AUCD Legislative News In Brief

January 28, 2013

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
  January 28, 2013   |  Vol. XIII, Issue 4
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Congressional Schedule

The Senate is in session and will move to consider a supplemental spending package to aid Hurricane Sandy victims.  A roll call vote on this bill is expected to take place this afternoon.  Tomorrow morning the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions - Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging will hold a hearing on primary care. The House will convene for a meeting tomorrow afternoon to discuss non-specified agenda items after which, it will be in recess for the rest of the week.  The House will reconvene early next week before the House Democratic retreat on February 7-8.  

Budget and Appropriations

On January 23 the House of Representatives passed a three-month extension of the nation's debt limit, effectively delaying a showdown over the government's ability to borrow money to pay existing bills until May 18. The measure, called "No Budget No Pay" also required lawmakers in both chambers of Congress to pass a budget resolution or have their pay withheld until they do. It was approved 285-144 and now goes to the Senate.

The deadlines set by previous deals regarding sequestration and the continuing resolution remain unchanged. The sequestration, created by the Budget Control Act and delayed by the American Tax Relief Act, is set to take effect March 1. The sequestration would result in across-the-board cuts to many discretionary programs important to people with disabilities. The continuing resolution, passed last September, will expire March 27. A failure to pass the annual funding bills or another continuing resolution would result in a shutdown of the federal government. For more information on past action and upcoming deadlines, see this analysis from the Bipartisan Policy Center. 

In a move to help set the priorities of the budget process, Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray has unveiled a new feature on the Budget Committee website called MyBudget, which allows constituents to fill out a form sharing their priorities for the federal budget, personal stories on how the budget affects them, and ideas on how to best move forward. Senator Murray writes on the website that "politicians and bureaucrats shouldn't be making our budget decisions in a vacuum" and "the ideas, stories, values, and priorities of families across the country [should] have a loud voice at the table and a platform to be heard."


Mental Health Senate Hearing

Last week, on January 24th, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, in the aftermath of the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, held a hearing on America's Mental Health Systems.  The hearing featured testimony from a variety of mental and behavioral health experts who offered resources, recommendations, and personal stories to shape and address this conversation. Witnesses discussed the importance of early intervention in the lives of individuals diagnosed with mental health conditions.  Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) testified to the necessity of "closing the gap" between the onset of symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.  He also noted that as a nation we must detach ourselves from the belief that violence is often attributed to mental illness, when the fact is most people with mental illness are not violent.  Chairman Harkin (D-IA) spoke to the stigma associated with mental illness, a stigma he went on to say "results in too many people suffering in silence without access to care."  The hearing also featured testimony about the critical need for peer-to-peer support, and the increased role of peer specialists in recovery and treatment.  The webcast of the hearing is available on the HELP Committee website.


Senator Harkin Announces Retirement

On Saturday, January 26th, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), the leading disability rights champion in Congress today and known to many as one of the greatest advocates to have graced this field, announced his plans to retire from the Senate in 2014 (see official press release here).  Harkin has represented the state of Iowa for almost 40 years at the federal level beginning in 1974 as a Representative in the U.S. House and then going on to serve five (5) consecutive terms in the Senate.  Currently, the Chairman of the Health, Human, Labor, and Pensions Committee, the Senator stated that though this was a difficult decision to make, after nearly 4 decades of service in Congress, "I just feel like it's somebody else's turn."  See the CNN article here. 


Pediatric Research

On January 14, Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) and ten other bipartisan co-sponsors, introduced the National Pediatric Research Network Act of 2013 (HR 225) which would  call on the NIH Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute on Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and in collaboration with other national entities involved in pediatric research, to create a national pediatric research network focused on rare childhood diseases and conditions, including genetic disorders and birth defects. The bill would allow NIH to fund public and private entities to train researchers or meet unmet pediatric research needs. The bill was referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee. AUCD will continue to monitor this legislation (for the full text visit AUCD's action center under the "Current Legislation" section). 



The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has recently issued new guidance for its Public and Indian Housing programs, including the Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) program.  The guidance, issued as PIH 2013-03 "Public Housing and Housing Choice Voucher Program - Temporary Compliance Assistance" establishes two temporary changes to the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program that are very significant for people with disabilities: (1) allows for optional streamlined annual reexamination for elderly families and families with disabilities on fixed incomes and (2) allows Public Housing Agencies (PHA) to establish a payment standard of not more than 120 percent of the fair market rent without HUD approval as a reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities.  To find the Fair Market Rent in your local area, go to, click on "Individual Area Final FY2013 FMR Documentation", then follow the instructions for finding your state's information.  These changes will be in effect through March 31, 2014.  The official notice is available here.  Diane Dressler of the Maryland UCEDD, who represents AUCD on the CCD Housing Task Force, provided this housing report.


Equal Opportunities for Extracurricular Athletics

On Friday, January 25, new guidance was released by the Department of Education: Office of Civil Rights to outline school districts' responsibilities to ensure students with disabilities have equal opportunity to participate in extracurricular athletics as students without disabilities.  This guidance, a "Dear Colleague" letter, is in response to a report from the Government Accountability Office around the need to ensure all students have access to such opportunities, particularly individuals with disabilities and is meant to clarify and communicate to schools their responsibilities Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act regarding extracurricular activity.  AUCD staff participated on a conference call led by Acting Assistant Secretary of Civil Rights, Seth Galanter, who outlined the five principles in the letter, including that school districts may not act on generalizations and prejudices around a particular disability, but instead treat each student as an individual - focusing on their abilities, rather than their disabilities.  See statement from Secretary Duncan here and download a copy of the guidance letter here. 

New Resources on ESEA Flexibility

On Wednesday, January 23, the Department of Education released new publications highlighting ESEA flexibility.  Currently, 34 states have received flexibility waivers from the ESEA provisions, and are enacting education reforms in their states particularly around supporting teachers, protecting student accountability, and turning around low-performing schools.  Overall, the resources are meant to provide more detail about the waiver program, and a new brochure was made available to outline the "path to [ESEA] flexibility."  More information is available on the Department of Education's ESEA Flexibility webpage. 


Social Security NPRM

On Friday, January 25th, Commissioner Michael Astrue of the Social Security Administration released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to eliminate the term "mental retardation" and replace with "intellectual disability" in the SSA's Listing of Impairments and other appropriate sections of its rules.  In light of the passage of Rosa's Law in 2010, the Commissioner announced that while the law "did not require the SSA to make any changes to its existing regulations, we are doing so in the spirit of the law and to join other agencies and organizations who are adopting the term 'intellectual disability.'"  The 30-day comment period will begin today and the deadline for submission will be February 27.   The NPRM is available on the federal register. 


HeLP America Act

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) has introduced legislation intended to improve public health across the nation. The bill is called the HeLP (Healthier Lifestyles Prevention) America Act and focuses on prevention, wellness, and health promotion and has provisions addressing obesity, nutrition, physical activity, preventive services, and mental health services. The bill specifically addresses people with disabilities, promoting equality in physical activity opportunities for students with disabilities and community sports programs for children, youth, and adults with disabilities.


 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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