AUCD Legislative News In Brief

January 22, 2013

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
  January 22, 2013   |  Vol. XIII, Issue 3
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Congressional Schedule

The Senate convenes only for morning business and then recesses for the weekly caucus lunches. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the chamber would consider a supplemental spending package to aid Hurricane Sandy victims. The Senate is also discussing possible revisions to the Senate's filibuster rules. The House will consider a bill to reauthorize programs related to medical disaster and emergency response programs.  Several House committees are meeting to organize and adopt committee rules for the 113th Congress.

Budget and Appropriations

House Republicans returned from a three-day retreat in Virginia with a new strategy for the upcoming debt-limit and budget debates.  House Republicans are planning to bring a bill to the floor on Wednesday to raise the federal government's borrowing limit for three months with the requirement that the Senate approves a budget resolution within that time. The measure would delay further action on the debt limit while the Congress and President Obama deal with automatic spending cuts now scheduled to begin March 1 and the March 27 expiration of the continuing resolution.  Despite disagreement among party lines over responsibility for failure to identify a long-term deficit solution, the proposal signals a change in strategy for Congressional Republicans and a retreat for those who had refused to raise the debt ceiling. Since the "fiscal cliff" deal less than a month ago, several conservative groups and business leaders have called on House Republicans to not use the debt ceiling threat as part of budget negotiations.  The Obama administration has strongly stated that the President will not negotiate on the debt ceiling nor sign a short-term agreement.  Speaker Boehner is not certain whether the short-term debt limit suspension will pass in the ideologically divided House.  Even if the bill passes, it is unclear how the Republicans and Democrats will be able to agree on a broader deficit reduction package.


President Obama took the oath of office yesterday in the 57th Presidential Inauguration. The President's address focused on reviving the economy while protecting the social safety net and pursuing a progressive agenda on climate change, immigration, and civil rights. He said "[W]e remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn....The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social security, these things do not sap our initiative....They do not make us a nation of takers. They free us to take the risks that make this country great." Read the entire inaugural address and watch the video at AUCD staff attended many inauguration events, including the Disability Power & Pride Inaugural Ball, swearing-in ceremony, and the parade.


Senator Rockefeller's Retirement

As reported last week, Senator Rockefeller (D-WV) has officially announced his retirement from the Senate in 2015.  The statement recognizes the Senator's 50-year commitment to public service, and summarizes his past accomplishments, and dedication to long-term care issues.  It also highlights his current and future priorities in his final term, which include continuing to defend and protect Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security for the millions of Americans who rely on such programs.  As a strong advocate for the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2008, Senator Rockefeller recognizes that the country is in dire need of a comprehensive long-term care system, and therefore in light of the repeal of the CLASS program, will work closely on the formation and implementation of the Commission on Long-term Care. See the official press release here.

Gun Violence and Disabilities

Last week, President Obama released the details of his Administration's gun control initiative, consisting of 23 executive actions to reduce gun violence and increase access to mental health services.   The proposal aims to address various aspects of gun violence. While there are no specific references to gun violence resulting in disabilities, there are proposals that may lead to more investments in mental health and interdisciplinary training.  For example, the proposals includes $50 million directed toward training more than 5,000 additional mental health professionals to serve students and young adults (e.g. social workers, psychologists), as well as creation of new programs to train school teachers and faculty to recognize young students in need of help through new initiatives such as Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education).  The President is also directing Congress to provide $10 million to the Center on Diseases Control to conduct research into the causes and prevention of gun violence.  The proposal further focuses on mental health parity requirements, ensuring that insurance plans cover mental health benefits and other medical and surgical benefits equally, and that Medicaid plans comply with these requirements as well.  The summary also notes that the Affordable Care Act requires all new small group and individual plans to cover ten essential health benefit categories, including mental health and substance abuse services.  Among the President's specific "executive actions" was a plan to release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities, and to clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors from asking patients about guns in their homes.  The President's full remarks and summary are available here.

Affordable Care Act

Today, Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) introduced legislation called the American Liberty Restoration Act that would repeal the individual insurance mandate from the Affordable Care Act. The ACA requires that all people have health insurance or face a financial penalty, and provides income-based subsidies for those who must purchase insurance individually. The insurance mandate is currently scheduled to take effect in 2014.


AUCD submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Education on a proposed rule regarding the priorities, requirements, definitions, and selection criteria of the Investing in Innovation Fund (also known as i3). The i3 program was established under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and seeks to expand the implementation of, and investment in, innovative and evidence-based practices that have been demonstrated to have an impact on improving student achievement or student growth, closing achievement gaps, decreasing dropout rates, increasing high school graduation rates, or increasing college enrollment and completion rates. AUCD also supported comments developed by the Collaboration to Promote Self-Determination and National Down Syndrome Society to encourage the Department of Education to incorporate universal design for learning, multi-tiered systems of support, and positive behavioral interventions and supports into the i3 programs as innovative and evidence-based practices to improve student outcomes.


AUCD has signed on to a letter supporting the ABLE Act. ABLE, which stands for Achieving a Better Life Experience, establishes a new subsection within Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code to allow individuals with disabilities and their families to accumulate tax-free savings for disability-related expenses without affecting eligibility for Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income (up to a threshold of $100,000 in savings). The ABLE Act was introduced in the 112th Congress, but did not reach a floor vote. The letter thanks the bill's co-sponsors -- Senators Casey and Burr and Representatives Crenshaw, Van Hollen, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers -- for reintroducing the ABLE Act in the 113th Congress.  AUCD developed an action alert for network members and others to encourage Members of Congress to co-sponsor the new bill in the new Congress.  Increasing the number of co-sponsors will help to gather momentum for the bill.  Please visit AUCD's Action Center for more information.

2013 Disability Policy Seminar: Registration Now Open

The 2013 Disability Policy Seminar in Washington, D.C. April 15-17 is just around the corner. Plan to join us and advocates from across the country as we dig into the issues facing people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and talk to our elected representatives about what's important to us. Registration opened January 11, so save the date and take advantage of special early registration and hotel rates at the Grand Hyatt Downtown before March 12. This event is the biggest and best opportunity for us to educate new and returning Members and staff about network center activities and AUCD's legislative priorities.  Look for more news coming soon at - we hope to see you there!

 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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