AUCD Legislative News In Brief

April 22, 2013

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
  April 22, 2013   |  Vol. XIII, Issue 16
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Congressional Schedule

The Senate is in session today beginning debate on legislation dealing with internet tax. The Senate is now turning its attention from the failed gun violence legislation to immigration legislation. The House is in recess but returns tomorrow.  The "Helping Sick Americans Now" (see below) bill is one of the bills scheduled for House floor action this week.


Budget and Appropriations

President Obama released his budget request on Wednesday, April 10. On Friday, April 12 AUCD emailed a Special Edition of In Brief that detailed the requests for disability-related programs within the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. Overall, the President's budget would cancel the sequestration cuts going forward through targeted spending cuts and increased revenues and put the deficit on a downward path over the long term. The budget includes level funding for DD Act programs; however the Budget also contains cuts and consolidations of other important disability programs including Post-Secondary Education for Students with ID and Supported Employment and other workforce investment programs.   AUCD was also disappointed to see that the President's Budget would again divert money from the Prevention and Public Health Fund to fund existing programs within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (PPHF).  A whopping 53% of the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities funding would come from the PPHF.  The PPHF was intended to fund new transformational prevention and public health initiatives, not to supplant existing program funding.

The budget included major concessions and compromises, including transitioning to a "chained CPI" to calculate Social Security benefit payments and other measures of inflation in the government. While the budget would exempt Supplemental Security Income and provide other protections for very-low-income beneficiaries, AUCD and CCD remain very concerned about the impact of the proposal on people with disabilities.  Last week, Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) introduced a resolution (H.CON. RES.34) expressing a sense of the Congress that the chained Consumer Price Index should not be used to calculate cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security benefits.  The resolution, which does not have the power of law, already has 81 bipartisan co-sponsors.  The resolution was referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

The proposal would also limit tax deductions and exclusions for high-income families and individuals. Under the proposal, taxpayers in the top three marginal income tax brackets (33%, 35%, and 39.6%) would only be able to take deductions up to a rate of 28% (a marginal tax benefit of 28 cents for each dollar, rather than 33, 35, or 39.6 respectively).  While it is necessary to include proposals to raise revenue, some Nonprofit groups have expressed concern that this could limit charitable contributions by high-income families and individuals; the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has calculated that the proposal would reduce charitable giving by roughly 2-3% if enacted.

The President also included a proposed $100 million in funding for the BRAIN Initiative through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and National Science Foundation (NSF). The BRAIIN Initiative, which stands for Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies, seeks to gain a better understanding of the human brain, including a dynamic picture of the brain that shows how individual cells and neural circuits interact in both time and space. For more information, see the NIH page on the initiative.


Mental Health

On April 18, the Senate overwhelming passed (by a vote of 95-2) the "Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act" (S. 689). The bill reauthorizes and improves programs administered by both the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services related to awareness, prevention, and early identification of mental health conditions, and promotes linkages to appropriate services for children and youth. The bill, introduced by Senators Harkin (D-IA) and Alexander (R-TN), was unanimously approved by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on April 10.  Title I of the legislation focuses on school settings, by promoting school-wide prevention through the development of positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS), and encourages school-based mental health partnerships, while Title II of the bill focuses on suicide prevention, helping children recover from traumatic events, mental health awareness for teachers and other individuals, and assessing barriers to integrating behavioral health and primary care. This bipartisan legislation makes targeted improvements designed to improve federal efforts to assist state and local communities in addressing the mental health needs of its citizens. In addition to Chairman Harkin and Ranking Member Alexander, cosponsors of the legislation include HELP Committee Senators Franken, Enzi, Bennet, Murkowski, Baldwin, Roberts, Hagan, Isakson, Murphy, and Kirk.  See a  summary of the bill on the HELP Committee website.  There is currently no corresponding bill introduced in the House.


Social Security

AUCD signed on in support of Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) bill, introduced last week along with 6 co-sponsors, to increase SSI resource limits.  The Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act (H.R. 1601) would update SSI resource limits to $10,000 for an individual or $15,000 for a couple.  This is the amount they would be today if adjusted for inflation since 1989, the last time the resource limits were updated. The bill would also update the general income disregard (to $110 per month) and the earned income disregard (to $357 per month) to the amounts they would be today if adjusted for inflation since 1972, the last time they were updated. The bill would also repeal the in-kind support and maintenance provision and repeal the SSI transfer penalty.  The bill was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.  There is no companion bill in the Senate at this time.


Helping Sick Americans Now Act

Representative Joe Pitts (R-PA), along with Michael Burgess (R-TX) and Ann Wagner (R-MO), has introduced HR 1549 to extend funding for high-risk pools for people with pre-existing conditions created by the Affordable Care Act. The pools were meant as a bridge to 2014 when coverage will begin through the Exchanges. The Administration suspended enrollment in the pools earlier this year after costs were higher than projected. The bill would re-open enrollment using about $3.7 billion from the Prevention and Public Health Trust Fund. AUCD is strongly opposed to using the Fund for this purpose; conservative leaders have described this as a tactical attack on the ACA and an attempt to "dismantle the Public Health Slush Fund". House GOP leadership supports the bill, maintaining that their primary goal is repeal of the ACA. The bill has already passed the Energy and Commerce Committee on a party line 27-20 vote.


Higher Education

The Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee, Chaired by Rep. Foxx, R-N.C., of the House Education and the Workforce Committee is holding a series of hearings titled "Keeping College Within Reach."  The next hearing in the series is scheduled for this Wednesday and is entitled "Enhancing Transparency for Students, Families and Taxpayers".  For more information, see the Subcommittee's website.

Secretary of Labor Nomination

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will vote on Thursday, April 25 on the nomination of Tom Perez to be Secretary of Labor. Mr. Perez currently heads the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice (DOJ) and was nominated by President Obama in late March. The committee is expected to approve Mr. Perez, moving his confirmation to the full Senate. AUCD and CCD support Mr. Perez's nomination.


AUCD State Health Reform Workgroup

In response to requests from network members, AUCD is launching a workgroup on state health reform. The goal of the workgroup is to supplement the Health Reform Hub by providing a forum for conversation and information sharing among members, supported by a listserv, SharePoint site, and monthly conference calls. The first call will be tomorrow, April 23 at 4pm and focus on the newly announced Funding Opportunity Announcement for Navigators and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the same program.  For more information, contact Dawn Rudolph.


Policy Seminar and Continued Advocacy

Seven hundred (700) advocates came to the Disability Policy Seminar in DC last week to hear the latest in disability policy and educate their Members of Congress on the issues important to people with disabilities. On Wednesday, visitors heard Senators Brown (OH) and Barrasso (WY) speak on their support for the disability community. AUCD members and supporters are encouraged to continue their advocacy at home!  Feel free to use the Policy Seminar fact sheets, and PowerPoint presentations (coming soon) visits in the state/district, particularly when Members are home during recess. AUCD's Action Center also contains links to legislation and action alerts on current issues.  See also AUCD's legislative goals below.


AUCD Legislative Goals for the 113th Congress

AUCD's Legislative Goals for the 113th Congress are now available online.  These goals were developed by the Legislative Affairs Committee and approved by the Board of Directors after obtaining input from Members. Copies were distributed at the Policy Seminar last week and will be mailed to Members of Congress.  Copies can be printed for free.  Multiple hard copies can also be ordered online.  Please use these Goals when you visit your Members of Congress and to educate the public.  Feel free to provide a link to the goals.  AUCD also partnered with The Arc, ANCOR, UCP, NACDD, and AAIDD in the development of common legislative goals for the 113th Congress.  The joint goals can be found and printed from The Arc's website.


For more policy news, follow Kim and Rachel on Twitter at @kmusheno and @racheljpat

 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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