AUCD Legislative News In Brief

November 16, 2009

Congressional Schedule
Only five weeks remain in the legislative session. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) warned that Senators should expect Saturday sessions in upcoming weeks. This week, the Senate resumes consideration of the fiscal 2010 Military Construction-VA spending bill. The House votes today on a bill to increase oversight of the financial industry bailout program. Later in the week, the House votes on a number of small-business bills and a bill to overhaul the Medicare physician pay formula. The House may take up the fiscal 2010 Commerce-Justice-Science spending bill as well.


Health Care

The Affordable Health Care for America Act (H.R. 3962) was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on November 7 by a vote of 220 to 215. The legislation asserts that it will cover 96 percent of Americans by 2015, while significantly reducing the deficit over the next decade. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the net cost of expanding coverage at $891 billion.  Prior to this historic vote, AUCD wrote a letter to House leaders in support of the bill. Many disability advocacy groups also sent letters of support for the bill, and AUCD encourages its member organizations to write Congress regarding the impact of this important legislation.


The bill includes many provisions that benefit people with disabilities including:

·         Major insurance market reforms such as the elimination of discrimination based on health status, a prohibition on pre-existing condition exclusions, guaranteed issue and renewal requirements, and elimination of annual and lifetime caps;

·         Inclusion of critical services for people with disabilities in the new Health Insurance Exchange’s essential benefits package such as rehabilitation and habilitation services, durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics and related supplies, vision and hearing services, equipment and supplies for children under 21 years of age, behavioral health treatment, and mental health and substance abuse services in compliance with the Wellstone-Domenici parity law;

·         Inclusion of the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act and a “Sense of Congress Regarding Community First Choice Option to Provide Medicaid Coverage of Community-Based Attendant Services and Supports”

·         Significant investments in Medicaid to dramatically expand eligibility, increase reimbursement for physicians to Medicare rates with significant federal funding to offset the burden on states, and a six month extension of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s increase to the federal share of Medicaid spending;

·         Requirements for the development of standards for accessible diagnostic and other medical equipment, and inclusion of “disability” as a category for purposes of health disparities;

·         Provision of wellness grants that prohibit the use of discriminatory incentives; and

·         Interdisciplinary training initiatives on autism to build nationwide capacity to address the unmet service needs of individuals with autism.


The Senate may take up its health reform bill early this week. However, the challenge will be finding the 60 votes necessary to prevent a filibuster with continued disagreements over the issues of a public option, immigration, and abortion language.

Restraint and Seclusion
AUCD staff attended an exclusive briefing with hill staff on Thursday to review a draft bill that would limit the use of restraint and seclusion in schools. The bill will soon be introduced by Rep. George Miller (D-CA), Chairman of the Education and Labor Committee, and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), the mother of a child with Down syndrome. Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT) is working on similar legislation to introduce in the Senate, and hopes to get a Republican cosponsor for the bill.

The Department of Education Office of Civil Rights is planning to collect data on the use of restraint and seclusion in public schools. AUCD has signed on to a letter to Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan written by the Alliance to Prevent Restraint, Aversive Interventions and Seclusion (APRAIS), supporting the data collection effort. A wealth of anecdotal evidence exists concerning the dangerous, traumatic and inappropriate use of restraint and seclusion in schools. Comprehensive data collection and analysis is an essential step in ensuring the safety of children in schools. The final sign on letter will be posted on AUCD’s policy page when it becomes available.

Child Abuse and Neglect
The House Committee on Education and Labor Subcommittee on Healthy Families and Communities held a hearing November 5 on the reauthorization of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) and the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA). The hearing examined best practices to prevent child abuse and neglect, as well as methods for improving services for families in crisis.

AUCD signed on to a National Child Abuse Coalition letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag urging for increased funding for the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) in the Fiscal Year 2011 President’s Budget. The funding increases would help states strengthen their child protective systems, develop community-based prevention services, and support research initiatives.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) has recently expressed an interest in introducing comprehensive employment legislation to improve opportunities available to people with disabilities. AUCD signed on to a letter to Harkin, prepared by the Collaboration to Promote Self-Determination, outlining recommendations for improvements in employment policies for people with disabilities.

ODEP Update
AUCD staff will attend a Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) update on Tuesday entitled “New Directions for the Office of Disability Policy at the Department of Labor.” Assistant Secretary Kathleen Martinez will be the principle speaker for the forum. Other panelists include Kelly Buckland of the National Council on Independent Living, Paul Tobin of the United Spinal Association, and Lori Golden of Ernst & Young. For more information, visit

H1N1/Leave Policies

The House Education and Labor Committee will hold a hearing tomorrow, November 17, on how employer-paid sick leave policies can help slow the spread of contagious diseases like the H1N1 flu virus. At least 50 million American workers currently do not have access to paid sick leave, according to a Committee press statement. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that a sick worker will infect one in ten co-workers. As a result, the CDC and other public health officials have advised employers to be flexible when dealing with sick employees and to develop leave policies that will not punish workers for being ill. On November 3, U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA), chairman of the committee, and Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), chair of the Workforce Protections Subcommittee, introduced the Emergency Influenza Containment Act (H.R. 3991). The temporary legislation will guarantee up to five paid sick days for a worker sent home or directed to stay home by an employer for a contagious illness, such as the H1N1 flu virus. 


“Rosa’s Law”

Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Michael Enzi (R-WY) sent a letter to their colleagues in the Senate requesting cosponsors for a new bill that replicates a law recently passed in Maryland called “Rosa’s Law”. The legislation would substitute the term “mentally retarded” with “an individual with an intellectual disability” and “mental retardation” with “intellectual disability” in federal law. The letter referred to the terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” as antiquated and stigmatizing, and urged that such a bill would bring “us out of the dark ages and into a world of evolved sensibilities.”

Legislative Affairs at AUCD’s Annual Meeting
During last week’s annual meeting of the association, Henry Claypool, Director of the HHS Office on Disability, and Fred Karnas, Senior Advisor to the HUD Secretary, gave an overview of federal interagency collaboration efforts between the federal housing and health and human services agencies to provide more opportunities for community living for people with disabilities.  Connie Garner, senior staff of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and current advisor to the Senate Health Committee, provided an update to the network on how federal health care reform proposals will impact people with disabilities.  On the final day of the conference, Judy Woodruff, broadcast journalist for the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, gave a touching story about her family’s personal journey caring for a son with disabilities.  White House Senior Advisor on Disability Policy, Jeff Crowley, responded by outlining some of the Obama Administration initiatives in the areas of employment, education, health care, and especially enforcement of existing laws through the Department of Justice.

 AUCD’s Legislative Affairs Committee also met during the association’s annual meeting last week to discuss health care reform, employment policies, celebrate legislative success, and discuss priorities for the coming year.  Legislative affairs staff also provided a briefing to the entire network. 

 Kenneth DeGraff, legislative staff to Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA), was present to receive AUCD’s Gold Star Award for his efforts to expand training capacity to serve more people with autism.