AUCD Legislative News In Brief

June 15, 2009

Health Care Reform

Last week the Senate HELP Committee released its health care reform legislation.  A hearing was held which provided various stakeholder groups to provide input.  Mary Andrus from Easter Seals represented CCD at the hearing.  CCD's testimony focused on: 1) needs for the benefit package to include durable medical equipment and rehabilitation services; 2) support for long-term services and supports in the HELP Committee bill.  Video from the hearing and testimony are available on the HELP Committee website.  The HELP Committee bill includes many positive provisions for individuals with disabilities, such as market reforms to prohibit exclusion based on underwriting practices and pre-existing conditions.  The bill includes the CLASS Act to improve financing of home and community-based long-term services and supports.  The bill also includes a number of provisions AUCD has advocated for concerning prevention and wellness.  A prevention trust fund is established with dedicated funding of $10 billion.  Portions of Senator Harkin's (D-IA) Promoting Wellness for Individuals with Disabilities Act are included.  The development of accessibility standards for medical diagnostic equipment is included as well as community grants on health promotion and prevention, which include disability as one focus area.  A provision is included to encourage development of medical school curricula on working with individuals with disabilities.  Within primary care and dentistry training programs, individuals with disabilities are included within priorities areas.  Disability is included in data collection on health disparities along with race and ethnicity.  A provision is also included on training opportunities for direct support professionals.  AUCD is analyzing the bill, developing a full summary, and providing recommendations to Hill staff.  The HELP Committee is scheduled to mark up the bill beginning Wednesday morning.  Meanwhile, the Finance Committee is expected to release a draft of its bill this week and is on schedule to mark up before the July 4 recess.  A draft House bill could also be released this week or the following. 

Long-Term Services and Supports

Last Monday, the HELP Committee held a press briefing on long-term services and supports that included Senator Harkin (D-IA), Connie Garner from Senator Kennedy's (D-MA) office, and Lee Perselay from Senator Harkin's office.  John Henry Douglas, Disabled Vietnam Veteran and recipient of two Purple Hearts, and Olympic medalist Dara Torres provided excellent personal stories about the importance of addressing long-term services and supports in health care reform.  CCD issued a press release for the briefing applauding Senators Kennedy and Harkin for their work on the CLASS Act and Community Choice Act.  Aging and disability groups are actively meeting with House staff about the inclusion of long-term services and supports.  Grassroots efforts are needed, particularly heading into the July 4 recess when many members will be in their home districts or at town hall meetings on health care reform.

Appropriations FY 2010

The House Appropriations Committee approved allocations for the 12 appropriations subcommittees to begin marking up their respective FY 10 funding bills.  The Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over the majority of disability programs, received an allocation of $160.7 billion, a $7.5 billion increase over FY 09.  Chairman Obey also announced a tentative schedule for consideration of the L-H bill.  The Subcommittee is scheduled to mark up its bill on July 8 with the full committee scheduled for July 14.  The full House hopes to take up and pass the bill the week of July 21.  The Senate Appropriations Committee announced today it will unveil its FY10 allocations for the 12 appropriations bills this week.

Restraints and Seclusion

AUCD signed onto recommendations to the Obama Administration regarding the improper use of restraints and seclusion in schools.  The joint letter was developed by APRAIS, the Alliance to Prevent Restraints, Aversive Interventions, and Seclusion, a coalition of national advocates, including AUCD, dedicated to the elimination of the use of seclusion, aversive interventions, and restraint to respond to or control the behavior of children and youth in schools and residential settings.  The letter followed a meeting at the White House on May 26 to which the coalition was invited to discuss the extent of the problem and possible federal solutions (see also the May 26 In Brief).  The recommendations urge the President to issue an executive order that directs the Secretary of Education to place a moratorium or take other appropriate action with respect to the improper use of restraints and seclusion by public schools until Congress is able to act.   Rep. Miller (D-CA), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, held a hearing on the issue and plans to draft legislation regarding the issue.

House Education and Labor Committee

Rep. Howard P. (Buck) McKeon (R-CA) ranking member of the House Education and Labor Committee announced that he would give up his post to become the senior Republican on the House Armed Services Committee.  McKeon's replacement has not yet been chosen.

Voting Access

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on June 10 showing people with disabilities had fewer impediments at polling places during the 2008 presidential election, but not all people with disabilities are able to access polls and vote privately and independently. The GAO report is a preview to the final report which is expected in September.  AUCD will continue to work with the CCD Rights Taskforce on monitoring this issue.

State Autism Initiatives

Project Forum at the National Association of State Directors of Special Education has released a report titled Autism Spectrum Disorders: State Part C and Part B Initiatives to Serve a Growing Population which addresses the rise in autism diagnoses with a plethora of programs and professional development activities at the state level.  Focusing on initiatives targeted in Part B and Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) the report contains examples of state programs and examples of the use of successful practices within the field of autism.

Early Childhood

AUCD staff attended a congressional briefing on the impact of early childhood interventions on reducing the need for special education services held at the Capitol on June 11.  This briefing was sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA)  and the First Five Years Fund which seeks to bring attention to early intervention services as a way of improving outcomes for children at risk from birth to age 5.  Presentations included state and local perspectives (Kansas and Atlanta, GA) as well as a call for more research and data collection in the field of early education.

Meeting with Sen. Durbin

Several members of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) Board of Directors met with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), the Majority Whip, to discuss the consortium's priorities.  CCD's priorities for this year are overall funding of disability programs; health care reform, including long term services and supports; and employment.  Other issues discussed included Sen. Durbin's autism services bill, education, restraints and seclusion, juvenile justice and TANF.  CCD also emphasized that people with disabilities should be considered early in the development of any legislation that might impact this population.