AUCD Legislative News In Brief

May 3, 2010

Congressional Schedule
The Senate is expected to spend most of the week debating amendments to the financial regulatory overhaul bill, while the House focuses on a number of commemorative resolutions. The Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will hold a hearing on reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) on Tuesday, focusing on secondary schools.

Deficit Reduction Commission
The President's deficit reduction commission met for the first time Tuesday. The group of 18 is charged with finding ways to reduce the deficit to three percent of gross domestic product by fiscal year 2015, and at least 14 members must agree to the package of recommendations. President Obama stated that every part of the Federal budget should be on the table.  Barbara Kennelly, CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, said Monday that the commission should not seek to balance the budget in the short term by cutting Social Security. She noted that the program has not contributed to the current deficit problem and is expected to remain solvent through 2037. The commission will next meet May 26 and every month thereafter, with subgroups meeting more frequently. The final meeting will be Dec. 1, when the panel submits its package to Congress.  The Peter G. Peterson Foundation held a Fiscal Responsibility Summit the day after the commission met with several commission members and other leading experts on fiscal policy issues.  The Foundation has a number of documents available to help educate the public about the deficit, debt and policy options for reducing the deficit.

The Senate HELP Committee held a full committee hearing on ESEA reauthorization Wednesday, with a focus on standards and assessments. AUCD network member
Martha Thurlow, Ph.D., Director of the National Center on Educational Outcomes, testified about how standards and assessments can be improved to raise outcomes for students with disabilities. She emphasized that students with disabilities have benefitted tremendously from the focus on standards and assessments, and that standards and assessments, by themselves, do not guarantee that student performance will increase, or that access to the general curriculum and instruction will occur. Video of the hearing and testimony can be found here.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver Act
On April 29, bipartisan Members in both the Senate and House introduced the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Act (H.R. 5190/S. 3293).  The bill reauthorizes the Special Olympics Sport and Empowerment Act and includes the Best Buddies Empowerment for People with Intellectual Disabilities Act that was originally passed by the House in April 2009.  The new bill adds a new Title III - Establishment of Eunice Kennedy Shriver Institutes for Sport and Social Impact.  Title III would authorize three-year grants to institutions of higher education to conduct research and evaluations, collect data, provide training and technical assistance, and promote interdisciplinary collaboration to promote greater social and community opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities.  Eligible entities must perform these activities in collaboration with UCEDDs.  The bill was introduced by Senators Harkin (D-IA), Hatch (R-UT), and Dodd (D-CT) and Representatives Hoyer (D-MD), Ehlers (R-MI), Kennedy (D-RI) and King (NY).

Reports are available from the six Listening Sessions the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and its Federal partners held earlier this year.  Each listening session was an opportunity for the public to provide input to senior Federal officials from many different agencies on their ideas for more effective ways to employ all people with disabilities, including women, veterans and minorities with disabilities, and what is currently working in their regions to increase employment of people with disabilities.

An innovative pilot internship program has been launched in the U.S. House of Representatives for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The program was created by Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS), House Administration Committee Republicans, and a post-secondary program at George Mason University entitled, Mason LIFE.  The internship provides students with work experiences such as answering constituent mail and learning how to give tours of the Capitol.  Read more about this program on Politico's website.

International Rights
The United States International Council on Disabilities (USICD) held its Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. last week.  The Meeting focused on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).  The CRPD is a United Nations (UN) Treaty that will create revolutionary changes for people with disabilities all around the world in human and civil rights.  In addition, the Treaty will allow the UN to measure and scrutinize whether or not countries are keeping up with human and civil standards for people with disabilities.  The U.S. signed the Treaty on July 30, 2009, but now needs to ratify it.  Currently, the Obama Administration is completing their ratifying package for Congress.  Both the President and Congress may include "reservations" or "declarations" to the Treaty to adjust for obligations to domestic law. 

Lifespan Respite
The Administration on Aging will make three-year grants of up to $200,000 to 10-15 states under the Lifespan Respite Care Act of 2006.  Lifespan Respite Care programs are coordinated systems of accessible, community-based respite care services for family caregivers of children or adults of all ages with special needs. States can use the grants to plan or enhance new and planned emergency respite services, training and recruiting respite workers and volunteers, and assisting caregivers with gaining access to needed services. State advocates are encouraged to work with their governor's office to apply for a grant. The due date for letters of intent is May 7, 2010.  

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Friday that Secretary Sebelius appointed five new public members to the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), expanding the committee to a total of 24 members.  The five new members include a person with ASD and parents of people with ASD; they also represent perspectives from a variety of different ASD research and advocacy organizations.  To read more, please see the HHS press release and the IACC News Update posted on the IACC home page (

Health Care
The Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality (AHRQ) recently released the 2009 National Healthcare Quality Report (NHQR) and the National Healthcare Disparities Report (NHDR). (Found here)  These reports measure trends in effectiveness, efficiency and timeliness of care, patient safety and patient centeredness. The reports present the latest available findings on quality of and access to health care. Chapter four of the NHDR includes information about health care quality and access among various racial, ethnic, and income groups and other priority populations, such as individuals with disabilities or special health care needs. 

On April 19, HHS made operational The Office of Consumer Information and Oversight.  This new office is charged with implementing many of the health insurance provisions found in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  The Office will provide consumers and families with comprehensive information on coverage options currently available, and will be responsible for ensuring compliance of provisions such as the new insurance market rules and pre-existing condition exclusions for children that take effect this year.  Working closely with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Office will also provide guidance and oversight for the state-based insurance exchanges, administer the temporary high-risk pool program and the early retiree reinsurance program, and compile and maintain data for an internet portal providing information on insurance options.  Jay Angoff, former Washington attorney and past Insurance Commissioner for the State of Missouri, is the Office's new Director. 

Health Reform Information
The Kaiser Family Foundation has issued two new briefs that discuss important elements of the health reform law: the health insurance exchanges and insurance subsidies for low- and middle-income purchasers. More resources about the new law are available on the Foundation's Health Reform Gateway at