AUCD Legislative News In Brief

March 14, 2011

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
  March 14, 2011   |  Vol. XI, Issue 11
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FY 2011 Appropriations
The House expects to consider a sixth continuing resolution (CR) to provide funding for government programs in this fiscal year (FY 2011).  The new short-term CR will go through April 4.  The current CR expires on March 18.  The short-term CR, which is expected to pass the House on Tuesday and the Senate later in the week, would also cut $6 billion in current spending.  The cuts are again from the non-security domestic discretionary spending part of the budget.  AUCD network programs continue to be level-funded in FY 2011.  Most of the cuts are in earmarks in several agencies other than Health and Human Services, including the Department of Justice with an elimination of $91 million in earmarked funds in juvenile justice programs. 

Last week, the Senate held votes on both the House-passed Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act for 2011 (H.R. 1) and the Senate alternative offered by the Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI) on Wednesday.  Both measures failed to receive enough votes to pass, with H.R. 1 failing 44-56, and the Senate alternative failing 42-58.  

FY 2012 Budget
While appropriators continue to work on finalizing FY 2011 spending, House Budget Committee members are beginning to draft a budget resolution for FY 2012.  From meetings with members of the Budget Committee, AUCD has learned from staff that all parts of the budget are on the table for cuts in the upcoming fiscal year, including Medicare and Medicaid. 

William Kiernan Ph.D., Director of the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts, will testify at a public hearing of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Tuesday on "Employment of People with Mental Disabilities."  The meeting will explore the reasons for the disproportionately high unemployment rates for people with intellectual disabilities and how barriers for employment might be addressed.  An archived webcast and transcript of the meeting will be available on the EEOC website after the meeting.

Health Care Reform
The Obama Administration endorsed efforts to allow states to opt-out of the Affordable Care Act's requirements, provided that they have in place alternate structures to accomplish the law's goals.  The Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday new proposed rules to allow states to apply for these "Innovation Waivers", which would give states the power and flexibility to innovate and implement health care solutions that work best for them.  To qualify for a waiver, the state must ensure that its policies will provide coverage that is at least as comprehensive as coverage offered through Health Insurance Exchanges (new competitive, private health insurance marketplaces) created by the law, and that coverage must be at least as affordable as it would have been through the Exchanges.  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 such waivers.

The Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing Wednesday entitled "Setting Fiscal Priorities in Health Care Funding."  The focus of the hearing was a proposal to reclassify mandatory funding in the Affordable Care Act as discretionary funding (including the Prevention Trust Fund), which would make it easier for the law's opponents to cut off funding for its implementation in later appropriations bills.  View the archived webcast of the hearing and witness testimony on the Committee's website.

The Health Subcommittee will hold a hearing on Thursday on the implementation and sustainability of the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act.  Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, some have called for the repeal of the CLASS Act, questioning its long-term sustainability despite provisions in the law requiring it to be solvent for at least 75 years and analyses from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office finding that the program will reduce the federal deficit by $70.2 billion over ten years.  For more information about the CLASS Act, see AUCD's Summary of long-term services and supports provisions in the Affordable Care Act.  To contact your Representative about CLASS, use AUCD's Action Center.

Two other hearings will focus on oversight and implementation of the Affordable Care Act.  The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will hold a hearing on Thursday regarding state implementation efforts; the Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday entitled, "Lessons Learned in the First Year."

Social Security
Marty Ford, co-chair of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Social Security Task Force, testified before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Wednesday on the Social Security Administration's budget for fiscal years 2011 and 2012.   AUCD signed onto the testimony, which emphasized the importance of Social Security programs for people with disabilities and the effects that proposed appropriations legislation would have on them and their beneficiaries.  An archived webcast of the hearing and the testimony of the witnesses can be found on the Committee's website.

Democratic and Republican lawmakers from the House and Senate education committees met with President Obama and Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan Thursday to discuss plans for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (No Child Left Behind).  The meeting was part of a series that will take place over the next several months while legislators write a bill in hopes of reauthorizing the law this year.  The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, chaired by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), has been working to draft a bill for the last several months.  The House Education and Workforce Committee has not held any hearings specifically on reauthorization.  During the meeting, the lawmakers agreed about the need for more flexibility under the law, but Sen. Harkin said it should not be "flexible enough that they can turn the clock back 20 years and keep kids with disabilities from learning." 

Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both Maine Republicans, recently introduced the S. 280, the No Child Left Behind Flexibility and Improvements Act.  The bill would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to give states more flexibility to meet the law's requirements in the areas of annual yearly progress and assessments, reading and limited English proficiency students, special education, highly qualified teachers and funding.  Several provisions in the bill are of concern to disability advocates, as they would codify (make law) two controversial regulations allowing states to give certain students with disabilities alternate assessments to test their academic progress. 

ADA Implementation
Last week, the U.S. Justice Department found a Houston-based bus company to be in violation of passenger carrier accessibility requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) due to absence of wheelchair lifts in its fleet of 85.  In addition to the $55,000 fine, a consent agreement between the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Autobuses Ejecutivos LLC doing business as Omnibus Express requires Omnibus Express to upgrade its fleet to meet ADA requirements by July 2011 or face revocation of its operating authority. 

Definitions for Terms Used in In Brief

Budget Resolution: legislation that sets forth the congressional budget, establishing various budget totals, allocations, entitlements.  The budget resolution serves as a blueprint for the actual appropriation process. It binds Congress, but it is not law.

Continuing Resolution: a type of appropriations (funding) legislation used by Congress to fund government agencies if a formal appropriations bill has not been signed into law by the end of the Congressional fiscal year. It provides funding for existing federal programs at current or reduced levels.

Fiscal year: the accounting period for the federal government which begins on October 1 and ends on September 30.


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