AUCD Legislative News In Brief

June 13, 2011

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
  June 13, 2011   |  Vol. XI, Issue 24
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Congressional Schedule
The House and Senate are both in session this week.  The House begins considering FY 2012 appropriations bills with funding bills for Military-Veterans Affairs and Agriculture slated for floor consideration this week.  The Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (L-HHS-ED) funding bill will likely be one of the last to be considered because it is the largest and most controversial.  The House Judiciary Committee will continue debating a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution on Wednesday.

FY 2012 Budget & Appropriations
Negotiations led by Vice President Joe Biden over raising the federal debt limit are ramping up, with the bipartisan group meeting on three consecutive days this week.  Lawmakers involved in the discussions seem to have toned down their political rhetoric and have increasingly expressed confidence that a deal can be reached before the U.S. defaults on its financial obligations in early August.  The Biden group is reportedly aiming for $1 trillion in spending cuts in the short term, and $4 trillion in the coming decade.  Meanwhile, President Obama has asked Biden to target wasteful government spending as part of the Administration's new "Campaign to Cut Waste".  The Campaign's goal is to save billions of dollars by rewriting wasteful contracts, selling federal property, reducing improper payments and cutting unnecessary administrative costs.  These savings will be combined with those being negotiated by Biden's group to meet the President's goal of $4 trillion. 

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and six cosigners sent a "Dear Colleague" letter to Senate appropriators on behalf of the State and Territorial Councils on Developmental Disabilities, Protection and Advocacy Systems and University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities urging them to support funding for these DD Act programs in fiscal year 2012.  Sens. Jeffrey Merkley (D-OR), Dick Durbin (D-IL), John Kerry (D-MA), John Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) cosigned the letter. 

AUCD staff participated in a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Melody Barnes, the President's Domestic Policy Advisor, Kareem Dale, Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy, Roberto Rodriguez, Special Assistant to the President for Education Policy, and Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services Assistant Secretary Alexa Posny for a discussion and to gather input on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  During the meeting, Duncan expressed some frustration with the lack of action by Congress and stated that if Congress fails to reauthorize the ESEA by the start of the next school year, the Department will try to make reforms through regulations. 

Secretary Duncan's reform ideas are expressed in an op-ed in today's Politico, a Hill newspaper in which he states that the administration would waive some of the law's requirements for states that adopt a package of changes it supports.  Such waivers are designed to provide relief to states from some of the law's most onerous requirements, which critics argue label too many schools as failures and encourage states to water down standardized tests.  While the package of changes that states will have to adopt is still being developed, it will likely include goals in the administration's Race to the Top program, such as adopting new curriculum standards, building data systems that measure student growth and teacher performance, and adopting one of four turnaround strategies for the lowest performing schools.  While officials emphasized that states will not be able to pick and choose which changes they will implement in exchange for a waiver, disability advocates have stressed that students with disabilities must not be left out of states' accountability systems. 

Staff from the offices of Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Michael Enzi (R-WY) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) have been working over the past two years in a bipartisan effort to renew and improve the Workforce Investment Act.  A key goal of this reauthorization proposal, according to staff, is to improve, align, and coordinate employment, education, training, and vocational rehabilitation services.  Draft bills for Titles I and II of the Act were released on Friday.  According to the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee staff, Titles III-VI will be distributed separately over the next several days.  Title V includes amendments to the Rehabilitation Act and vocational rehabilitation programs, and is expected to include new provisions related to transitioning youth with disabilities and promoting employment first policies.  AUCD staff sent the draft legislation to the Legislative Affairs Committee for input.  Please contact
Kim Musheno for more information.

Health Care Reform
AUCD was in attendance when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius addressed the National Disability Rights Network at their annual meeting on Tuesday.  Her focus was on how the Affordable Care Act impacts people with disabilities.  In her remarks, she includes information on the Administration's efforts to implement the Community First Choice Option and the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act program; provides information on grant opportunities through the Money Follows the Person systems change efforts and new grants from the SAMHSA to help integrate primary and behavioral health care; and updates on coordinated efforts with HUD to help people with disabilities find affordable housing in the community.  Finally, Secretary Sebelius discusses the dangerous threats to Medicaid under the House Republican budget plan and urges disability advocates to take part in the national conversation on these issues. 

Family Support
Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) are planning to reintroduce the Family Medical Leave Inclusion Act (FMLIA) as soon as this week.  The FMLIA updates the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 to reflect the diverse nature of American families and their caregiver roles, and will help workers meet the dual demands of work and family.  The FMLIA allows an employee to take unpaid leave to care for adult children with disabilities (current law is limited to caring for children under the age of 18).  The bill would also allow a worker to care for a parent-in-law, sibling, grandchild or grandparent, or same-sex partner if that person has a serious health condition.  AUCD signed onto a letter prepared by the National Partnership for Women and Families in support of the bill.

Social Security
Representatives Tom Petri (R-WI) and Niki Tsongas (D-MA) introduced a bipartisan bill (H.R. 2103) to reform asset limit tests in the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.  The SSI Savers Act of 2011 increases asset limits from $2,000 (for individuals) and $3,000 (for couples) to $5,000 and $7,500 respectively, and indexes those limits for inflation.  For recipients younger than 65, the bill excludes retirement, education savings, and individual development accounts from counting against the limit.


For definitions of terms used in In Brief, please see AUCD's Glossary of Legislative Terms.

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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