AUCD Legislative News In Brief

July 16, 2012

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
  July 16, 2012   |  Vol. XII, Issue 28
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Congressional Schedule
A House subcommittee will mark up fiscal 2013 appropriations legislation for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education on Wednesday (See Appropriations).  Later in the week, the House will take up a bill that would require the Obama administration to detail the likely impact of the "sequester", the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts scheduled to take effect in January.

AUCD Fellowship in Disability Policy Leadership
AUCD is still accepting applications for the 2013 Disability Policy Leadership Fellow. The fellowship is a tremendous and rewarding opportunity to gain a comprehensive understanding of key legislation and federal policymaking.  The fellow will get to experience living and working in Washington, DC for one year, learn about AUCD and current federal legislation affecting people with disabilities and their families, and exercise strong leadership skills.  AUCD welcomes applications from any network member who is staff at a UCEDD, LEND, or IDDRC, or a graduate-level trainee.  Past fellows have included recent graduates and mid-career professionals with a variety of expertise in areas such as social work, education, disability studies, business administration, and law. 
Click here to find out more about the fellowship and to read about the experiences of the current fellow, Kristina Majewski, through her blog: "Transitioning into a Brave (New) World."  For more information and to apply, click here. The deadline for applications is July 30, 2012 or until the position is filled.

The House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT), has scheduled a markup of its fiscal 2013 draft bill on July 18.  Already a very large and contentious bill, it will likely become more so as opponents of the Affordable Care Act are expected to introduce amendments to defund the law.  Adding to the controversy is the fact that the funding cap for the House version of the bill is nearly $8 billion less than the Senate-passed bill.  For these reasons, most policy analysts agree that the bill may be passed on a party-line vote, but will not likely move forward to the full House floor.  Last year, the subcommittee prepared a draft Labor-HHS-Education bill but did not mark it up.  The programs covered by the bill, including AUCD network programs, were funded under a late-year omnibus bill (a bill combining multiple annual funding bills).  

Discretionary Spending Cuts (Sequestration)
AUCD has been involved with a large coalition of organizations representing individuals and families impacted by the looming 8-10% automatic cuts (sequester) to non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs, including UCEDD, IDDRC, and LEND programs.  Nearly 3,000 national, state and local organizations, including AUCD and individual Centers, signed onto a
letter urging Congress to pursue a more balanced approach to deficit reduction and to preserve funding for non-defense discretionary programs.  The letter was sent to all members of Congress and to media outlets.  The coalition has recently developed a Customizable Fact Sheet with talking points regarding impacts of the pending cuts.

Disability Treaty
On Thursday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, held a
hearing to consider ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) (See May 29 In Brief for background information).  The nearly four-hour hearing featured positive opening remarks from Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) as well as three panels of witnesses both in support of and opposition to treaty ratification.  The first panelists were Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Senator John McCain (R-AZ), whose testimony included a statement from former Senator Bob Dole that reiterated the need for ratification in order to improve physical, technological and communication access outside the U.S.  The remaining two panels included testimonies from various supporters, including former chief of the disability rights section in the Department of Justice, which faced extensive questioning about the limitations and scope of the treaty and assured the committee that the treaty does not create new rights, but is simply a non-discrimination treaty.  Testimony in opposition was provided by panelists from the Heritage Foundation and Home School Legal Defense, who are concerned that the convention will allow the government to step in and take away parental rights, including the ability to home school their child with disabilities.  Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), argued against ratification, claiming it was unnecessary for the U.S. to bind itself to a global pact or submit to international scrutiny of America's treatment of people with disabilities.  The Committee is expected to vote on the treaty this week.  If the treaty is approved by the Committee, it will need 67 votes to pass the full Senate.  The next step is for the Foreign Relations Committee to pass the treaty on July 19 (see announcement). Please visit AUCD's action center to contact and educate your Senators about the CRPD.  Visit USICD's website to sign a joint letter in support of the CRPD. 

Restraint & Seclusion in Schools
Also on Thursday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing entitled "Beyond Seclusion and Restraint: Creating Positive Learning Environments for All Students."  The focus of the hearing was on positive alternatives to restraint and seclusion in schools.  Daniel Crimmins, PhD, Past President of AUCD and Director of the Center for Leadership in Disability at Georgia State University, was among the panel of witnesses who gave compelling testimony about how positive strategies to change behavior can be successful for all students and create a positive school climate where techniques such as restraint and seclusion are used rarely, if at all.  Other witnesses included Dr. Michael George, Director of the Centennial School in Pennsylvania which has drastically reduced the use of restraint and seclusion under his direction; Cyndi Pitonyak, Coordinator of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports for the Montgomery County, Virginia school district; and Debbie Jackson, the parent of a young child whose behavior was improved through positive strategies at the Centennial School.  Sheila Foster, the mother of Cory Foster, who died as a result of being restrained in April 2012, also attended the hearing.  During his opening statement, Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) emphasized that, for students who are secluded and restrained, "the stakes are very high, sometimes as high as life and death."  AUCD strongly supports the Keeping All Students Safe Act (S. 2020, H.R. 1381), which would limit the use of restraint and seclusion in schools and promote positive alternatives like those discussed during the hearing.  An archived video of the hearing and written testimony can be found here.  AUCD also issued a press statement applauding the HELP Committee for examining this issue.

Health Care Reform
Both the Congress and state Governors continue to react after the Supreme Court's ruling that upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  The House of Representatives passed legislation Thursday to repeal the law in its entirety; the chamber has held more than 30 votes to repeal all or part of the ACA.  Like each of its predecessors, the bill will not likely be taken up in the Senate.  Meanwhile, Governors of Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Wisconsin have indicated they will not expand Medicaid to cover those with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, as the law allows.  The Supreme Court ruling effectively made the expansion an option for states by protecting their existing federal Medicaid funding if they choose not to expand.  American Health Line has prepared a summary of state governors' current stand: "Medicaid: Where Each State Stands on the Medicaid Expansion."  For a detailed analysis of how health care reform's Medicaid expansion will impact state budgets, including good talking points to use in your state advocacy efforts, see the most recent Center on Budget and Policy Priorities brief.

Save the Date: National Forum on Disability Issues
News anchor and journalist
Judy Woodruff from the PBS NewsHour has confirmed she will moderate the forum.  Now with over 40 disability and aging organizations as co-sponsors, the planning committee will continue to work on commitments of the presidential candidates.  If you have personal connections with the candidates or their campaign staff or would like to co-sponsor the forum, please contact Kim Musheno.  For general information on the forum read the FAQ on AUCD's homepage.  To further support the forum, like it on Facebook! 


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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