AUCD Legislative News In Brief

June 22, 2009

Olmstead Anniversary

Today, on the 10th Anniversary of the landmark decision in U.S. Supreme Court Olmstead v. L.C., President Barack Obama launched "The Year of Community Living," a new White House effort to assist Americans with disabilities. In a public statement the President has specifically directed Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan to work together to identify ways to improve access to housing, community supports, and independent living arrangements. As part of this effort, Secretaries Sebelius and Donovan announced several new initiatives including details about increased numbers of Section 8 vouchers and enhanced interagency coordination to address this critical civil rights issue. Secretary Sebelius also issued a public statement. As a first step, the statement announces an "Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking" published in the Federal Register today inviting public comments on the changes necessary to provide States the option to design home and community-based services (HCBS) waiver programs serving more than one target population.  In addition, the statement announces that CMS and AoA are making grant funds available to states to strengthen and expand HHS' Aging and Disability Resource Center Programs (ADRCs).  In the Olmstead case, the Court held that the unjustified institutional isolation of people with disabilities is a form of unlawful discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Congressional Schedule and Appropriations

Markups and hearings take place in both the House and Senate all week on health care reform bills.  The House of Representatives will continue working to pass FY 2010 appropriations bills.  Last week the House passed two funding bills, Commerc-Justice-Science and Legislative Branch.  This week it will consider Homeland Security and Interior-Environment.  The debates are already acrimonious with Democratic leaders accusing Republicans for trying to delay the bills' progress with numerous and sometimes unrelated amendments.  The Labor-HHS-ED appropriations bills is scheduled for consideration in July.

Health Care Reform

The Senate HELP Committee will continue marking up its health care reform bill this week and may extend until after the July 4th recess.  The Committee started considering the prevention and wellness section today; amendments on the CLASS Act will likely be considered mid-week.  The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities issued a brief last week on mischaracterizations about the CBO scores and the number of uninsured individuals the bill would cover.  AUCD submitted a letter of support to the HELP Committee and signed on to a CCD letter of support.  The Senate Finance Committee has delayed release of its draft bill and mark up until after the July 4th recess.  Following a preliminary estimate of $1.6 trillion over 10 years, the Finance Committee is considering options to bring down the costs.  This could include reducing subsidies to 300 percent of the federal poverty level and scaling back expansion of Medicaid.  While negotiations continue, Finance staff presented some information last Friday about the bill.  The House also released its health care reform proposal Friday.  The House bill does not include long-term services and supports and does less on prevention and wellness for individuals with disabilities.  All three House Committees of jurisdiction (Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means, and Education and Labor) will begin hearings this week.  AUCD has prepared a side-by-side of key provisions in the three bills based on information currently available.  However, as specific bills come forward and differences are debated, it is important to express continued support for health care reform in general. 

Long-Term Services and Supports                

Congress will be on recess next week for the July 4th recess.  Members will be in their home districts and many will be hosting town hall events, particularly on health care reform.  Grassroots are being encouraged to set up meetings with Members, write letters to the editor in local news papers, and attend town hall meetings to express support for long-term services and supports in health care reform.  Last week, AUCD staff presented on health care reform and long-term services and supports at a statewide summit coordinated by the Montana Disability and Health Program at the Montana UCEDD.  Approximately 100-200 Montanans participated via video conferencing at 15 sites across the state.  Presenters included Joe Caldwell (AUCD), Tom Earle (ADAPT), Jason Belougy (NCIL), Lex Frieden (ILRU), and Claudia Clifford (Montana AARP).  Chairman Baucus' (D-MT) state health staff joined the call; state sites are developing action plans for the recess.  Aging and disability organizations are organizing a conference call with state representatives in California this Wednesday due to significant cuts in long-term services and supports and a number of key House leaders from California. 


AUCD signed onto a CCD Education Task Force letter in support of the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act (H.R. 2740), , sponsored by Representatives Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Pete Sessions (R-TX).  The bill will allow parents who prevail in IDEA due process hearings and litigation to recover the cost of expert witnesses. Few parents can afford the high cost of paying technical, medical, and other expert witnesses themselves; by contrast, school districts can use taxpayer dollar to pay for experts or use staff on their payroll.  The IDEA Fairness Restoration Act would overturn a 2006 Supreme Court decision that prevented parents from being reimbursed for expert witness fees in Arlington Central School District v. Murphy. The IDEA Fairness Restoration Act simply levels the playing field for those families for whom due process is their only hope for achieving an appropriate education for their child.

Special Education in the Courts

The US Supreme Court has issued a decision in Forest Grove vs. T.A. denying the District's appeal. This case deals with whether a student must have received special education services from a public agency prior to being enrolled in a private school in for his parents to be eligible to seek reimbursement for tuition paid to such a school.  Justice Stevens, writing for the Court, declared that the IDEA requires States receiving federal funding to make a "free appropriate public education" (FAPE) available to all children with disabilities residing in the State. He noted that in previous cases the Court held that when a public school fails to provide a FAPE and a child's parents place the child in an appropriate private school without the school district's consent, a court may require the district to reimburse the parents for the cost of the private education. (See Burlington v. Department of Ed. of Mass). The question presented in this case is whether the IDEA Amendments of 1997 categorically prohibit reimbursement for private-education costs if a child has not "previously received special education and related services under the authority of a public agency." Stevens stated, "We hold that the Amendments impose no such categorical bar." The full decision may be read at

ADA Amendments Act of 2009

AUCD staff attended a proposed rulemaking session for the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on June 16. Legal Counsel for the EEOC presented the most significant changes to the regulations which focused mainly on the definitions of substantial limitations, disability and activities of daily living. Since the regulations passed by a vote of 2:1 the next step is for dissemination to OMB and Federal Agencies that will then be followed by posting in the Federal Register for a public review and comment period and then on for final OMB approval. Detailed information can be found on the EEOC website.

Emergency Preparedness

The National Organization on Disability's (NOD) Emergency Preparedness Initiative (EPI) announced on June 16 that Mr. Bruce McFarlane has joined EPI as the program's Deputy Director.  EPI provides technical assistance, outreach and education on emergency preparedness issues involving people with disabilities and special needs.  This project is a response to national emergency and disaster situations and seeks to educate individuals and first response professionals on the needs of individuals with disabilities.  More information is available on the project website.

Health Prevention Resource

AUCD staff attended a briefing on prevention and its role in Health Care Reform.  Speakers included state public health officials as well as industry witnesses who made a strong case for the relevance of prevention of health problems as a way to reform not only health care but maintain a more economically fiscal perspective in the health arena.  Specifically of interest is the link of secondary level prevention for individuals with disabilities in order to prevent additional health concerns meeting materials including speaker testimony is available online.