AUCD Legislative News InBrief

June 23, 2008

Congressional Schedule

Congress has a heavy schedule this week as they try to clear the legislative docket and leave for the weeklong Independence Day recess.  Included in that schedule is the possibility of final action on the Medicaid moratoria in the war supplemental bill, House and Senate Committee action on the L-HHS-ED Appropriations bill; final action on legislation to provide mental health parity; and House action on a bill to restore the Americans with Disabilities Act. 



Last Thursday, the House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services Subcommittee approved the annual appropriations bill that funds most of the programs that impact people with disabilities and families. The bill will only be released to the public after the full committee markup scheduled for this. In the Senate the Labor-HHS-ED Appropriations Subcommittee will mark up its bill Tuesday followed by a full committee markup Thursday.  Meanwhile, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its subcommittee allocations last week.  The Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee received an allocation of $153.139 billion.  This is an increase of $7.991 billion (5.5%) over the subcommittee's FY 2008 allocation and $18 million more than the draft House allocation.


War Supplemental Appropriations/Medicaid

Last Thursday the House passed its war supplemental spending bill.  It includes nearly $162 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, an increase in veterans' education benefits and a 13-week extension of unemployment insurance benefits.  The domestic portion of the package overwhelmingly passed by a vote of 416-12.  The White House also issued a favorable response on Friday.  The package includes moratoria on six of the seven harmful Medicaid regulations, including the rehab option, school based administration/transportation, and case management rules.  The outpatient rule was not included.  The House package dropped much of the domestic spending included in a Senate-passed version of the supplemental last month.  The Senate is expected to consider the war supplemental this week.


ADA Amendments Act

On June 18 the House Education and Labor Committee and the House Judiciary Committee marked up H.R. 3195 to restore the ADA to its original intent.  The Chairman substituted the proposed deal language crafted by the disability and employer community for the original language, and passed the bills out of committee by overwhelming votes.  The new bill is also being referred to as the "ADA Amendments Act."  The House Judiciary Committee was unanimous in its support for the bill as amended (27-0), and the Education and Labor Committee passed it 43-1. Only Representative Tom Price (R-GA) opposed the bill and expressed concerns about how quickly it was moving and that the people involved in negotiating the bill language did not have medical expertise to make judgments about who should be considered to be a person with a disability for purposes of the ADA.  His views were not shared by others on the Committee, and several members, including Representatives Andrews (D-NJ), McCarthy (D-NY) and Davis (D-IL) pointed out that people with disabilities have been waiting a long time for their civil rights to be restored.  The bill could be brought up for action in the House as early as Wednesday June 25th.  AUCD is preparing a letter of support to Members of Congress in favor of passage of the bill in its current form. A side by side of the original bill and the new substitute bill passed by the House committees was emailed to the Legislative Affairs Committee last week and posted on the AUCD public policy web page here.



On June 17, 2008, President Bush signed into law H.R. 6081, the Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax (HEART) Act, making AmeriCorps more accessible to people with disabilities.  The HEART Act contains a provision that excludes AmeriCorps benefits from being counted as income for purposes of eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  This extends the long-time AmeriCorps VISTA income disregard for SSI to all AmeriCorps positions.  An SSI recipient who enrolls in AmeriCorps will no longer risk the loss of SSI benefits or eligibility as a result of participating in AmeriCorps.  While the law does not extend to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), it removes a significant barrier to participation for SSI recipients.  See AUCD's press statement for more information


Mental Health Parity

Last week, it was announced that Senate and House negotiators reached an agreement on terms for a mental health parity bill.  The Senate passed its bill (S. 558) last year.  The House passed its version in early March (H.R. 1424).  Several sticking points, which have held the bill in conference, appear to have been worked out.  These issues involved state preemption, out-of-network services, and covered services.  In particular, the House agreed to drop mandated coverage for all DSM diagnoses but ensured that all mental health conditions and substance use disorders would be covered by mirroring the standard for mental health under the current federal parity law.  The next step is for a negotiated bill to return to both chambers for a final vote.


Child Abuse Prevention

The House Education and Labor Committee approved by voice vote HR 2343, the Education Begins at Home Act, legislation to authorize funding dedicated to expanding access to early childhood home visitation programs.  No date has been set for floor consideration of the measure.  Legislation approved by the Committee on May 14, HR 5846, the Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act, is expected to go before the House for a vote within the next week. Finally, the Senate Health, Education and Pensions Committee will hold a hearing this week on the reauthorization of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA).  AUCD plans to submit written testimony highlighting the strong nexus between disabilities and child abuse and the need for more resources for comprehensive health and developmental screenings for children subject to abuse or neglect.



A House subcommittee held a hearing Friday on the Frank Melville Supportive Housing Investment Act of 2008 (H.R. 5772), a bill supported by AUCD.  The legislation seeks to reform the Section 811 Supportive Housing Program for People with Disabilities so that more units can be produced more quickly.  Among the witnesses was Tony Paulauski, Executive Director of The Arc of Illinois, who testified about the need for more production of supportive housing units for persons with significant developmental disabilities. The archived webcast of the hearing is on the committee website:


Ohio Presidential Forum

An Ohio Presidential Forum on Disability Issues will take place on July 26, 2008, coinciding with the 18th Anniversary of the ADA.  Over 60 national, state, and local disability-related organizations have co-sponsored the forum -including AUCD and the Nisonger Center at The Ohio State University.  The Forum has been re-located to a more accessible venue: Conference & Technology Center at the First Church of God.  News anchor and journalist, Judy Woodruff ("The News Hour with Jim Lehrer," PBS), will moderate the event.  The event will be webcasted live.  The Presidential candidates have been formally invited, but additional grassroots pressure is needed to communicate the importance of their attendance at the event and seek commitments.  Registration to attend the event in person was opened to the public last Thursday: