D-PA) and Hatch (R-UT) introduced the Financial Security Accounts for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 2008, (S. 2743). In the House, Rep. Crenshaw (R-FL) introduced the Financial Security Accounts for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 2007 (H.R. 2370) was introduced last May. AUCD will be discussing these three bills during the next Legislative Affairs Committee meeting on April 8.


Corporation for National Service

On March 12, H.R. 5563, a bill to reauthorize the national service programs was defeated in the House of Representatives on a 277 - 140 vote. Because the GIVE Act was considered under suspension of the rules, the bill needed two-thirds of those present to vote in favor of the bill. The GIVE Act was only three votes short of meeting the required margin. The GIVE Act (Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education Act) includes the Americorp program which authorizes the National Services Inclusion Project (NSIP), a joint project of the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts Boston and AUCD to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in national service programs. AUCD and ICI provided comments to the GIVE Act, some of which was included in the bill that was defeated. House Education and Labor Chairman Miller (D-CA) may try another vote on the suspension calendar before giving up on the bill for this session. There is no companion bill in the Senate at this time.


ADA Restoration

CCD leaders recently met with White House officials to discuss the ADA Restoration Act (H.R. 3195/S. 1881). The White House is currently opposed to the bill that protects individuals with disabilities from workplace discrimination and individuals who "mitigate" or manage their disabilities through medication, the use of prosthetics, and other measures. The House bill currently has 245 (51R, 194D) cosponsors and the Senate bill 4 (2R, 2D). There is some indication the Senate will mark up the bill late spring early summer and requesting that the disability and business community work out their difference before then.


Newborn Screening and Traumatic Brain Injury

Last week the House Energy and Commerce Committee marked up the Newborn Screening Saves Lives Act of 2007 (H.R. 3825). The bill would authorize grants to provide education and training in newborn screening and coordinate follow-up care. A companion bill passed the Senate on December 13, 2007. The full House may consider the bill under suspension of the rules after the spring recess. The House Energy and Commerce Committee also marked up the Traumatic Brain Injury Act (H.R. 1418) last week which has similarly already passed the Senate.

Ohio Presidential Forum

AUCD is working with other disability organizations to plan a Presidential Candidate Forum on disability issues that will take place on July 26, 2008 in conjunction with the 18th Anniversary of the ADA. This is a follow-up event to the New Hampshire forum that AUCD co-sponsored in November with all the presidential candidates. This forum will take place in Columbus, Ohio at the Veteran's memorial. All three (or two) remaining candidates will be invited. There will be additional opportunities for state organizations to join in co-sponsoring this event. Stay tuned for additional information on the forum as it develops.


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