AUCD Legislative News InBrief

June 16, 2008

Budget and Appropriations

The House Appropriations Committee on Friday released its FY09 302(b) allocations for the 12 appropriations subcommittees paving the way for them to begin marking up the annual spending bills. The Committee provided increases over the President's request for almost all of the annual spending bills, except Defense which would receive about $4 billion less than the President's request.  The Labor-HHS-ED Subcommittee was provided $153.121 million, which is $7.9 billion over FY 2008 and $7.7 billion over the President's budget request.  A letter sent to Appropriations Chairmen Rep. Obey (D-WI) and Sen. Byrd (D-WV) (as well as House and Senate leaderships) on May 16, signed by AUCD and over 500 other research, health and education groups, advocated for an allocation of $15 billion over FY 2008. The House L-HHS-ED Appropriations Subcommittee is scheduled to mark up its bill this Thursday, June 19 with the full Committee scheduled for June 25.  The Senate Labor-HHS Subcommittee plans to mark up its version of the FY 2009 bill the week of June 23.  President Bush and Democratic congressional leaders are expected to wrangle over the annual spending bills this year leading many to believe that few, if any, appropriations bills will enacted into law this year.  AUCD will continue to advocate for the highest possible level of funding for network programs.  AUCD has prepared an Action Alert on Appropriations for Network Programs.  AUCD also has prepared an Action Alert on Family Support Appropriations and is helping to coordinate a joint sign on letter between the Consortium of Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) and the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (LCAO) on appropriations for key family support programs. 


War Supplemental Appropriations/Medicaid

The House and Senate are still trying to come to agreement on a war supplemental appropriations bill, which does not have to be subject to "PAYGO" rules.  The $165 billion supplemental bill is mainly to provide funds for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  However, the bill also provides significant funding for domestic programs, including emergency funding for housing and Katrina flood clean up.  The bill also includes language to retract or prevent the enactment of seven harmful Medicaid regulations.  Advocates are concerned that some Medicaid provisions may be stripped from the bill as when it is considered by the House this Wednesday to avoid a presidential veto.  AUCD is urging House leaders to retain this important provision and has provided an Action Alert on Medicaid Regulations to help weigh in on this issue.


No Child Left Behind

AUCD signed on to CCD Education Task Force comments to the U.S. Department of Education in response to a notice of proposed rulemaking for Title I - Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged. The proposed rule is an effort by the Administration to make reforms to the NCLB Act through the rulemaking process since the Congress has not been able to come to agreement on a bill to reauthorize the law this year.  The proposed rule attempts to make improvements in accountability, assessment and transparency and to strengthen choice and free tutoring provisions. The CCD comments can be found on the AUCD Public Policy webpage.


ADA Amendments Act

The disability, civil rights and business groups continue to work hard to gain support for the negotiated deal that now has support of more than 50 national and 60 state and local groups, including AUCD. The new draft will become the Chairman's mark and will be renamed the ADA Amendments Act.  After months of negotiations, the bill, HR 3195, is finally scheduled for mark up on Wednesday, June 18 in two House committees: Education and Labor and Judiciary. Although the proposed language is not everything the disability community advocated for, it is a compromise that will reverse rulings in recent court decisions that have eroded the original intent of the ADA and cover millions of individuals that are currently not covered. At this point, it looks like the bill will receive bipartisan support in the two House committees. AUCD is urging members of the House Education & Labor Committee and the House Judiciary Committee to support the bipartisan negotiated language. Visit the AUCD Action Center if you would like to communicate with your Members of Congress on this issue.


ADA Regulations

Also in regards to the ADA, the Justice Department plans to publish proposed ADA Title II & III regulations tomorrow, June 17. The advanced copy of the proposed regulations, only just recently made available in draft form by the Department via the Internet, is voluminous. Taken together, all materials related to this proposed rulemaking include more than 1,000 pages of content and at least 50 specific questions for discussion. The comment period to provide input on this enormous amount of material is to be a mere 60 days. AUCD signed on to a letter today asking that the comment period be extended to at least 120 days to allow the public to provide the most complete and deliberative input that such significant matters deserve.



Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Fortney (Pete) Stark (D-CA) and Ranking Member Dave Camp (R-MI) introduced a bill to delay a competitive bidding program for durable medical equipment under Medicare.  Disability advocates have raised significant concerns about the program's impact on access to equipment.  According to reports, the bill has enough bipartisan support to be considered on the suspension calendar and it may be considered on the floor as early as this week before the program is partially implemented July 1.  Senate Finance Committee Chairman Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Grassley (R-IA) plan to incorporate the delay competitive bidding program in their Medicare physician reimbursement legislation.


Veterans Epilepsy Centers

Last week the House Veterans Affairs Committee Wednesday approved legislation (HR 2818) intended to improve VA care for epileptic veterans.  The bill would authorize $5 million annually from fiscal 2009-2013 to establish epilepsy centers of excellence inside the VA's five poly-trauma rehabilitation centers across the country.  The centers would investigate the diagnosis, treatment and long-term effects of epilepsy.  The centers also would coordinate care for epileptic veterans and develop a national referral system.