AUCD Legislative News InBrief

May 5, 2009

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FY 2010 Budget

On April 29, both the House and Senate approved the final version of the congressional budget resolution, in the House by a vote of 233 to 193, followed by the Senate's vote of 53 to 43.  The $3.44 trillion budget proposal provides reserve funds for many of President Obama's highest-priority initiatives, including higher education, health care, child nutrition, education, and home visiting. The budget blueprint provides $10 billion less for discretionary spending than the President's proposal. The next step is for the 12 appropriations subcommittees to receive their allocations so that they can begin marking up the annual spending bills.  House Committee leaders report that they will begin markups in June.  Meanwhile, President Obama is finally expected to release his detailed budget plan at the end of this week.


Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) announced that he is changing party affiliation to Democrat.  Specter is currently the ranking minority member on the Appropriations Labor, HHS, and Education Subcommittee.  This political move caused immediate speculation about whether he would take over the chairmanship of that important subcommittee from Sen. Harkin (D-IA) due to Specter's seniority.  It appears, however, that Sen. Harkin will retain that position at least until the 112th Congress.  Specter was also the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee. Specter's move also gives the Democrats a bigger majority in the Senate.  With Al Franken likely to be seated as Minnesota's Senator, the Democrats will have a 60 member majority in the Senate, enough to overcome any Republican filibuster on party line votes.


Medicaid Rules

In a huge victory for the disability community, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare (CMS) announced the proposed rescission of the School-Based Services Final Rule, Outpatient Services Definition Final Rule, and Partial Rescission of Case Management Services Interim Final Rule. These regulations, opposed by AUCD, have been the subject of Congressional moratoria and have not yet been implemented (or, with respect to case management interim final rule, have only been partially implemented) by CMS. The announcement states that "in light of concerns raised about the adverse effects that could result from these regulations, in particular the potential restrictions on services available to beneficiaries, potential deleterious effect on state partners in the economic downturn, and the lack of clear evidence demonstrating that the approaches taken in the regulations are warranted, CMS is proposing to rescind the two final rules in full, and to partially rescind the interim final rule. The notice will be published in the Federal Register on May 6:

Hate Crimes Legislation

The House of Representatives passed the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 (HR 1913) by a vote of 249-175 on April 29.  This legislation, supported by AUCD, makes it easier for federal law enforcement to assist state and local entities in investigating hate crimes.  It also broadens the definition of individuals who are covered under the law to include individuals with disabilities. Senator Kennedy (D-MA) introduced a companion bill (S. 909) on April 28.  Action in the Senate is expected soon.  President Obama has indicated support for the bill.

Child Abuse Prevention and Early Intervention

The Education Begins at Home Act (H.R. 2205), legislation to provide grants to states to expand programs of early childhood home visitation that increase school readiness, child abuse and neglect prevention, and early identification of developmental and health delays with services to pregnant women and families with children up to the age of entry into kindergarten, was introduced on April 30, 2009 by Reps. Danny Davis (D-IL) and Todd Platts (R-PA).  The bill, which authorizes $150 million in the first year for grant support to the states, has been referred to the Education and Labor Committee.  The legislation is similar to the bill introduced in the last Congress by Davis and Platts and approved by the House Committee but never went to the House floor for votes.  A companion bill, S.244, was introduced in the Senate on January 14, 2009 by Sens. Christopher Bond (R-MO) and Patty Murray (D-WA).

Health Care

The Senate Finance Committee will hold the second of three scheduled round tables on health care reform tomorrow.  Tuesday's roundtable will focus on coverage, delivery improvements, and financing.  The discussion will include debate concerning whether healthcare legislation should include a public option (having the choice of enrolling in a public plan similar to Medicare rather than private insurance). The round table begins at 10AM EST and can be watched on the internet through the committee website.  Round tables are being followed by closed door meetings between Members and staff.  The Finance Committee is expected to consider a bill in committee by June.  Over 70 national disability organizations have signed onto CCD Principles for Health Care Reform.  CCD recently met with Finance Committee staff to discuss principles and provide input into legislation being drafted, including recommendations on Medicaid and addressing health disparities for individuals with disabilities.    


Long-Term Services and Supports

Momentum continues to build on inclusion of long-term services and supports in health care reform.  Participants at the Disability Policy Seminar made Hill visits last week urging inclusion of long-term services.  ADAPT and SEIU also held demonstrations last week that helped to gain media attention.  Critical decisions will be made over the next two weeks.  The aging and disability communities are organizing a second national call that will be held Wednesday, May 13.  The last national call was a huge success.  Over 5,000 calls were made to Senate offices urging the inclusion of long-term services and supports.  Advocates hope to double or triple the amount of calls.  An action alert with more information will follow.          



On May 5, a House Education and Labor Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Hinojosa (D-TX), will hold a hearing entitled "New Innovations and Best Practices under WIA".  The hearing is one of a series in preparation for the reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act, which includes the Rehabilitation Act. A hearing that will include more of a disability focus is being planned for May 19. In each of the past three Congresses, bills to reauthorize WIA have been introduced or discussed. A number of good provisions were included in these bills including strengthening transition services for special education students, expanding supported employment services, and improving physical and programmatic access to one-stops.  New bills to reauthorize WIA are expected to be introduced soon.  For more information see the employment fact sheet prepared for the policy seminar.


Obama Administration

The Senate confirmed Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS) as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on a vote of 65-31, filling the final seat in President Obama's Cabinet on the eve of his 100th day in office.

The confirmation hearing of Seth Harris to be the next Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor is scheduled to go before the Senate on Thursday, May 7. Seth has championed multiple employment and labor initiatives in and out of government to advance employment opportunities for people with disabilities and he provided leadership to the Presidential Task Force on the Employment of Adults with Disabilities. Harris was selected as a transition team member while working as a professor and director of the Labor and Employment Law Program at New York University's School of Law. Harris spent nearly seven years serving under the Clinton administration as a senior advisor on policy, legal management, and strategy issues for two U.S. Secretaries of Labor.

Disability Policy Seminar

Over 550 participants from the sponsoring organizations (The Arc of the United States, United Cerebral Palsy (UCP), American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD), Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD), and Self Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE)) participated in the 2009 Disability Policy Seminar. After two days of learning about current legislative initiatives important to individuals with disabilities, participants visited their congressional delegations to talk about the needs of people with disabilities and their families.  For those of you who were not able to travel to DC for this event, fact sheets with action steps are available on AUCD's website.