AUCD Legislative News InBrief

August 11, 2008

Congressional Schedule

Congress is on recess and will reconvene on September 8.  If Congress adjourns in late September or early October as planned, there are only about three weeks remaining this year for legislative action.  The Democratic National Convention takes place August 25-28 in Denver, CO; The Republican National Convention is September 1-4, in Minneapolis, MN.  The first Presidential debate is scheduled for September 26 in Oxford, MS.  While the agenda will be packed, the disability community could see action on important issues, such as ADA restoration, mental health parity and a continuing resolution to fund government programs.  Congress may also consider a second economic stimulus package which could include state Medicaid relief and increased funding for NIH.  The AUCD Action Center has been updated go provide guidance on meeting with members while they are in their home districts during the recess or out on the campaign trail.  AUCD Legislative News In Brief will not be published on August 18 and 25.  The next issue of In Brief will be on September 8.



With Congress expected to adjourn at the end of September without enacting any of the 12 annual appropriations bills, a Continuing Resolution (CR) will have to be passed in order for the government programs to continue.  This includes funding for most AUCD network programs through the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (L-HHS-ED) appropriations bill. The L-HHS-ED appropriations bill was passed by the Senate committee but stalled before it could reach the House full committee. The CR will likely fund programs at the current FY 08 levels.  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. 


Health Care

AUCD staff participated in a meeting sponsored by Families USA to hear from staff of Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) and staff of Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), Chairman of the Finance Committee about their proposals to reform the national health care system.  Baucus has been holding a series of health summits exploring different aspects of health care reform.  Sen. Baucus does not have a bill but he does have a set of principles to guide the development of proposals.  He hopes to be able to work in a bipartisan and bicameral fashion on a bill early in the 1st session of the 111th Congress.  Sen. Obama provides some details to his plan to reform the system on his health care issue website.  Sen. McCain also provides an outline of his health care reform plan.


Lifespan Respite Care Act Funding

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) was joined by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), who serves on the House Labor/HHS/Education Appropriations Subcommittee, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), family caregivers, and advocates at a press conference in Yonkers, New York, last Wednesday, August 6, to call on Congress to fund the Lifespan Respite Care Act. The newly forming NY State Lifespan Respite Coalition, the National Respite Coalition, and national member organizations of the Lifespan Respite Task Force, including Easter Seals, The Arc/UCP Disability Policy Collaborative, and the Association for University Centers on Disabilities, helped Senator Clinton's office arrange the event. The Lifespan Respite Care Act (P.L. 109-442) was signed into law in 2006 but has not yet received funding for implementation. The law is authorized at $53 million. The Local Journal News, in an editorial today, August 11, Well-earned rest: Fund Lifespan Respite Care Act, urged Congress to fund the Lifespan Respite Care Act this year.  To read the Journal News editorial, cut and past the following URL: For more coverage of the event, see:

Clinton Returns To Westchester, Advocates Health-Care Program  Journal News

Clinton, Lowey, Advocates And Family Caregivers Call For Respite Care Services  Yonkers Tribune


Mental Health Parity

A conference committee reconciling the bipartisan House and Senate parity bills (H.R. 1424, S. 558) has come to agreement on a compromise bill according our colleagues at the Mental Health Liaison Group closely following the negotiations.  According to a summary by the MHLG, if enacted the conference bill would:

  • End insurance discrimination against mental health and substance use disorder benefits for over 113 million Americans, requiring full parity coverage with physical health benefits.
  • Extend to all aspects of plan coverage, including day/visit limits, dollar limits, coinsurance, copayments, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums.
  • Preserve strong state parity and consumer protection laws while extending parity protection to 82 million more people who cannot be protected by state laws.
  • Ensure parity coverage for both in-network and out-of-network services.

AUCD signed onto a coalition letter urging Congress to pass the conference bill in September before adjourning this Congress. Additional fact sheets may be viewed on the coalition's website:


Protection and Advocacy

A bill introduced by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) (H.R.3995) that would limit the ability of federally-funded entities to bring suits related to Intermediate Facilities for the Mentally Retarded, now has 42 bipartisan co-sponsors in the House. AUCD believes that this legislation would be harmful to individuals with disabilities who need the protections currently provided in the law and is alarmed at the number of cosponsors.  AUCD also believes that this legislation is not needed.  A 2003 Government Accountability Office report (03-1044) demonstrated that the P&A system consistently follows the rules of civil procedure when it comes to bringing lawsuits related to institutional conditions or closure. It is essential that federally funded entitles continue to have the broadest authority possible to pursue administrative, legal and/or other appropriate remedies or approaches to ensure the protection of the rights of people with developmental disabilities.   While this bill is not likely to see major Congressional action this year, this could be an issue on the table when Congress begins to reauthorize the Developmental Disabilities Act in 2009.   Therefore, it is critical that families and advocates educate their Members of Congress about the major problems this bill.  Materials specific to this bill are available on the NDRN website  A link to the current list of co-sponsors is available through the AUCD Action Center at the following link:


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 and the position will be filled early in 2009.  More information is on the AUCD website at the following link: