AUCD Legislative News In Brief

September 12, 2011

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
  September 12, 2011   |  Vol. XI, Issue 37
Subscribe to AUCD InBrief  |  AUCD InBrief Archive  | RSS

Combating Autism Reauthorization Act
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee unanimously approved the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act (
S. 1094) on Wednesday!  Although this is an important step forward, the full Senate and the House must now pass the bill and there are precious few legislative days left before the law expires on September 30.  The bill is still facing major hurdles in the House of Representatives, where the leadership is under the false impression that the law does not need to be reauthorized for activities to continue.  Additionally, the House majority leadership has stated that "condition- or disease-specific" bills will not be allowed to come to the floor for a vote.  AUCD is working to educate targeted Republicans to urge the leadership to allow the bill to come to the House floor.  There are now 77 cosponsors of the House bill (HR 2005) and 32 co-sponsors of the Senate bill.  Please visit AUCD's Action Center for tools you can use to encourage your members of Congress to support these bills.  If your Representative is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, it is particularly important to educate him/her about the impact of this law in your state and the country.  Letters to the editor and other press contacts are also very important at this time.  For more information, or to discuss how you can help, email Kim Musheno at [email protected].

FY 2012 Appropriations
The scheduled markup for the House Labor, Health and Human Services and Education appropriations bill was canceled last week.  With only a handful of legislative days before the beginning of the new fiscal year on October 1, Congress will not have time to complete its annual funding bills.  House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has already scheduled action next week for a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government running while the appropriations process continues.  Lawmakers still need to decide how long the CR will last and where to set spending levels.  Typically, CRs extend funding levels from the previous fiscal year, but lawmakers may set the level according to the $1.043 trillion cap on FY 2012 discretionary spending established by the
Budget Control Act (debt limit law).

FY 2013 Budget
Joint Special Committee on Deficit Reduction created by the Budget Control Act held its first in-person meeting on Thursday, during which committee members gave statements and the group adopted its operating rules.  The rules are intended to allow the committee to work in a transparent manner, but also hold private meetings or hearings with a majority vote.  They also require the committee to post hearing transcripts and hearing materials to its website.  The panel is tasked with finding ways to reduce the deficit by $1.5 trillion by November 23.  It will need to complete its work by early November in order to allow time for the Congressional Budget Office to complete cost estimates for the plan.     

American Jobs Act
Appearing before a joint session of Congress Thursday night, President Obama unveiled his plan to create jobs and spur the economy, the American Jobs Act.  A fact sheet outlining the plan is available.  White House officials announced that a bill will be submitted to Congress early this week.  The plan includes tax cuts for businesses that hire unemployed workers, funding to prevent teacher layoffs and hire law enforcement and firefighters, investments in modernizing public schools and transportation infrastructure, and an extension of unemployment benefits and payroll tax cuts enacted last year.  To pay for the proposal, the President is asking the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction created by the Budget Control Act to find additional savings as they develop their ten year plan to reduce the deficit. 

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will hold a hearing Thursday on employment of individuals with the most significant disabilities.  Witnesses will include Jonathan Young, Chair of the National Council on Disability, Julie Petty, Past President of Self Advocates Becoming Empowered and Fredric Schroeder, Former Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration.

Health Care Reform
Last week, a federal appellate court threw out two suits challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on procedural grounds.  In both cases, one brought by Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cucinelli and the other by Liberty University of Lynchburg, Va., the court declined to rule on the merits of the plaintiffs' claims.  So far, one court has held that the individual mandate is constitutional and another has ruled that it is not.  The Virginia and Liberty cases were the first to be heard at the federal appeals level.  Ultimately, the Supreme Court is expected to decide the issue of the law's constitutionality.

Lifespan Respite
Senate Health (HELP) Committee staff invited the National Respite Coalition to provide a short statement in support of the Lifespan Respite Program at a meeting to discuss caregiving issues with committee staff on Friday.  While this meeting was in preparation for the Older Americans Act reauthorization, the Coalition has been invited to help raise awareness among HELP staff that this program exists and will need to have its own separate reauthorization.  Jill Kagan, Chair of the Coalition, provided the statement.  The Lifespan Respite Care Program was authorized under a new Title XXIX to the Public Health Service Act when enacted by Congress in 2006 (P.L. 109-442), but it received no funding at all until FY 2009.  The program is authorized at $94.8 million for FY 2011, but has never received more than $2.5 million in any of the fiscal years 2009-2011.  For FY 2012, the President has recommended $10 million as part of the Administration's Caregiver Initiative. 

The Department of Education released a notice of proposed rulemaking to amend regulations governing Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  The proposed changes relate to state or local agency use of a child's or parent's public benefits or insurance (Medicaid) to pay for special education services. 

The Department also issue informal guidance in response to a request from the National Association of State Directors of Special Education regarding IDEA's "maintenance of effort" provision which requires that States and local school districts keep their spending on special education services the same from year to year.  The guidance explains that districts can use reduced funding levels set in 2011 as their baseline, meaning that they can reduce their spending for these services and still meet the requirements of the law.  Some legal advocacy groups have asked that the guidance be reconsidered.


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:


AUCD | 1010 Wayne Avenue, Suite 920 | Silver Spring | MD | 20910