AUCD Legislative News In Brief

August 27, 2012

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
  August 27, 2012   |  Vol. XII, Issue 34
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Congressional Schedule
Congress is in recess until the week of September 10th.  Disability advocates should be contacting their Senators and Representatives while they are in their home states or attending town hall meetings and other events.  See AUCD's Action Center for information about important issues.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued Wednesday its summer budget update "Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2012 to 2022."  For fiscal year 2012 (which ends on September 30), the federal budget deficit will total $1.1 trillion, CBO estimates. That projection is down slightly from the $1.2 trillion deficit that CBO projected in March.  Federal debt held by the public will reach 73 percent of Gross Domestic Product by the end of this fiscal year-the highest level since 1950 and about twice the share that it measured at the end of 2007, before the financial crisis and recent recession.  Even gloomier is CBO's prediction for next year if Congress fails to address the so-called "fiscal cliff", the scheduled sequester (across-the-board cuts) and expiring tax cuts enacted during the Bush Administration.  If Congress fails to act to prevent the sequester, CBO predicts the nation will enter a deep recession in 2013; the expiring "extenders" package for unemployment benefits and payroll tax holiday, coupled with a weaker economy, has made the 2013 outlook more dire. The CBO report finds that allowing the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts on income over $250,000 to expire on schedule at the end of 2012 would save $823 billion in revenue and $127 billion on interest on the nation's debt.  Overall, this would mean $950 billion in ten-year deficit reduction, a significant step in the direction of fiscal stability.

Meanwhile, a "Gang of Eight" bipartisan Senators is reportedly continuing to work on finding a balanced approach to deficit reduction.  Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) said, "A lot of important behind-the-scenes work is being done now on the key elements of a comprehensive, balanced and bipartisan long-term fiscal plan. While our small group consists of four Democrats and four Republicans, upwards of 40-plus Republican and Democratic Senators are supporting and encouraging our efforts to reach a balanced agreement that includes entitlement changes, tax reform and additional spending cuts."  Senator Conrad said further that the fear of the fiscal cliff may give both sides enough of a push to forge an agreement.

Before Congress recessed, House and Senate leaders agreed on a continuing resolution (CR) to continue funding for all government programs through April 2013.  Congress is expected to pass the CR soon after they reconvene in September.  The CR was needed because none of the 12 annual funding bills has been signed into law.  House and Senate fiscal conservatives reluctantly agreed to keep funding relatively level in the six-month CR, hoping that they will gain seats in November and be able to push for deeper spending cuts in the next Congress.  The CR will reflect the $1.047 trillion cap set on discretionary spending for fiscal 2013 in last year's debt limit agreement (PL 112-25).  House Republicans earlier had pushed to reduce this cap to $1.028 trillion from the current year's level of $1.043 trillion.  It is unclear what Congress will do about fiscal 2013 appropriations after it passes the six-month CR.  If Gov. Romney becomes president and Republicans win a majority in the Senate and maintain a majority in the House, conservatives will likely push for deeper cuts in spending in the second half of the fiscal year.

AUCD signed onto a letter to the Chairman of the National Governors Association, Delaware Governor Jack Markell, in support of his new initiative, "A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities."  The initiative is a public-private partnership aimed at increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities by creating a blueprint for businesses and states that identifies best practices and outlines steps to increase employment opportunities and launching a campaign to help governors put these practices in place.  For more information, see Gov. Markell's video on the initiative.

ADA Settlement
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) recently entered into an eight-year
settlement agreement with North Carolina to expand its community-based services for the mentally ill after the Department found the state to be in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The settlement was the result of a 2010 Olmstead investigation of the State's mental health service system, which serves thousands of individuals with mental illness in large adult group homes.  Under the agreement, North Carolina will provide integrated supported housing to 3,000 adults with serious mental illness who currently reside in, or are at risk of entering, adult care homes.  The state also will invest in job training and employment assistance to over 2,500 individuals and establish a comprehensive crisis care program, as well as access to critical mental health services in the community.  Visit the DOJ's Olmstead Webpage for more information on this settlement, including a fact sheet and the original complaint, as well as past ADA settlements.  Currently, additional states are the subject of similar federal allegations which the DOJ will continue to investigate. 

Election Updates
Today marks the beginning of a four-day long Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. Just last Tuesday, Republicans adopted a party platform that, among other policies, endorses Medicaid policies that are unpopular within the disability community, including Medicaid block grants. The Democratic National Convention will take place the week of September 3rd, in Charlotte, North Carolina.

National Presidential Forum on Disabilities
The planning committee needs the help of everyone in the disability community to make the National Forum on Disability Issues a success.  Each of the campaigns has acknowledged the event, but has not yet committed to participate.  Fifty-seven million people with disabilities are anxious to hear what the candidates have to say about their disability policies. The disability community can help by writing a
letter to the Campaign Offices of President Obama, Governor Romney and to Ohio candidates, Josh Mandel and Sen. Sherrod Brown.  Tell them why the Forum and disability issues are important to you and to the disability community.  Everyone is encouraged to participate in the forum, either in person, or via the live webcast.  Individuals and organizations are encouraged to submit stories and video invites directly to the candidates using the contact information on the forum website:

AUCD Fellowship in Disability Policy Leadership
AUCD is still accepting applications for the 2013 Disability Policy Leadership Fellow. 
Click here to find out more about the fellowship.  This is a fantastic opportunity for network members to learn about disability policy development "hands-on."  Feel free to email Kim Musheno with questions or a letter of interest.  

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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