AUCD Legislative News In Brief

June 29, 2009

Congressional Schedule
The House and Senate are in their home districts for Independence Day recess. This is a good time to contact your Members of Congress about issues important to people with disabilities. Please see the AUCD action center for ideas and suggested action steps. For more background information, see the AUCD Public Policy webpage. A special Independence Day Action Alert was emailed on Friday asking for help in educating Congress about the need to include long-term services and supports in health reform.

Health Care Reform
Before breaking for recess, the Senate HELP Committee marked up several sections of its health reform bill (quality, workforce, prevention and wellness, and fraud and abuse). The prevention and wellness section would establish a dedicated trust fund that would provide $80 billion over 10 years for prevention and wellness efforts. It also would authorize community health promotion grants that include individuals with disabilities and establish accessibility standards for medical diagnostic equipment. The HELP Committee will continue its mark up on Tuesday, July 7 and is anticipated to begin with the CLASS Act, before moving into other coverage options. The three House committees with jurisdiction over health care held hearings last week. The House bill does not include long-term services and supports and does less on prevention and wellness, especially from a disability perspective.

Long-Term Services and Supports
AUCD sent out an Independence Day Action Alert to urge Congress to include long-term services and supports in health reform. While the Senate HELP Committee is considering the CLASS Act, it is still uncertain what the Senate Finance Committee may include, and the House so far has not included anything on long-term services and supports. It is important to meet with members while they are in the home district, attend town hall meetings, and submit editorials in local newspapers to communicate to members the importance of including long-term services and supports.

Social Security
AUCD signed on to a letter to the Labor-Health and Human Services -Education Subcommittee to request funding of no less than the President's proposed FY 2010 level of $11.603 billion for the Social Security Administration's FY 2010 administrative funding. This figure includes $11.451 billion for SSA's Limitation on Administrative Expenses (LAE) account in the FY 2010 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Bill, and is consistent with the FY 2010 Budget Resolution approved by Congress that recommends $11.6 billion be provided for SSA's FY 2010 administrative funding. This recommended funding level would be a very positive step towards improving SSA's services to the American public, but it is important to note that about $550 million of the proposed increase for SSA in FY 2010 will be used just to keep up with expenses such as increased rental costs and salaries. Even if SSA receives the level of funding recommended by the President for FY 2010, the agency will not be able to maintain fully service to the public in the face of ever-increasing workloads.

Supreme Court Appointment
Disability organizations crafted and signed on to a letter expressing strong support for the confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Reviewing and citing her disability rights decision history from her career as a trial judge and appeals court judge, along with her public statements in speeches and in interviews the groups point out a number of instances where Judge Sotomayor's rulings were favorable towards individuals with disabilities. For example, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Judge Sotomayor has often combed through voluminous or technical testimony to determine whether the plaintiff was protected by the law and has worked to understand the importance of accommodations to help workers with disabilities maintain employment as reflected in her thoughtful decisions in workplace accommodation cases. Judge Sotomayor's analysis of special education issues arising under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) reflects awareness of the importance of timely special education services to students with disabilities and their families. In a notable dissent, Judge Sotomayor argued forcefully that the appointment of a guardian ad litem violated the constitutional rights of a plaintiff who had received psychiatric treatments, because she was not properly notified that she would have no control over her case once the guardian was appointed. The full letter is available online.

Medicaid Regulations
An "Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking" was published in the June 22 Federal Register inviting public comments on regulatory changes necessary to provide States the option to design home and community-based services (HCBS) waiver programs serving more than one target population and how this change could help states comply with the Olmstead decision. CMS also would like input related to identifying the home and community based characteristics of HCBS settings. CMS is contemplating publication of a proposed rule that would provide that States must define, and CMS approve, standards for home and community under HCBS waivers. CMS officials believe such proposed requirements would increase choice by providing waiver participants with notice of housing alternatives, and would create greater demand and market incentives for person-centered residential settings.

The deadline for comments is August 21, 2009. The CCD Long Term Services and Supports Task Force will be developing comments. AUCD would like your suggestions and comments that you feel should be included in the joint comments. Please send your comments to [email protected] as soon as possible but no later than August 1, 2009.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
On June 22 the Office of Management and Budget published implementing guidance for Reports on Use of Funds Pursuant to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The Recovery Act provided $12.2 billion for IDEA programs, which more than doubled the federal funding of special education and early intervention programs. This guidance is meant to provide federal agencies, and recipients with the information necessary to implement the reporting requirements included in Section 1512 of the Recovery Act. This guidance will allow educational agencies to report how Recovery Act money is spent. More information is on the OMB website.

House Education and Labor Committee
Rep. John Kline (R-MN) was elected to serve as the top Republican on the U.S. House of Representatives Education and Labor Committee. Kline was recommended for the post by members of the House Republican Steering Committee and received the endorsement of the full GOP Conference. Kline, now in his fourth term in Congress, has served on the Education and Labor Committee since he was first elected to represent the people of Minnesota's 2nd Congressional District additional information can be found on Rep. Kline's website.

Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy
Kathy Martinez was confirmed by the Senate Thursday, June 25 as ODEP Assistant Secretary. Blind since birth, Martinez, who has worked as executive director of the World Institute on Disability (WID) since 2005, has worked in employment, asset building, independent living, international development, and diversity and gender issues in her work at WID.