AUCD Legislative News In Brief

May 28, 2010

Congressional Schedule
Congress will be out for the Memorial Day recess next week. Recess is an ideal time to make visits to members' home offices!  Check the public policy section and action center of AUCD's webpage for current legislative issues.

Supplemental Spending
The House Appropriations Committee postponed a markup of its version of a supplemental spending bill that includes war funding as well as domestic spending provisions. According to a summary released May 26 by the committee, the House bill includes $5.667 billion to plug the current year shortfall in the Pell Grant Program; if not included in the supplemental, appropriators will need to find $5.7 billion in the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill to meet the shortfall. The Senate version of the supplemental (H.R. 4899) does not include the Pell Grant funding; the Senate passed its $58.8 billion bill on May 27.

Efforts to reach an agreement on the tax extenders package (HR 4213) that could clear both chambers of Congress fell apart this week. The bill includes extensions of expanded unemployment benefits, tax breaks, current Medicare physician payment rates and a six-month extension of the temporary increase in the federal share of Medicaid spending (known as the FMAP). The House started work today on a pared-back measure to satisfy its fiscally conservative members. The Senate has essentially left for the Memorial Day recess, so it is expected to take up the House measure when it returns in June.

National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility
The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, the bi-partisan commission charged with identifying policies to improve the fiscal situation of the federal budget in the medium term and to achieve long-term fiscal sustainability, held a public meeting on May 26 to discuss debt and fiscal outlook both here in the United States and overseas.  Co-chairs of the commission are former Republican Senate Whip Alan Simpson and former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles.  According to one witness, Bowles suggested that we should have two goals:  "Close the deficit by 2015, even if we have to reduce spending and increase revenue and reach a deal with entitlements."  The discussion ended with everyone agreeing that a glide path or strategy needs to be developed that will pay the national debt down to a sustainable level.  More information about the Commission is available on

Olmstead Implementation
The U.S. Department of Justice has filed briefs in three separate cases in Florida, Illinois and New Jersey as part of its continuing effort to enforce civil rights laws that require states to end discrimination against, and unnecessary segregation of, persons with disabilities.  The department's filings support two private lawsuits seeking relief in Florida and New Jersey, as well as a proposed statewide class action settlement in Illinois.  The briefs allege that the three states are failing to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Supreme Court's decision in Olmstead v. L.C..  Last year, President Obama issued a proclamation launching the "Year of Community Living," and has directed the Administration to redouble enforcement efforts on segregated living.

The National Child Abuse Coalition, of which AUCD is a member, submitted recommendations for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, known as No Child Left Behind).  The coalition's recommendations suggest adding provisions to strengthen the role of teachers in identifying and reporting abuse and neglect, and ensure that children exposed to violence have access to school-based services such as counseling and preventive interventions.

Health Care
AUCD is developing its own health care reform "hub" that will contain comprehensive information on the new law, including information on its implementation, funding opportunities for the AUCD network, and its impacts on specific issue areas. AUCD will soon announce a series of webinars on the new health reform law that are specifically tailored to the AUCD network. AUCD staff is also working with a number of disability and aging groups to develop strategies to provide state advocates tools and information regarding the HCBS provisions of the health reform law.

Last week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) mailed a new brochure to beneficiaries entitled, Medicare and the New Health Law - What it Means for You.  The brochure details key provisions found in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) for Medicare beneficiaries, as well as members of their families.  The brochure also discusses how the new law will fight fraud by helping Medicare crack down on criminals who are seeking to scam seniors and steal taxpayer dollars.  The brochure is also available in Spanish.

Modernization of Disability Terminology
Last week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee voted unanimously to pass Rosa's Law (S. 2781).  Rosa's Law was introduced by Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Michael Enzi (R-WY). The bill replaces the term "mental retardation" with "intellectual disability" in specific federal health, education, and labor laws, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Rehabilitation Act, the Developmental Disabilities Act, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. At the markup, Senator Harkin (D-IA) said "now is the appropriate time to update and revise our terminology, as we look forward to the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and continued progress on the rights and inclusion of individuals with disabilities." There is no date for full Senate consideration. In addition, the House Education and Labor Committee has not yet set a date to mark up its companion bill, the Elizabeth A. Connelly Act (H.R.4544).  For more information on Rosa's Law, visit AUCD's

International Disability Rights
In a significant step forward for the U.S. government to include disability in foreign policy,
the U.S. Department of State announced that Judith Heumann, current Director of the Department on Disability Services for the District of Columbia and an international leader in the disability rights movement, will be joining the department as its Special Advisor for International Disability Rights on June 7, 2010. This position was announced last summer when President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that the United States would sign the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).  Ms. Heumann was the Advisor on Disability and Development for the World Bank and served as President Clinton's Assistant Secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.  In addition, Ms. Heumann is cofounder of the World Institute on Disability in Oakland, California, and cofounder of the Berkeley Center for Independent Living, serving as their Deputy Director. AUCD congratulates Ms. Heumann on her new appointment.