AUCD Legislative News In Brief

April 19, 2010

Congressional Schedule
The Senate is scheduled to debate a financial regulatory overhaul bill.  The House votes on a number of small bills and resolutions including a bill to provide full House voting rights for the District of Columbia.  The House Appropriations Committee will continue hearings on FY 2011 spending, including a hearing on Health and Human Services appropriations on Wednesday.  The Senate HELP Committee will continue its series of hearings on ESEA reauthorization.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee resumed its series of hearings on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act last week. On April 29, the committee will focus on meeting the needs of special populations. Hearings can be viewed on the committee's website. On April 22 at 10 A.M. Eastern, George Sugai, Special Education Professor and Director for the Center for Behavioral Education and Research at the University of Connecticut, will testify at the committee's round table hearing.

Democratic leaders in both chambers are proposing $23 billion in emergency aid to school districts and public colleges in hopes of preventing a large number of education-related layoffs. HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced legislation Wednesday modeled on the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, part of the stimulus program that provided one-time funding for more than 300,000 education jobs. Harkin said that funding for education jobs is being split off from broader jobs bills because of its urgency. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan spoke out in strong support of the measure, saying that it would prevent the loss of a projected 100,000 to 300,000 layoffs in the coming year.

FY 2011 Budget
Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad said he hopes to mark up the Senate fiscal year 2011 budget resolution "in the next several weeks" and is exploring the possibility of including reconciliation instructions to help bring down the deficit. He added that if Democrats decide to include reconciliation instructions, he hopes it would complement efforts by a deficit-reduction commission established by executive order. Conrad is one of 18 members appointed to the deficit panel by House and Senate leaders; six others were named by the President. The panel will present its recommendations, which are expected to include tax increases and spending cuts, to Congress by December 1. Fourteen of the 18 members must agree on the final package, and House and Senate Democratic leaders have pledged to take up the recommendations before the end of the year. The White House is counting on the commission's recommendations to bring the deficit down to three percent of gross domestic product by FY 2015. Under the president's budget, the deficit reaches a low of 3.9 percent of GDP in FY 2014.

On April 21, the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee (Chairman Obey, D-Wis.) of the House Appropriations Committee will hold hearings on proposed fiscal year 2011 appropriations for programs under its jurisdiction. Secretary of HHS Kathleen Sebelius is the sole witness to testify.  AUCD President Tamar Heller, Ph.D., Director of the Institute on Disability and Human Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago submitted written testimony on behalf of the Association to members of the House Appropriations Committee to provide funding recommendations for the University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) and the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) Programs.  In her testimony, Heller recommends an increase of $5 million for the UCEDD programs to $44 million and a $2 million increase for the LEND programs in FY 2011. 

On April 22, the Income Security and Family Support Subcommittee (Chairman McDermott, D-Wash.) of the House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing on the role of education and training in the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program.

Mental Health
for the Mental Health Parity and Addictions Equity Act of 2008 were finalized in January and took effect this month, but three companies that manage mental health services on behalf of large insurance companies filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that the Departments of Labor, Treasury and Health and Human Services improperly fast-tracked the rulemaking. The Act requires that group health plans offer comparable benefits for both mental and physical health. The companies stated concern that the rules would diminish the quality of care for people with mental illness. Mental health groups, however, generally support the regulations.

Health Reform Information
Families USA has added new resources to its micro site, Health Reform Central, designed to provide resources and information about health reform implementation.

Disability Policy Seminar
Over 500 people participated in the Disability Policy Seminar in Washington, DC last week, including a 55 UCEDD and LEND trainees - a record number!  A full day was devoted to understanding how the new health care reform law will impact people with disabilities and programs.  Day two was devoted to hearing from congressional staff and Obama Administration officials on issues related to budget and appropriations, education, employment, housing, asset development, and restraints and seclusion.  One of the big highlights was on Monday when ADD's new Commissioner, Sharon Lewis, arrived to receive the Leadership in Disability Policy Award for her tremendous work on education, employment, asset development and other disability legislation during her tenure as staff for Education and Labor Chairman George Miller (D-CA).  If you could not make the policy seminar, you can still learn about and take action on the issues that were covered.  See all of the policy issue fact sheets online. Presentations from the Seminar will be posted on the site soon.