AUCD Legislative News InBrief

August 4, 2008

Congressional Schedule

Congress is on recess for the entire month of August.  Members will return in September but hope to adjourn the 110th Congress by the end of September so they can prepare for the November elections. Recess is a good time to contact your Members to educate them about issues important to people with intellectual and other disabilities and families.  Please check out AUCD's action center for issues and talking points to help you on your visits:



With Congress expected to adjourn at the end of September without passing any of the 12 annual appropriations bills, a Continuing Resolution (CR) will have to be passed in order for the government programs to continue.  The CR will likely fund programs at the current FY 08 levels, which actually represents an approximately 4 percent cut when inflation is considered.  The CR could be in effect until March of 2009 after the new Administration and Congress are in place. AUCD signed on to a letter developed by the Coalition for Health Funding urging House and Senate leaders to consider funding programs in the CR at the highest levels provided in the Labor, Health and Human Services appropriations bills that passed their respective committees. In addition, the letter urges that the final FY 2009 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill reflect the highest funding level provided in each of the bills for health agencies and programs. 


Higher Education Act

Before leaving for the August recess, Congress passed bi-partisan legislation to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA).  While the White House has expressed concerns over the creation of new programs in the bill, the President is expected to sign the legislation into law.  Following months of negotiations, the House voted last Thursday 380-49 and Senate 83-8 to adopt the conference report accompanying the Higher Education Opportunity and Accountability Act (H.R. 4137).  The legislation includes many positive disability provisions AUCD helped to secure in collaboration with the National Down Syndrome Society and other colleagues.  The current disability demonstration projects within the HEA are reauthorized as "Demonstration Projects to Support Postsecondary Faculty, Staff, and Administrators in Educating Students with Disabilities."  The scope of demonstrations is broadened to include many additional possible activities.  New demonstration projects are authorized to develop "Comprehensive Transition and Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities."   For the first time students within intellectual disabilities in programs which meet certain criteria would be eligible for Pell Grants and Federal work-study funds.  The conference report contains stronger language than in the previously passed House and Senate bills on inclusion of students with intellectual disabilities in activities with non-disabled students.  New demonstration projects and a national advisory commission on accessible instruction materials for individuals with print disabilities are also authorized.  A national technical assistance center is authorized to support recruitment, transition, retention, and completion rates of students with disabilities.  Finally, a coordinating center for programs for students with intellectual disabilities is authorized that will provide recommendations on standards, technical assistance, and evaluations of such programs.  One of the only disability provisions not included was a GAO study on barriers to higher education. Chairman Miller (D-CA) will make a personal request for the report outside of the HEA reauthorization.  Once the President signs the legislation, the next step will be to advocate for appropriations for the new disability programs.  The full conference report is available here.


Second Economic Stimulus

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd (D-WV) released an outline of a bill he's calling a "stimulus supplemental." The bill combines an emergency spending bill and a second economic stimulus bill, focusing on "infrastructure." The second supplemental includes $500 million to restore some of the purchasing power of NIH that was lost because of inflation in the past five years and allow NIH. The bill also provides $26 million for the CDC for combating infectious diseases. Unfortunately, the bill does not contain an increase in the Federal Match for Medicaid (FMAP).    Rep. Pallone (D-NJ) and Sen. Rockefeller (D-WV) have introduced bills that would temporarily increase the federal medical assistance percentage (H.R. 5268; S. 2620).  It is not expected that either of these bills will move alone; they would have to be attached to a larger vehicle, such as a stimulus or supplemental spending bill. A temporary and timely increase in FMAP would be a critical component of a stimulus package and would help states avoid making cuts to health care for low-income families with children with disabilities.  AUCD continues to work with our champions while educating the Senate and House leadership about the importance of FMAP. For more information, see the Families USA state-by-state data on the economic stimulus effect of H.R. 5268. Uncertainty surrounds this supplemental because of the insistence by some Members of Congress to include controversial provisions to lift current bans on offshore oil and gas drilling.  Also, President Bush stated his intent to veto the supplemental in its current form.


Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services

Senators Kerry (D-MA) and Grassley (R-IA) introduced the Empowered at Home Act of 2008 (S. 3327) strongly supported by AUCD and the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities.  The bill would help address some of the issues with the Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) state plan option enacted as part of the 2006 Deficit Reduction Act to make it more attractive to states.  It would give states more flexibility in determining eligibility (above 150% poverty) and it would increase the services states can offer under the program.  States could no longer cap enrollment and services would have to be offered throughout the entire state.  The bill establishes spousal impoverishment protections.  The bill also includes tax-related provisions to support caregivers and promote purchase of private long-term care insurance.



Late on Thursday, July 31, the Senate introduced a bill (S. 3406) to restore the ADA with 56 original cosponsors!  The ADA Amendments Act is a companion to the House bill (HR 3195) that passed overwhelming vote of 402 to17 in June.  Sens. Harkin (D-IA) and Hatch (R-UT), the lead sponsors of the bill, amended the House bill in response to concerns by some in the Education community that the House bill would lower academic standards and add a new burden on schools to provide accommodations to more students. The Senate bill clarifies the original intent of Congress regarding who should be covered under the law and specifically clarifies the term "substantially limits" in the purpose and finding sections of the law.  It also clarifies that nothing in the bill forces institutions of higher education to lower qualification standards.  Following is the list of original co-sponsors: Harkin, Hatch, Kennedy, Enzi, Specter, Obama, McCain, Dodd, Gregg, Clinton, Alexander, Johnson, Roberts, Kerry, Coleman, Feingold, Snowe, Leahy, Burr, Brown, Smith, Durbin, Murkowski, Lautenberg, Warner, Sanders, Brownback, Reed, Martinez, Mikulski, Isakson, Casey, Craig, Murray, Bennett, Landrieu, Collins, Biden, Allard, Nelson, Sununu, Cardin, Thune, Levin, Barrasso, McCaskill, Crapo, Schumer, Stevens, Salazar, Voinovich, Tester, Cochran, Reid, Luger, Chambliss.  The next step is for the differences in the two bills to be worked out in conference.  There is also a possibility that House and Senate leaders could agree to bypass a conference committee since the changes are non-controversial and have no fiscal impact.  AUCD is urging all 100 Senators to co-sponsor the bill.  See AUCD's action alert for more information.



Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, together with bi-partisan support from co-chairs of the Congressional Study Group on Public Health, Congressional Prevention Caucus and Congressional Diabetes Caucus, introduced a resolution on July 29th expressing the Sense of the House that there should be an increased Federal commitment prioritizing prevention.  Equally importantly, it encourages the Congressional Budget Office to consider the health care savings associated with reduced chronic disease burden due to clinical and community preventive services and programs when formulating its health care cost estimates.  AUCD supports this non-binding resolution.


DD Act

The Administration on Developmental Disabilities (ADD) reopened the public comment period on the proposed rule published in the Federal Register on April 10, 2008 (73 FR19708) to implement the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000.  The purpose of reopening the comment period is to provide an opportunity for those individuals who were not able to submit comments due to difficulties using the electronic system a chance to do so.  The deadline to submit comments is September 29, 2008 (see full Announcement:


Kennedy Fellowship

Each year the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation brings talented professionals and/or parent/family members to Washington, DC for a full year, where they actively participate in public policy development in the offices of Members of Congress, congressional committees, or federal agencies.  The purpose of the Fellowship is to prepare emerging leaders or experienced professionals to assume leadership in the public policy arena, in their home state and or nationally.  The deadline for applications for the 2009 Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Public Policy Fellowship is August 15.    For more information about the parent/family member fellowship:  For more information on the professional fellowship:


AUCD Disability Policy Fellowship

AUCD is now accepting applications for the 2009 Disability Policy Fellowship. The purpose of this year-long fellowship is to offer a significant experience in national level activities related to policy and legislative development, advocacy, program development, technical assistance, and association administration.  Staff working for at least 2-5 years at a network program, or graduate trainees who are completing their training program are eligible for the position.  Applications are due September 29, 2008 but will continue to be accepted until the position is filled.  More information is on the AUCD website at the following link: