AUCD Legislative News In Brief

May 10, 2010

Budget and Appropriations
The House and Senate have still not made a decision about whether or not to try to mark up a Budget Resolution providing aggregate federal funding levels.  There is a possibility that a "deeming resolution" with an overall budget number will be passed as an amendment to a supplemental spending bill that may be debated soon.  If the Budget is not passed by May 15, appropriations subcommittees may start marking up individual funding bills according to Budget Act rules.  Given the large budget deficit and election year politics, the only thing that seems certain is that we will not have a Labor, HHS, Education spending bill by the October 1 start of the new fiscal year.  AUCD is working in coalition with other health and human service policy groups to ensure an adequate allocation for discretionary programs important to people with disabilities and their families.

Representatives Pingree (D-MN), Baldwin (D-WI), Green (D-TX), and Capps (D-CA) sent a letter to their congressional colleagues urging them to support an extension of the enhanced Medicaid matching rate (FMAP) that was passed as part of the 2009 stimulus funding bill.  FMAP is one of the most critical funding sources for states across the country and it is used to determine the amount of federal matching funds for state medical expenditures. The House approved a six month extension of the Recovery Act's FMAP in December; the Senate approved it last month. It is vitally important that Congress now get final approval for this extension.  Without it, states will be forced to make very deep cuts in programs.  Nearly all states are finalizing budgets that begin FY 2011 in July, so it is vital that Congress take swift action before the Memorial Day Recess. 

Restraints and Seclusion
AUCD staff  have been meeting with members of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee to educate them about the Preventing Harmful Restraints and Seclusion in Schools Act (S 2860), legislation that would establish federal minimum standards to limit the use of these interventions in schools. A companion bill, the Keeping All Students Safe Act (HR 4247) passed the House in March. There are several controversial issues preventing bipartisan support for the bill: concerns that this is an issue better left to the states; the bill's application to private schools; and disagreement about whether restraint and seclusion should be prohibited from inclusion in a child's Individual Education Program. AUCD and other disability advocacy groups are working hard to educate Senate members about the harm these techniques cause when implemented unnecessarily by untrained school personnel. For more information about the legislation, visit our resource page. You can ask your Senators to cosponsor by visiting our Action Center 

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and the House Education and Labor Committee held hearings on reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (known as No Child Left Behind) on Tuesday. The House hearing focused on supporting quality teachers; the Senate hearing focused on improving secondary schools.   

Lifespan Respite
AUCD, along with 20 other advocacy organizations representing all ages and disabilities, signed on to an appropriations request letter to the Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations subcommittee urging full funding in FY 2011 for respite and other critical support programs. Specifically, the letter requests $94.8 million for the Lifespan Respite Care Program, $202 million for the National Family Caregiver Support Program, $8 million for the Native American Caregiver Support Program and $60 million for Title I, Section 101, the Assistance and Support Services for Caregivers of the newly enacted Caregiver and Veterans Omnibus Health Care Act.  The letter points out that President Obama's Middle Class Initiative focuses on caregiving of the aging population and should also focus on caregiving across the lifespan.  With full funding to Lifespan Respite systems, states would have more opportunity to implement comprehensive and coordinated systems of respite care across age and disability categories, with the goal of saving billions of dollars in more costly institutional care, as well as state administrative costs.

Federal Budget
President Obama plans to ask Congress to pass legislation that would give him greater authority to cut already-enacted spending, an idea that has been embraced by conservatives and groups concerned about earmarks. This "enhanced rescission authority" is an attempt to strike a balance between current budget procedures and the line-item veto power that the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional in 1998. Under the President's plan, he would have 45 days after a bill is enacted to send Congress a package of funding cuts or rescissions that would apply only to discretionary funding. Congress would then have to vote on the package - up or down, with no amendments - within 25 working days. Bills reflecting similar proposals have been introduced in both chambers (HR 1294, S 524), but appropriators from both parties have expressed concern that controlling spending is Congress' responsibility, and that such a policy could result in overuse or abuse of authority for political gain.

Health Reform Information
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities issued a report entitled "How Health Reform Helps Reduce the Deficit". The report discusses the sources of savings and revenue generated by the new law. AUCD staff is currently designing a health care reform resource hub featuring resources related to implementation of the health reform law.