Legislative News InBrief

December 18, 2006

Kim E. Musheno
Director of Public Policy
[email protected]

Congressional Schedule and Appropriations
The new Congress will convene on January 4, 2007. Last week Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV.) and Representative David Obey (D-WI), who will lead the Senate and House Appropriations Committees when the new Congress convenes, announced their plan to finish the FY 2007 appropriations. The two Chairmen stated in a joint press release that they are "passing a year-long joint resolution" and "there will be no Congressional earmarks in the joint funding resolution that we will pass." All funding for programs vital to supporting people with disabilities within the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations bill, including funding for DD Act programs, will remain at FY 2006 levels until the Fall. This action will allow the new 110th Congress to take up the business of FY08 budget when the President's proposal is sent to Capitol Hill in early February, without the unfinished business of FY07 appropriations still on the agenda.

AUCD Teleconference on Elections, DRA and Medicaid
On Friday, December 15, AUCD's Legislative Affairs Committee hosted a teleconference on the recent elections, appropriations, Deficit Reduction Act implementation and Medicaid reform in the 110th Congress. Mark Mioduski and Amy Souders from Cornerstone Governmental Affairs provided an outlook on appropriations and on what we can expect from the newly-elected Congress. Jeff Crowley, Project Director at the Health Policy Institute at Georgetown University, provided an update on implementation of the Deficit Reduction Act in the states and provided an outlook for Medicaid reform issues in 2007. Twenty-eight University Centers participated in the presentation. Access to the archived presentation is now available on AUCD's website.

NIH Reauthorization
The NIH Reform Act (HR 6164) was cleared by the full Senate on December 8 after Energy and Commerce Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX) threatened to hold up the Ryan White Care Act and a bio-terrorism bill until the Senate passed the House bill. Passage of the bill was considered a huge victory to Barton, who had been struggling all year to get the Senate to take up the bill. The bill is now ready for the President's signature. Among other changes, the bill authorizes a (capped) five percent annual increase in NIH's budget for fiscal years 2007-2009; launches a new, agency-wide electronic reporting system to catalogue all of the research activities of the NIH in a standard format; limits the overall size of the NIH to the current 27 institutes and centers; set up a "common fund" to support particularly promising research that cuts across multiple institutes or centers (the common fund is capped at five percent of the overall NIH budget); and createsa Scientific Management Review Group, composed of institute and center directors and other experts, to evaluate NIH's structural organization at least once every seven years and propose any restructuring plans it deems necessary. AUCD had not taken a position on the House bill but is concerned that the common fund could lead to a reduction of funding for individual institutes like NICHD. See press release of NIH Director Zerhouni.

Senate Committee Assignments
Senate Republicans completed their proposed list of committee assignments. Republicans will lose one or two seats on most committees after assuming the minority next year. Added to the Appropriations Committee were Sens. Allard (CO) and Alexander (TN). Three new members were added to the key Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee: Murkowski (AK), Allard (CO), and Coburn (OK). Sen. Roberts (KS) was added to the Finance Committee.

Disability Policy Seminar: March 4-6, 2007
A preliminary program and agenda for the 2007 Disability Policy Seminar are now available on the AUCD website . Online registration is also available. The AUCD Legislative Affairs Committee is assisting in developing the Seminar program and strongly encourage AUCD members to paricipate. For questions about the Seminar registration, please contact AAMR/AAIDD at 202-387-1968.

Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) Annual Meeting
AUCD legislative affairs staff will be attending annual CCD business meeting tomorrow, December 19. Representatives from the 100+ CCD members will elect new leaders, organize its task forces and begin planning for the new Congress. Staff from Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) and House Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) will address participants regarding the leadership's legislative priorities.

Disability Policy Fellow
AUCD bids farewell to Laura Walker this week! Laura, the 2006 Fellow, heads back to her Missouri UCEDD at the end of this week to be the Director of the Interdisciplinary Center on Aging. She also plans to use the skills she learned in the national public policy arena to continue her work with self-advocates. Laura's talent, energy and enthusiasm will be missed here at AUCD. Well-wishers can reach Laura at [email protected] A final report on her activities will be posted on the AUCD website soon.

Happy Holidays to all of In Brief's readers! The next issue of In Brief will be on Jan. 2, 2007.