AUCD Legislative News In Brief

November 21, 2011

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
  November 21, 2011   |  Vol. XI, Issue 46
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Congressional Schedule
Both the House and Senate are in recess this week.

FY 2012 Appropriations
The House and Senate passed Thursday the first "minibus" package of three FY 2012 spending bills (H.R. 2112) for Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science, and Transportation-HUD.  The president signed the measure Friday.  The bill also includes a continuing resolution (CR) to provide funding through December 16 for all other federal programs.  Like the previous CR which expired Friday, the new CR continues to fund most federal programs at 1.503 percent below FY 2011 levels.  During the House Rules Committee's consideration of the package, House Appropriations Chair Harold Rogers (R-KY) outlined his plans to consider the remaining nine annual appropriations bills in a single "omnibus" package prior to the end of the calendar year. 

Housing Funding
Funding for the Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), part of the minibus (see Appropriations above), sustained an overall nine percent cut for FY 2012 according to the conference report (
Report 112-284).  However, funding for Section 8 Choice Vouchers and project-based renewals are close to level-funding; and funding for the Section 811 Housing for People with Disabilities is increased by ten percent.  Hard hit are the HOME investment program (38% cut) and Community Development Block Grant (12% cut).

FY 2013 Budget
Despite working through the weekend, news sources report that the
Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction ("super committee") was unable to agree on a deficit-reduction plan in time to meet its November 23 deadline.  The Committee reportedly issued a written statement to that effect late today.  Like similar groups before them, the committee's negotiations broke down over entitlement programs and taxes.  This means that Congress will not have an opportunity to use fast-track procedures to pass a plan by the end of the year, and unless Congress can pass at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction by the end of 2012, automatic, across-the-board cuts to federal discretionary spending will begin in January 2013.  This "sequestration" process would not apply to Medicaid and Social Security, but would mean deep cuts for a number of discretionary health, disability and education programs.  AUCD and other advocates are concerned about the impact sequestration, reconciliation or other mechanisms used to achieve savings could have on people with disabilities if a comprehensive, balanced approach to deficit reduction is not achieved.

AUCD recently signed onto a letter of the Families USA Medicaid Coalition opposing proposals for mandatory managed care for people who are dually eligible for Medicaid and Medicare. The letter urges the Super Committee to use caution as it develops initiatives to cut costs by trying to cap expenditures for the "dual-eligibles."  The letter states that while "we believe there are many opportunities under existing law to improve care for dual-eligibles through better care coordination and integration of payment models...there is no one-size-fits-all model of care for dual-eligibles...and a universal compulsory model, such as mandatory enrollment in private managed care plans, is a bad idea."  A final letter will be posted on AUCD's website soon.

Balanced Budget Amendment
The balanced budget amendment to the Constitution failed to garner the required two-thirds vote in the House of Representatives Friday.  Both chambers are required to vote on such an amendment before the end of the year, according to the debt ceiling deal reached over the summer - the Budget Control Act.   A balanced budget amendment is a constitutional rule requiring that the government not spend more than its income. If enacted, it could have devastating effects on the economy and federal programs because it would require either drastic spending cuts or tax increases to achieve balance.  Last week, 277 national organizations, including AUCD, signed onto a
letter opposing the amendment.

Asset Development/ABLE Act
The Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE Act, H.R. 3423 and S. 1872) was reintroduced on November 15 by Reps. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Kathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA) in the House and Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA) and Richard Burr (R-NC) in the Senate.  The purpose of the legislation is to encourage and assist individuals with disabilities and families to save their own money so that they can maintain health, independence, and quality of life.  ABLE accounts allow people with disabilities to save for expenses like education, housing, and transportation.  ABLE accounts would be disregarded when determining eligibility for Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs, and other means-tested programs.  AUCD signed onto a letter prepared by the Collaboration to Promote Self-Determination in support of this legislation. 

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health approved a bill (HR 1173) to repeal the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Program in the Affordable Care Act.  The full Energy and Commerce Committee must now take up the bill.  Even if it passes the House, the bill is not likely to move in the Senate or be signed by the President. 

The National Council on Disability, the advisory body to the President on disability issues, sent a letter to President Obama urging the Administration to oppose repeal and continue implementation of the CLASS Program.  Last month, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that, for the time being, it was suspending implementation due to concerns about the program's long-term sustainability.  Disability and aging groups have urged HHS to continue working on solutions until CLASS can be a viable solution to the nation's long-term services and supports needs.  LeadingAge is making a free call-in line available for people to call their Senators and urge them not to repeal CLASS.  The number is 866-898-2642. See AUCD's alert and sample letter in the Action Center.

Representative Judy Chu (D-CA) recently introduced the Equal Access to Quality Education Act (HR 2902).  The bill would establish a voluntary competitive grant program to create partnerships between high-need school districts and institutions of higher education to ensure that traditionally underserved students, including those with disabilities, have access to well-prepared and well-supported teachers.  In addition, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) recently introduced bills to ensure teacher quality for traditionally underserved students.  The Assuring Successful Students through Effective Teaching Act (S. 1716) would require that all students be taught by fully-prepared teachers by strengthening the definition of a "highly qualified teacher" in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (No Child Left Behind).  The bill also focuses on teacher effectiveness, and requires that school districts distribute highly qualified and effective teachers in an equitable manner.  AUCD signed onto letters supporting both bills.

The Alliance for Health Reform, Kaiser Family Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The SCAN Foundation recently co-sponsored a briefing entitled "Inside Deficit Reduction: What It Means for Medicaid."  The briefing featured panelists discussing deficit-reduction proposals being considered and how those proposals would impact Medicaid enrollees, providers and state Medicaid programs.  A video of the briefing is available
here. The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured also released a new brief, "Medicaid and the Budget Control Act: What Options Will Be Considered?" highlighting the Medicaid options being considered.

Transportation & ADA
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a hearing Thursday entitled "The Americans with Disabilities Act and Accessible Transportation: Challenges and Opportunities."  Witnesses included David Capozzi from the U.S. Access Board and Bill Altom of the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living.  The panel discussed barriers to transportation for individuals with disabilities and opportunities for improvement.


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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