AUCD Legislative News In Brief

December 14, 2009

Congressional Schedule
The Senate is expected to continue working through amendments to the health care reform bill.  The House and Senate will also take up a controversial package that includes the last spending bill for the Dept. of Defense, unemployment and COBRA benefits, a short-term extension of the estate tax and a $2 trillion increase in the national debt limit.

FY 2010 Appropriations
The Senate cleared a package of six spending bills over the weekend that includes the Labor, HHS, ED funding bill. The President is expected to sign the bill this week.

The bill provides funds for most federal programs important to individuals with disabilities and families.  For UCEDDs, the final bill provides $39 million, a $1 million or 2.6% increase over FY 09.  Other DD Act programs also receive small increases. DD Councils receive $75 million (+ $750,000 or 1% increase).  The P&A system receives $41 million, an increase of $1 million (2.5% increase). 

Projects of National Significance is level-funded at $14 million. The LEND programs receive $28 million, a $2.2 million increase over FY 09.  The conference agreement includes $31 billion for NIH, a $691.8 million (2.3 %) increase over FY 09. Within the NIH total, NICHD receives $1.3 billion, which is $34.8 million over FY 09.The final bill provides the CDC Birth Defects and DD $42.6 million.  The Disability and health program within CDC is provided $13.6. AUCD is also pleased to report that the conferees provide $11 million for Model Comprehensive Transition and Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities, as authorized in the Higher Education Act. AUCD is currently analyzing the details of the full conference report and will provide more details regarding other programs that impact people with disabilities in a special edition of In Brief later this week.

Health Care Reform
The Senate suspended debate on the health care reform bill this past weekend to pass the FY 2010 omnibus appropriations bill (see above).  Democratic leadership expects to hear from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) as early as today on options they sent scorekeepers to replace their initial proposal: a public option that allows states to opt out. Those options include offering a Medicare buy-in to people aged 55 to 64 and creating a national plan with rates negotiated by the federal government with private insurers. A public option would kick in if the national plan is unsuccessful. Democratic leaders are working out some kinks on the Medicare buy-in with rural-state members who are concerned about geographic differences in Medicare reimbursement rates that set their provider payments too low. Sens. Ben Nelson (D-NE), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), are concerned about low reimbursement levels, and all three are votes Democratic leaders hope to pick up.

If the public option is negotiated this week, Democrats still must address the issue of federal abortion funding. Last week, an abortion amendment sponsored by Sen. Nelson and modeled after the restrictive House language on the issue failed. After the vote, Sen. Nelson indicated that he may not vote for the final health care reform bill if abortion language is not strengthened. Democratic Leaders are trying to work out a compromise. Meanwhile, the Senate may take up a Dorgan (D-ND) amendment on drug re-importation intended to lower the cost of prescription drugs.

On Friday, Senators Harkin (D-IA), Dodd (D-CT), Kirk (D-MA), and Casey (D-PA) held a press conference to highlight their support for the CLASS Act provision within the House and Senate health reform bills.  They invited four individuals who told compelling personal stories about how the CLASS Act would have or may still benefit them and their families, if enacted.

On December 4, Senator John Thune (R-SD) introduced an amendment to strike the CLASS Act from the Senate health reform bill. The amendment needed 60 votes to pass. Fortunately, it only garnered 51 votes and was withdrawn. It is essential that Senators hear from the public on this issue. AUCD posted the vote count on the AUCD action center along with a sample letter to send to Members of Congress, either thanking them for their vote or urging them to change their minds and support the CLASS Act. 

Several newspaper editorials have inaccurately portrayed the CLASS provision as an entitlement program when, in fact, CLASS is a voluntary insurance program funded by participants' premiums and earned interest, not tax subsidies. The Senate bill specifically prohibits using tax dollars to pay for benefits.  The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office reports that the provision will save Medicaid dollars and help reduce the deficit. AUCD signed onto an op-ed  to the Washington Post in response to one of these editorials.  The National Coalition on Aging (NCOA) was recently able to get an op-ed published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch in the key state of Virginia; its two Democratic Senators unfortunately voted against the CLASS Act.

Children's Health
First Focus has released a new White Paper Tuesday comparing coverage for children under the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to coverage they would receive in the exchange plans if CHIP is eliminated through health reform. The paper is entitled "Children in Health Reform: Comparing CHIP to the Exchange Plans." Since its inception in 1997, CHIP, in conjunction with Medicaid, has successfully provided children with a safety net of health coverage that has dramatically reduced the rate of uninsured children over time.

Rosa's Law
"Rosa's Law" (S. 2781), recently introduced by Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Michael Enzi (R-WY), replaces the term "mental retardation" with "intellectual disability" in specific federal health, education, and labor laws, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Rehabilitation Act, the Developmental Disabilities Act, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. Rosa's Law currently has 12 additional cosponsors from both sides of the aisle; however, more support is needed for the bill to move to committee action. AUCD encourages members to visit the action center to promote support for "Rosa's Law".

AUCD signed onto a CCD Education Task Force letter to the Department of Education regarding the current Race to the Top Assessment Program. The letter outlines CCD recommendations for consideration by the Department as it develops the Race to the Top Assessment Competition and the next generation of summative assessments.  The letter urges the Administration to develop common, high-quality assessments aligned with a common set of K-12 standards.  This will provide the opportunity for equity among diverse learners, including students with disabilities.  CCD urges the Department to focus on the following areas for the next generation of summative assessments:  1. Create assessments that are accessible to diverse learners; 2.  Create better Alternate Assessments based on Alternate Achievement Standards (AA-AAS); 3.  Do Not Fund the Development of the Alternate Assessment based on Modified Achievement Standards; and 4.  Require assessments that embed individual student accommodations and allow student control over the test environment. 

Restraint and Seclusion
Reps. George Miller (D-CA) and Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA) introduced HR 4247, the Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act, Wednesday. The bill would establish federal standards for the use of restraint and seclusion in schools. Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT) introduced a similar bill by the same name, S. 2860 on the same day. AUCD staff participated in the development of both bills, and signed onto a letter of thanks from the Alliance to Prevent Restraint, Aversive Interventions and Seclusion (APRAIS).  AUCD staff attended a press conference by Miller and McMorris-Rodgers and issued a press release on the issue. A video of the press conference can be found at

Civil Rights
The Senate Judiciary Committee will markup a bill, the Safe Babies Act of 2009, to amend the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 in order to prevent later delinquency and improve the health and well-being of maltreated infants and toddlers. The amendments would accomplish this goal through the development of local court teams for maltreated infants and toddlers, and the creation of a National Court Teams Resource Center to assist such court teams. The bill was introduced on July 31 by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA).  The Judiciary Committee will also markup a bill to include Homeless people in the Federal Hate Crimes law.