AUCD Legislative News In Brief

September 29, 2009

Fiscal Year
The new fiscal year begins this Thursday, October 1. The House passed a one month continuing resolution (CR) to keep most federal programs operating at current FY 2009 levels through October 31. The CR was necessary because only four of the twelve annual spending bills have been considered by both chambers of Congress. The Senate is expected to pass an identical CR this week. The CR includes funding for programs within the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education. Appropriations leaders are considering combining any remaining spending bills into an omnibus bill. In that case it is likely that appropriators will decide to split the difference between House and Senate numbers for programs that received different levels in the two bills. See August 10 special issue of In Brief for House and Senate bill funding levels.

Health Care Reform
The Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) began consideration of its health care bill on September 22 with the hope of finishing by the end of this week. Over 500 amendments were filed by both sides for consideration. AUCD is pleased to report that the Chairman's mark (the revised bill) contains several provisions very important to AUCD and the rest of the disability and aging communities, such as the "Community First Choice Option" (CFC), a provision put forward by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA). The CFC contains core elements of the Community Choice Act and would allow states to provide individuals with disabilities who are eligible for institutional settings with a broad array of community-based services and supports. (see a description on the AUCD policy site). Also included was an elimination of Medicare Part D co-pays for dual eligibles (those who receive both Medicare and Medicaid benefits) residing in home and community based settings and covered under Sec. 1115 and 1915 waiver programs. This amendment was offered by Sens. Bill Nelson (D-FL), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV).

House and Senate health care committee staff are beginning to merge the various committee passed health reform bills making it a critical week to show support for the CLASS Act and other long term services and supports provisions within health care reform. AUCD signed onto a letter developed by a coalition of aging and disability groups supporting the long-term services and supports provisions. The group is also planning a rally and call-in day this Wednesday to show the strength of the disability community voice. AUCD sent out an action alert last week regarding these programs and will also share national call in information later this week.

Congressional Listening Session
On Thursday, Bill Kiernan, Director of the Institute for Community Inclusion in Boston, and Co-chair of the AUCD Legislative Affairs Committee, will be participating in a "listening session" on the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) sponsored by the Department of Labor. The listening session will provide an opportunity for members of the disability advocacy community to share concerns and improvements related to WIA reauthorization.
Kirk Appointed to Serve as Massachusetts Senator
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick appointed Paul Kirk to become the newest member of the Senate, giving Democrats a filibuster-busting 60 votes again when he is sworn in to replace the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA). This appointment will continue until the special election being held on January 19 in Massachusetts. It is unknown what committee assignments he will have at this time. Kirk is a long-time aide, friend, and confidant of Sen. Kennedy.

Senate Appointment Confirmation
The Senate unanimously confirmed Carmen Nazario to be Assistant Secretary for Children and Families within the U.S. Department of HHS. Prior to her nomination, Nazario was an Assistant Professor at the Inter American University of Puerto Rico, where she taught social policy and coordinated the Social Work Practicum at the School of Social Work. During the Clinton Administration, she first served as Associate Commissioner for Child Care in the Administration on Children, Youth and Families and later became the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Administration for Children and Families (ACF). She received a Bachelor of Arts with honors in Sociology from the University of Puerto Rico in 1967, and was awarded her Master of Social Work degree from Virginia Commonwealth University School of Social Work in 1973.

Disability Community Meeting with Attorney General
Last week representatives from the CCD Rights Task Force met with Attorney General Eric Holder at the U.S. Department of Justice to share concerns of the disability community and discuss priorities for the Department under his leadership. The meeting was a follow-up to the brief meeting that the Attorney General, President Obama, and Secretary of Labor Solis had with disability community representatives at the White House on July 24. At the meeting, the disability advocates divided priorities into three broad categories: 1) the leadership role of the Attorney General in framing disability rights as a civil rights issue; 2) enforcement of the ADA and community integration under Olmstead;and 3)access to justice issues related to the collaboration between law enforcement and the courts in working with the disability community.

AUCD Policy Fellowship
AUCD is seeking applicants now for the policy fellowship that will begin this Fall. This position is a year-long opportunity for LEND trainees or mid-level career network members to contribute to the field of disability policy at the national level. Activities include but are not limited to policy and legislative development, advocacy, program development, technical assistance, and association administration. A full description and application instructions are located on the AUCD website. Applications are currently being accepted. The position will be open until filled.