AUCD Legislative News In Brief

February 1, 2010

Congressional Schedule
President Obama is scheduled to release his FY 2011 budget proposal today. Administration officials will testify about the budget at various hearings throughout the week. The Senate convened today at 2 p.m. for a procedural vote on a nomination for the Solicitor of the Department of Labor. The House is expected to clear a measure to increase the federal debt limit later this week.

The State of the Union and President's Budget
President Obama gave his first State of the Union Address on Tuesday.  In addition to proposing policy changes that would help shrink the nation's 10 percent unemployment rate, the President urged Congress to not give up on passing health reform legislation.  The President reminded Congress that, while health care costs continue to increase, millions of Americans everyday are losing health insurance and paying higher premiums.  The President also proposed a three-year freeze on non-security discretionary spending as part of the 2011 budget, a measure which is expected to save $250 billion over 10 years. Unfortunately, the President did not specifically mention disability issues during his 71-minute address. However, he did vow to renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, push for legislation to create jobs, and continue working with legislators on both sides of the aisle to heal the nation's economy.

Health Care Reform
Democratic leaders have yet to commit to a strategy for moving health reform legislation forward, however, they continue to discuss a plan to clear the Senate's bill (HR 3590) and move a second bill that would amend it with changes sought by House Democrats. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced Wednesday that she believed she could garner enough votes in her chamber to pass the Senate's health reform bill if it could be adjusted through the process of reconciliation. Reconciliation is intended to allow consideration of any legislation affecting the budget without the threat of filibuster by limiting debate and amendments. This option has gained momentum because Democrats in the Senate would only need 51 votes to pass the measure through reconciliation.

Trust appears to be the main issue between the House and Senate; House leaders want an agreement on proposed amendments before they will agree to pass the Senate bill in its current form and risk losing their bargaining power. While the House waits for Majority Leader Reid and the President to chart a course, it plans to pass a series of smaller health care bills it believes to be politically significant, including a bill to partially repeal current law exempting insurance companies from federal antitrust laws.

Disability Policy Seminar
This year's 2010 Disability Policy Seminar is scheduled for April 12-14 at the Hyatt Regency in Washington, D.C.  The Seminar will provide overviews from Washington's top policy experts about key
disability policies in Health Care Reform, Medicaid, Employment, Education, and Discretionary Appropriations. On the final day, attendees will have the opportunity to educate policy makers and their staff about national disability issues.  Check out for more information. This Seminar is sponsored by the Arc of the United States, United Cerebral Palsy, American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Association of University Centers on Disabilities, National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities, and Self Advocates Becoming Empowered.

Restraint and Seclusion
AUCD has signed on to a
letter to the House and Senate sponsors of the Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act (HR 4247, S. 2860), outlining recommendations for changes to both bills. The House committee on Education and Labor is scheduled to markup the bill Thursday, Feb. 4.  For additional resources on the legislation, including text of both bills and AUCD's recommendations to Congress, visit our resources page on the topic.

Mental Health Insurance Parity
On January 29, the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and the Treasury jointly issued
interim final rules providing parity for consumers enrolled in insurance group health plans who need treatment for mental health or substance use disorders. The rules released were developed based on the departments' review of more than 400 public comments.  The interim final rule will be published in the Federal Register on Feb. 2, after which consumers, insurers, providers and other interested parties will have 90 days to comment on unresolved issues surrounding non-quantitative treatment limits, drug formularies, the scope of benefits, and more. Deadline for comments is May 3.