AUCD Legislative News In Brief

June 28, 2010

Budget and Appropriations
House leaders announced this week plans to include a "deeming resolution" setting the FY 2011 discretionary spending cap as part of the war supplemental under consideration in the House.  The cap reportedly will be $7 billion less than the president's budget request and $3 billion less than the budget proposal approved by the Senate Budget Committee earlier this year.  Senate Budget Committee Chair Kent Conrad (D-ND) has indicated that the Senate also likely will set the spending cap through a deeming resolution; however, Senate Appropriations Chair Daniel Inouye (D-HI) has indicated that the Senate cap will match the level in the Senate Budget Committee's proposal, not the House level. 

Meanwhile, the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee approved by voice vote its spending bill, the first of the 12 annual spending bills to be considered by either chamber.  Though the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee also was scheduled to mark up its bill, the session was postponed.  Appropriators previously had announced plans to mark up two bills each week, with the Labor-HHS-Education spending bill scheduled to be considered last.  However, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer's (D-MD) announcement this week that the House will leave for August recess on July 30 - one week earlier than scheduled - may complicate those plans.

Efforts to pass a six-month extension of enhanced federal matching funds for Medicaid (referred to as the FMAP) within the Senate "tax extenders" bill (HR 4213) collapsed Thursday after a failed procedural vote.  Despite concerted efforts to reduce the bill's cost and find offsets for its spending provisions, Democratic leaders still could not find the 60 votes necessary to move the bill forward.  Frustrated, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said he would pull the bill from the floor and move on to a small-business jobs bill instead.  The most recent version of the bill, released Wednesday, would have reduced the Medicaid funding from about $24 billion to $16 billion and offset the cost with spending cuts.  The only provision in the package that would not have been offset was an extension of long-term unemployment insurance through November 30. 

Supplemental Spending
House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) is polling House members to determine if they would support $37 billion in FY 2010 supplemental war spending that could include$10 billion in domestic education spending to prevent 140,000 school employee layoffs.  Strict provisions would ensure that the spending could be used only to preserve jobs in elementary, junior high and high schools, and that the money would not be used to replace state education funding or pay down school debt. The House plans to consider an amendment to the Senate's version of the bill, passed in May, which did not include education funds.

Health Reform
As part of the passage of the prevention provisions found in the Affordable Care Act, the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board will hold a public meeting on July 29 to discuss new accessibility standards to be developed for medical diagnostic equipment.  The purpose of the meeting is to gather public input from stakeholders on access barriers to equipment, design challenges, key issues, reference standards, and other topics encompassed by this issue.  More information on removing barriers and improving access to wellness for individuals with disabilities can be found in AUCD's Summary of Prevention and Wellness Provisions in the new Health Reform Law.  

Americans with Disabilities Act & Olmstead Implementation
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing Tuesday on the Americans with Disabilities Act and enforcement of the  landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision Olmstead v. L.C.  The hearing, which attracted a large audience, coincided with the 11th anniversary of Olmstead.  Witnesses included Thomas Perez,  Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ); Cindy Mann, Director of the Center for Medicaid and State Operations at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS); Robert Bernstein, Executive Director of the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law; Jeffrey Knight, a self-advocate from Maryland; Nancy Thaler, Executive Director of the National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services; and Kelly Buckland, Executive Director of the National Council on Independent Living.  The purpose of the hearing was to highlight progress made toward full implementation of the Olmstead decision and increased enforcement efforts by DOJ, as well as interagency coordination between DOJ and HHS.  Witness testimony also focused on lingering barriers to community living and potential solutions.

A U.S. District Court in Jacksonville, FL, has reached a ruling in the Haddad v. Arnold case, holding that the state must provide Michele Haddad with home and community-based services.  Haddad has quadriplegia from a motorcycle accident, and has successfully resided in the community since 2007.  She recently became at risk of going into a nursing home due to changes in her caregiver situation.  After being on the Medicaid community-based waiver waiting list for two years, she was informed that community services would only by available if she entered a nursing home for 60 days.  The court ordered the state to provide community-based services as required by the ADA's integration mandate as set forth in Olmstead v. L.C. The U.S. Department of Justice filed a statement of interest in the case, available here.

In honor of the one year anniversary of the Obama Administration's "
Year of Community Living," and on the 11th anniversary of the Olmstead decision, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced $3.2 million for states to build innovative systems to link persons with disabilities to affordable housing in their home communities.  This initiative, administered over a three-year period, will support a collaborative working relationship between housing and human service agencies at the Federal, State, and local levels.

Robert C. Byrd
AUCD is sad to report that Senator Robert C. Byrd, (D-WV) passed away early this morning at the age of 92.  During his three terms in the House and nine terms in the Senate, Mr. Byrd held a number of Senate offices, including majority and minority leader and president pro tempore.  Sen. Byrd served as a Senator for West Virginia longer than anyone else in American history, and with his six years in the House, he was the longest-serving member of Congress.  Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI) will replace the late Sen. Byrd as president pro tempore, a position that puts him third in succession to the presidency.  The President Pro Tempore is technically the highest-ranking Senator - either he or his designate presides over the chamber while it is in session. In practice, however, the position is little more than a ceremonial title given to the longest-serving member of the majority party.