AUCD Legislative News In Brief

March 8, 2010

Congressional Schedule
The Senate continues consideration of a bill to extend expired tax provisions and other programs, including unemployment insurance and COBRA health care subsidies. The House reconvenes Tuesday to consider a number of minor commemorative resolutions.

FY 2011 Appropriations
AUCD is fortunate to have the support of Reps. Jim Langevin (D-RI), co-chair of the Bipartisan Disability Caucus, and Don Young (R-AK) who sent a "Dear Colleague" letter to their congressional colleagues today urging their support for the highest possible funding for LEND and UCEDD programs.  AUCD sent an action alert asking network members to contact their Representatives and urge them to sign onto the letter to lead appropriators. The deadline for sign-ons is COB Friday, March 12.

Lifespan Respite Funding
Rep. Langevin has also authored a "Dear Colleague" letter in support of full funding for the Lifespan Respite Care Act.  The Act authorizes grants to state agencies and coalitions to make quality respite available and accessible. It received first-time funding ($2.5 million) in FY 2009 and level funding in FY 2010. The President recommended doubling the amount to $5 million for FY 2011. However, the law authorizes $94.8 million in FY 2011.  Reps. Langevin and Lee Terry (R-NE) are requesting full funding ($94.8 million) for Lifespan Respite program in FY 2011.  See
AUCD's action alert to support this effort.

FY 2011 Budget
AUCD also signed on to the
Coalition for Health Funding's letter requesting $67.1 billion for discretionary public health programs in FY 2011. To date, more than 270 organizations have joined together in support of this effort (our goal is 300 organizations).  Without an increase in the overall congressional budget resolution for "Function 550" (public health programs) it will be hard to advocate for increased funding for programs at NIH, CDC, HRSA, and SAMSHA, among others.  The Coalition's request for $67.1 billion was developed over several weeks of discussion with leaders of the health agency coalitions (Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research, Friends of CDC, Friends of HRSA, Friends of Indian Health, among others).

Restraint and Seclusion
AUCD is pleased to announce that the House passed HR 4247, the Keeping All Students Safe Act (formerly the Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act) on March 4 by a bipartisan roll call vote of 262 to 153! A similar bill, S 2860, was introduced by Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT) in December. More cosponsors are needed to get the Senate bill moving; visit AUCD's Action Center to contact your Senators. Both bills would establish federal minimum standards for the use of restraint and seclusion in schools and encourage the development of school-wide positive behavior support strategies. For more information, see AUCD's summary of the legislation or our resource page.

AUCD signed on to three letters regarding the Keeping All Students Safe Act (HR 4247).  The letters responded to concerns raised by opponents of the legislation and urged the House to include a provision from the Senate's version of the bill that would require schools to hold a debriefing session with parents after restraint or seclusion is used. Unfortunately, the debriefing requirement is not included in the House-passed bill, but the final bill includes other important protections and notification requirements.

House Committee Leadership
Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) announced last week that he would take a temporary leave of absence from his position as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee during ongoing ethics investigations involving alleged violations of House gift rules. Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI) will take over as "acting chairman" in Rangel's absence. Lawmakers and lobbyists do not expect significant policy changes under Levin's chairmanship. The Ways and Means Committee has jurisdiction over Social Security and other entitlement programs that impact people with disabilities.

Health Care Reform
President Obama met with House Democrats on Thursday to persuade them to support a final health care overhaul. The overhaul process will likely be a two-pronged approach, requiring the House to pass, unchanged, the Senate health care bill and then pass a separate "corrections" bill incorporating changes sought by House members. The strategy would utilize a budget process which would require only a simple majority vote in the Senate to pass the corrections bill. The process will not be easy, as House Democrats in the liberal and minority caucuses have concerns with the Senate bill. They would like to see inclusion of the public option, higher subsidies to help low- and middle-income families, and removal of the excise tax on high-cost insurance plans. Obama plans to address some of these concerns by increasing subsidies and weakening the excise tax in the corrections bill. He also said that he will work with liberal Democrats to build support for including the public option in separate legislation in the future. Abortion remains a sticking-point, as some House Democrats want tougher abortion restrictions than the Senate bill offers. House leaders prepared a schedule to bring the bill to the floor, expecting a vote before Congress adjourns for its two-week spring recess on March 26. AUCD will participate in a White House briefing call on next steps tomorrow.

State Budgets
A new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities summarizes the state budget cuts to programs for vulnerable populations, including programs that directly impact people with disabilities and their families.  The cuts, enacted in at least 45 states plus the District of Columbia in 2008 and 2009, occurred in all major areas of state services, including health care (29 states), services to the elderly and disabled (24 states and the District of Columbia), K-12 education (29 states and the District of Columbia), higher education (39 states), and other areas. States made these cuts because revenues from income taxes, sales taxes, and other revenue sources used to pay for these services declined due to the recession. At the same time, the need for these services did not decline, but, in fact, rose as the number of families facing economic difficulties increased.

Policy Resources
The Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation Public Policy Guide has been updated. The Guide was developed to provide an orientation about public policy work with and on behalf of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. It provides information and articles about making federal policy, including the federal budget process. It contains brief descriptions of key Congressional committees, Executive branch agencies, federal legislation and judicial decisions that are the most significant for people with disabilities.

Disability Policy Seminar
The 2010 Disability Policy Seminar will take place in Washington, DC on April 12-14.  Tomorrow is the last day to receive the early bird registration rates! Major topics will include budget and appropriations, No Child Left Behind reauthorization, employment, transition to post-secondary education, and possibly a special session on Medicaid and state budget issues. You will even conduct Hill visits with your Congressional Members! Registration, hotel, and preliminary program information are all on
AUCD's Events website.