AUCD Legislative News In Brief

March 7, 2011

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
  March 7, 2011   |  Vol. XI, Issue 10
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Congressional Schedule
House and Senate leaders continue to negotiate fiscal year 2011 spending levels this week.  The Senate is expected to vote on two appropriations bills, perhaps as early as Tuesday (See FY 2011 Appropriations below).  The Senate Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing on proposed fiscal year 2012 appropriations with Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew on Tuesday. 

FY 2011 Appropriations
Congress passed and President Obama signed into law last week a short-term continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government for an additional two weeks while lawmakers continue to negotiate appropriation levels for the remainder of fiscal year 2011.  The CR (P.L. 112-4), which expires on March 18, cuts $4 billion in federal discretionary funds.  The White House got involved in the spending debate last week, with Vice President Joe Biden convening discussions with congressional leaders from both parties Thursday.  Republicans are using their House-passed bill, H.R. 1, as the starting point for negotiations.  It would cut $61.5 billion in spending from FY 2010 levels and slash funding for implementation of the Affordable Care Act.  On Friday, Senate Appropriations Chair Daniel Inouye (D-HI) released the text of a CR to fund the rest of FY 2011 which would make $6.5 billion in cuts in addition to the $4 billion cut in the current CR.  The Senate bill restores $25 billion for Labor, Health and Human Services and Education programs that would be cut in the Republican proposal.  All DD Act programs, including UCEDDs and LENDs, are level-funded at FY 2010 levels in the Senate bill.  For more information, see the summary of the Senate bill's funding for Labor-HHS-Education programs and the accompanying table. 

The Senate may vote as early as tomorrow on both H.R. 1 and the Senate bill.  Senate leaders acknowledge that neither proposal is likely to draw enough support to pass, and the expected failure of both bills would make clear that the two sides need to meet somewhere in the middle in order to move forward.  AUCD forwarded an action alert on this issue earlier today.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a hearing Wednesday entitled "Improving Employment Opportunities for People with Intellectual Disabilities."  Dr. William Kiernan, Director of the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts, testified about successful strategies for implementing competitive, integrated work settings for persons with intellectual disabilities, barriers to employment and state and federal policy suggestions.  Other witnesses included Sharon Lewis, Commissioner of the Administration on Developmental Disabilities, and Lynnae Ruttledge, Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration.  The witnesses' testimony and a video of the hearing can be found on the committee's website. 

Health Care Reform
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testified at a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Health Subcommittee Thursday on the President's FY 2012 budget request for HHS and implementation of the Affordable Care Act.  During her testimony, the Secretary defended the budget, stating that it is about investing resources in a way that pays off in the future.  An archived webcast of the hearing, as well as the Secretary's testimony, can be found on the committee's website.  The Health Subcommittee will hold a hearing this Wednesday on a proposal to reclassify mandatory funding in the Affordable Care Act as discretionary funding, which would make it easier for the law's opponents to cut off funding for its implementation in later appropriations bills. 

Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Scott Brown (R-MA) recently introduced a bill (S. 248) to allow states to seek waivers from the requirements of the Affordable Care Act before 2017, which is the earliest date that states could request such waivers under the current law.  In a speech to the National Governors Association, President Obama indicated that he would support the proposal, provided that states wishing to opt out of ACA's requirements (including provisions requiring most people to buy health insurance, the so-called "individual mandate") have in place alternate structures to accomplish the law's goals.  Meanwhile, 27 governors have proposed restructuring Medicaid to utilize block grants, which are fixed, upfront Federal funding allocations that the state would use over a predetermined amount of time.  Proponents of block grants say that they would give states more flexibility to tailor the program to the states' individual needs.  Opponents believe that a block grant structure would leave states without adequate funding and result in a loss of coverage for the most vulnerable populations.  For more information, please see the Kaiser Health News article on the block grant issue.

Social Security
Marty Ford, co-chair of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Social Security Task Force, will testify before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Wednesday on the Social Security Administration's budgets for fiscal years 2011 and 2012.  The Social Security Administration administers the Disability Insurance (SSDI) and other Title II disability benefits provided to disabled workers and their families, as well as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which provides financial support to aged, blind and disabled adults and children who have limited income and resources.  Both SSI and SSDI are crucial income support programs for people with disabilities and their families.  AUCD signed onto the testimony and will make it available in next week's In Brief.

Post-Secondary Education
AUCD and other advocates met with officials at the Department of Education last week to discuss the Transition Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities into Higher Education (TPSID) program in the President's FY 2012 budget proposal.  The President's request proposes to consolidate this program and another model demonstration program for students with disabilities into and new program run out of the Fund for Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE).  Advocates are concerned that the consolidated program may end the current TPSID programs and not adequately address the education of students with intellectual disabilities.  However, Department officials assured AUCD that the current grantees will be continued without needing to re-compete and that the programs would continue to operate as authorized.  AUCD issued an action alert on the issue last week, and will be visiting key members of Congress to ensure the continuation of these important programs.


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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