AUCD Legislative News In Brief

November 15, 2010

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
  November 15, 2010   |  Vol. X, Issue 46
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Congressional Schedule
Congress returns to begin a "lame duck" session this week.  Senate party leadership elections for the next Congress could be held as early as Tuesday.  The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee plans to mark up the CAPTA Reauthorization Act of 2010, a bill to reauthorize the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, on Wednesday. For more information, see AUCD's policy page on this issue.  The House could consider a number of bills under suspension of the rules. House and Senate Democratic leaders are preparing to discuss strategy for action on fiscal 2011 appropriations and extensions of expiring tax rates.

2010 Elections
The November 2 elections resulted in a major political shift on Capitol Hill that is certain to impact disability policy and programs over the next two years. Republicans had a net gain of about 60 seats, giving them a majority in the House (239-190 with 6 undecided) and further narrowing the Democratic majority in the Senate (now 54-46). There are over 80 new Members of Congress that will need to be educated on disability issues.  Pulling from several Capitol Hill news reports, AUCD provides a summary analysis of the impact these changes may have on disability funding and other legislative priorities.

Fiscal Policy
President Obama's Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform leaked a draft of its
recommendations on Wednesday. While AUCD has not yet seen all the details of the Commission's draft, it is very concerned about how the recommendations will affect people living with disabilities. On discretionary spending, the commission proposes rolling back spending to FY 2010 levels starting in FY 2012, and requiring a one percent budget cut every year from FY 2013-2015. It recommends $200 billion in cuts to discretionary programs alone.  It is unlikely that the Commission will get the 14 out of 18 votes necessary to send the package of recommendations to Congress for an up-or-down vote.  However, their proposals are to be taken seriously as they will frame the congressional discussions and budget process for 2012 and beyond. AUCD will continue to work with Congress and the Administration to address deficit concerns while ensuring that Congress does not dismantle the safety net of programs that exist for people with disabilities in the name of lowering the debt.

Restraint & Seclusion
AUCD joined a number of disability and education stakeholder groups Tuesday to meet with congressional staff from the offices of Senators Christopher Dodd (D-CT) and Richard Burr (R-NC) to discuss S. 3895, the Keeping All Students Safe Act.  This bipartisan bill would establish federal minimum standards to limit the use of restraint and seclusion in schools.  A House companion bill, H.R. 4247, was passed by that chamber in March.  Unfortunately, the Senate bill will not move forward during the lame duck session and will need to be reintroduced in the next Congress. With the bill's champion, Senator Dodd, retiring this year, a new Democratic cosponsor will need to be identified.  Senator Burr has pledged to push for the bill, either as a stand-alone measure or as part of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act ("No Child Left Behind").  The bill is likely to face new challenges in the next Congress, given the new political climate in the House.  The new Chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee will likely be John Kline (R-MN) who does not support federal legislation on this issue, but believes it should be dealt with at the state level. For more information, please visit AUCD's Restraint & Seclusion policy page.

Health Reform
The Affordable Care Act includes several important policy initiatives aimed at enhancing the availability of long-term services and supports.  Four provisions were enacted that are specifically designed to give states additional options for financing Medicaid home and community-based services and supports through a combination of enhanced Medicaid matching payments, demonstrations, and new Medicaid state plan options.  All are strategies states can choose to adopt, and each has requirements and opportunities that states will need to assess before determining which ones are both feasible to implement and capable of advancing their policy agendas.
 The National Academy for State Health Policy has developed an excellent issue brief describing these new opportunities and analyzing the scenarios under which states might implement them, even in the context of the current fiscal pressures facing states.  AUCD is working in coalition with national disability and aging organizations to develop and disseminate resources to assist states to take advantage of these provisions.

Assistive Technology
AUCD signed onto letters to the House and Senate Appropriations committees urging each to support the passage of an omnibus FY2011 bill that maintains the allocation of $30.96 million in the FY 2011 Senate Labor-HHS-Ed bill for the Assistive Technology (AT) Act programs.  AT Act programs operate in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and 4 territories and are available for persons with all types of disabilities, all ages, in all environments.  AT programs include state financing activities, device reutilization, device loan/borrowing, and device demonstration services.  Continued funding for these services will support and assure people with disabilities access to assistive technology to live, work, and attend school in their communities. 

Genetic Information Nondiscrimination
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today issued final regulations implementing the employment provisions of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).  GINA prohibits the use of genetic information to make decisions about health insurance and employment, and restricts the acquisition and disclosure of genetic information.  The regulations, approved unanimously by the Commission, provide examples of genetic tests; more fully explain GINA's prohibition against requesting, requiring, or purchasing genetic information; provide model language employers can use when requesting medical information from employees to avoid acquiring genetic information; and describe how GINA applies to genetic information obtained via electronic media, including websites and social networking sites.

The U.S. Department of Justice filed a complaint and consent decree Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to resolve an investigation into Hilton Worldwide Inc. (HWI), formerly, Hilton Hotels Corporation, for a pattern and practice of violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by its owned, managed, joint venture and franchised hotels.  The complaint alleges that HWI failed to design and construct its hotels in compliance with the ADA after Jan. 26, 1993, by failing to provide accessible guest rooms with roll-in showers for individuals with mobility disabilities; failing to disperse designated accessible guest rooms across various classes of rooms and amenities; failing to reasonably modify its policies, practices and procedures to accommodate individuals with disabilities; and failing to provide individuals with disabilities the same opportunity to reserve accessible guest rooms using the Hilton telephonic and internet central reservations systems.  HWI owns, operates and franchises more than 2,800 hotels throughout the United States under various trade and service names and marks including, Hilton, Conrad Hotels & Resorts, Doubletree, Embassy Suites Hotels, Hampton Inn, Hilton Garden Inn, Hilton Grand Vacations, Homewood Suites, the Waldorf Astoria and Home2Suites.

For copies of this and previous issues of Legislative News In Brief please visit the Public Policy Page of the AUCD website:

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