AUCD Legislative News In Brief

October 26, 2009

Congressional Schedule

Both Chambers are expected to pass a stopgap spending bill this week to keep the government funded into next month as lawmakers continue to work on appropriations bills. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee will vote on nominations for the office of Surgeon General later this week.

Health Care Reform

House Democratic leaders have been working hard to merge the three House health care bills into one. Their goal is to release the bill this week so that they can vote on it as early as the week of Nov. 8. Senate leaders are also close to finalizing a single merged bill. They hope to consider a bill sometime in mid-November. The ultimate goal for the Democrats is to have a bill signed into law by Christmas.

Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) announced that he is close to reaching a compromise public option that will garner enough votes to pass. The new deal is expected to allow states to opt out of a federal public option if they choose. A group of states could also band together to form regional plans. House Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) is also trying to round up enough votes to include some form of a public plan in a final House bill. She will need at least 218 votes.

AUCD continues to work with other advocates to ensure that long term services and supports, prevention and wellness, and provisions to provide more services to individuals with autism remain intact in any final House or Senate bill.

Long-term Services and Supports: CLASS Act

As health care bills continue to be merged, it is down to the wire for advocacy efforts on the CLASS Act. Insurance lobbies strongly oppose the Act's inclusion in a final health reform bill. However, AUCD continues to collaborate with other advocates to ensure its inclusion as an integral part of securing long-term services and supports for aging individuals and individuals with disabilities. Please visit AUCD's action center, where you will find a template letter to send to your Congressmen.

AUCD staff attended a briefing on the CLASS Act sponsored by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Visit their website to gain access to a fact sheet on the CLASS Act


Democrats had hoped to start debate last week on a measure (S.1776) which would spend roughly $245 billion to end steep cuts to Medicare's physician payment rates. However, the motion to limit debate and vote on the bill failed by a far larger margin (47-53) than leaders had expected. The outcome led Majority Leader Reid to announce that the Senate would defer further action on the bill until it completes broader legislation that would overhaul the health care system. In the interim, Democratic leaders are making assurances to physicians' and seniors' groups that the physician payment bill will be enacted by year's end.

Hate Crimes

AUCD is pleased to announce that the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (S. 909/H.R.1913) passed the Senate. The next step is for President Obama to sign it into law! The legislation gives the Department of Justice (DOJ) the power to investigate and prosecute bias-motivated violence by providing the DOJ with jurisdiction over crimes of violence where the perpetrator has selected the victim because of the person's actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. The Act provides the DOJ with the ability to aid state and local jurisdictions either by lending assistance or, where local authorities are unwilling or unable to act, by taking the lead in investigations and prosecutions of bias-motivated, violent crimes resulting in death or serious bodily injury. The Act also makes grants available to state and local communities to combat violent crimes committed by juveniles, train law enforcement officers or assist in state and local investigations and prosecutions of bias-motivated crimes. AUCD has been working with other civil rights advocates on this bill since Sen. Edward Kennedy first introduced the Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 1998. Curt Decker, Director of the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) and Chair of the CCD rights task force will represent CCD at the White House signing ceremony on Wednesday.


AUCD signed onto a Consortium for Citizens With Disabilities (CCD) Housing Task Force letter to offer our support for the Main Street TARP Act of 2009 (HR 3766). This legislation provides $1 billion from the TARP program for the National Housing Trust Fund. CCD has strongly supported the NHTF since it was initially introduced. People with disabilities living on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are (on average) at less than 18% area median income. The NHTF will be a critical resource in expanding access to affordable and accessible rental housing for people with disabilities. HR 3766 also limits tenant rent payments in units funded by the NHTF to 30% of their monthly income.

Child Abuse and Neglect

The Every Child Matters Education Fund held a rally at the Capitol on Wednesday to raise awareness for child abuse fatalities in the U.S. Those attending included Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton, members of the child care community, and members of the cast of Law and Order: SVU. Every Child Matters also released its report, entitled We Can Do Better: Child Abuse and Neglect Deaths in the U.S. According to the report, more than 1,760 U.S. children are documented to have died from abuse or neglect in 2007, a 35 percent increase since 2001. This report is particularly pertinent as the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), which provides funding to states to address child abuse and neglect, is up for reauthorization this year. The report can be found at the Every Child Matters website.

Rehabilitative Services Administration Commissioner

Lynnae Ruttledge, Director of the Washington General state VR agency, has been nominated to be the next Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) within the Department of Education. Ms. Ruttledge has served as the Director of the Washington Department of Social and Health Service, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation since 2005. She is responsible for leading Washington's vocational rehabilitation program. Previously, Ruttledge served in leadership positions at the Oregon Department of Human Services, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation Services and began her public service career in Michigan as a classroom teacher in the public school system. As a person born with a disability, Ruttledge received assistance from the vocational rehabilitation program and graduated from the Northern Michigan University with a B.A. in Education.