AUCD Legislative News In Brief

July 6, 2010

Congressional Schedule
Members are in their home districts this week, returning on July 12.  AUCD encourages network members to take advantage of this time to meet with your Members to discuss issues important to your work, including Medicaid funding, health care implementation, restraints and seclusion and laws coming up for reauthorization.  These include the DD Act, Workforce Investment Act, Combating Autism Act, IDEA and ESEA.  For information on these and other current legislative issues, visit AUCD's Action Center as well as the Public Policy section of the AUCD site.  For health reform issues, visit the new Health Reform HUB.

New Resource! AUCD Health Reform Hub
New information on the Affordable Care Act is becoming available every day.  In order to keep it organized, AUCD has launched a dedicated
Health Reform Hub webpage on its website.  This user-friendly "hub" was designed as an entry point for users to provide easy access to specific health reform content areas, including the text of the law, summaries of its provisions, and information about funding opportunities, implementation, regulations, and the Home Visiting Program.  Your feedback on this new site is welcomed and encouraged!

Medicaid & Jobs
The partisan climate in the Senate has made it difficult to get even fairly noncontroversial legislation passed.  After a failed procedural vote on the tax extenders bill (HR 4213), Democratic leaders removed a provision to extend expired unemployment benefits until November 30.  Leaders are attempting to move the portion as a stand-alone measure, but still were one vote short of the 60 needed to end debate last week.

Remaining portions of the tax extenders bill would include a temporary increase in federal Medicaid spending to states (FMAP) and federal COBRA subsidies for unemployed workers.  Despite Democratic Leaders' success in finding offsets for the bill's costs, they were unable to garner the 60 votes necessary to move the bill forward in the Senate.  It is unclear how the Senate will proceed with the bill when it returns from recess next week.  Without an extension of the enhanced FMAP, many states will be forced to make drastic cuts to their Medicaid programs.

Budget/Supplemental Spending and Education
The House approved its version of the FY 2010 war supplemental (H.R. 4899) late on July 1.  The supplemental now must be approved by the Senate, which may consider the spending bill when it returns from the week-long Independence Day recess.  The House bill includes $5.7 billion for a shortfall in the Pell Grant program.  If funds for the Pell Grant program are not included in the supplemental, appropriators will need to resolve the shortfall by finding $5.7 billion within the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill leaving less money for all other programs funded under that bill.  House leaders also included a "budget enforcement resolution" (H.Res. 1493) as part of the rule for considering the supplemental.  The resolution caps discretionary spending for FY 2011 at $1.21 trillion, a level $7 billion below the president's FY 2011 request and $3 billion below the level approved by the Senate Budget Committee earlier in the year.

The House also voted to add $10 billion in education funding to help prevent teacher layoffs as part of the supplemental bill.  In order to pay for the emergency education funds, Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-WI) planned to rescind $800 million from education overhaul programs in the President's budget, including the "Race to the Top" initiative.  The White House has said that the President's advisors will recommend a veto if this provision is in the final version of the supplemental.  The Senate previously passed the measure but chose not to include the education funds, a fact that may make it difficult for the Senate to clear this latest version.

Fiscal Commission
National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform held its third public meeting and heard testimony from nearly 90 groups and individuals. AUCD assisted in drafting written testimony on behalf of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD).  Donna Meltzer, Chair of CCD and Director of Public Policy for the Epilepsy Foundation, was able to provide testimony at the public meeting along with other policy experts and advocacy groups. The next public meeting will be on July 28. 

Health Reform
The new National Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health Council, created by the Affordable Care Act, submitted its first status report to Congress this week.  The Council, chaired by Surgeon General Regina Benjamin and composed of senior government officials from across federal departments and agencies, is charged with elevating and coordinating prevention activities and designing a strategy to prevent disease and promote the nation's health.  The strategy will take a community health approach to prevention and well-being by identifying and prioritizing actions within government and between the public and private sectors.  A fact sheet on this new commitment to prevention and health promotion is also available.

On July 1, the Department of Health and Human Services announced the establishment of a new
Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) that will offer coverage to uninsured Americans who have been unable to obtain health coverage because of a pre-existing health condition. Created in the Affordable Care Act, the PCIP sets up temporary high-risk pools administered by either states or HHS.  The PCIP is a transitional program lasting until 2014, when insurers will be banned from excluding adults with pre-existing conditions, and new competitive Exchanges are up and running. In 2014, Members of Congress will also purchase their insurance through the Exchanges.

The Administration released a regulation implementing the Patient's Bill of Rights provision in the Affordable Care Act on June 28.  The interim final rule covers a number of consumer-protection provisions including prohibition of preexisting condition exclusions and lifetime caps.

Restraint & Seclusion
AUCD issued a targeted alert Friday to members who have Republican Senators on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, urging them to contact their Senators during the 4th of July recess this week and ask them to cosponsor S. 2860, the
Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act.  The bill establishes federal minimum standards to limit the use of restraint and seclusion in schools and promotes the implementation of school-wide positive behavioral support strategies.  The bill was introduced by Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) in December and has yet to gain a Republican cosponsor. Without bipartisan support, it will be very difficult to move the bill through the Senate.  To contact your Senators about this bill, visit AUCD's Action Center.

Americans with Disabilities Act & Olmstead Implementation
The White House joined the Departments of Education and Justice last week to continue the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the ADA.  Both Departments announced the publication of a joint 'Dear Colleague' letter reaffirming the agencies' commitment to ensuring students with disabilities have equal access to emerging technologies in institutions of higher education. The letter is in response to the use of Kindle electronic book readers by certain colleges and universities. Kindle devices are not accessible to students who are blind or those with low vision.  Under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the two departments share responsibility for protecting the rights of college and university students with disabilities.

AUCD Policy Fellowship
Applications for AUCD's 2010-2011 policy fellowship are due on September 30. The overall purpose of the Fellowship is to offer a current UCEDD/LEND/IDDRC employee significant experience in national-level activities related to policy and legislative development, advocacy, program development, technical assistance, and association administration.  Please Visit our fellowship page for more information and to apply.