Legislative News InBrief

February 26, 2007

Vol. VII, Issue 9

Following a week-long recess, members of Congress return to a busy week. Over the break, AUCD sent letters to all newly elected members in the Senate and House, introducing them to the network, its mission, and work. There is a list of all new members of Congress by state on the AUCD Action Center.

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services will hold hearings all week on proposed FY 2008 appropriations for programs under its jurisdiction. HHS Secretary Michael O. Leavitt is scheduled to testify before the committee on Tuesday and Health Resources Administration Secretary Elizabeth Duke is scheduled to testify on Wednesday. Several Administrators from various National Institutes of Health are scheduled to testify on Thursday.

FY 2008 Budget
AUCD signed onto a letter to all members of Congress urging them to increase funding for public health through the Function 550/discretionary budget allocation in Fiscal Year 2008 by an amount that will restore funding cuts to public health programs enacted in FY 2006, and restore lost purchasing power. It is out of this budget section that funding for University Centers and many other programs of importance to the disability community are funded. It is estimated that an additional $4 billion, 7.8 percent, will be needed in FY 2008 to meet that goal and reverse the erosion of support for the continuum of biomedical, behavioral and health services research, community-based disease prevention and health promotion, basic and targeted services for the medically uninsured and those with disabilities, health professions education, and robust regulation of the nation's food and drug supply. The letter is posted on AUCD's website.

Child Abuse Prevention
AUCD signed onto a National Child Abuse Coalition letter urging Budget Committee chairmen to provide increased funding for child welfare services programs in the Fiscal Year 2008 budget resolution. The letter brings attention to the perennially underfunded state grants, community-based prevention grants, and research grants supported by the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), the preventive services funded by the Title IV-B child welfare services and the program for Promoting Safe and Stable Families, and the Title XX Social Services Block Grant. The President's budget would essentially freeze funding for child abuse and neglect prevention, child protection and child welfare services. The letter also points out that this year, the federal child welfare budget is paying out over $7 billion for out-of-home placements while only $900 million in federal funds going for prevention and intervention services to children and their families. For every federal dollar spent on foster care and adoption subsidies, we spend less than thirteen cents in federal child welfare funding on preventing and treating child abuse and neglect. The full letter will be posted on the Legislative Affairs section of the website soon.

AUCD signed on to a letter that will be sent to the Senate Finance Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee urging that the Committees support adequate mental health coverage for children in SCHIP during reauthorization of the program. At the National Governors Association winter meeting last weekend there was bi-partisan support for additional federal funding for SCHIP above the President's budget request. The Alliance for Healthcare Reform held the second of three briefing on SCHIP today, with opening remarks by Senators Kennedy (D-MA) and Hatch (R-UT). Access a webcast of the briefing and download resources.

Family and Medical Leave Act
Chairman Kennedy (D-MA) plans to introduce legislation in the HELP committee next month that would require employers with 15 or more workers to provide seven days of paid sick leave annually for full-time workers, prorated for part-time workers. The proposal will likely draw criticism from Republicans concerned about costs for small businesses. The proposal will also likely trigger debate concerning the Family and Medical Leave Act, which requires employers with 50 or more workers to provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave annually for serious medical conditions or the birth or adoption of a child. Families with relatives with disabilities can use the FMLA to take unpaid leave. However, many have likely not used the FMLA because the leave is unpaid. Senator Dodd (D-CT) would like to expand the law. In previous years, Dodd has proposed a pilot grant program under which states would experiment with ways to help employers offer six weeks of partial or fully paid leave for workers. Under Dodd's proposal, states could use wage insurance programs or state unemployment compensation to help fund the paid leave. Kennedy's paid sick leave proposal also comes on the heels of a Labor Department request for information from businesses about family leave. Many disability and women's groups are concerned that the Labor Department's action is a precursor to scaling back the act.

Committee on Accessibility of Capital Hill and Meetings
Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY), Ranking Member for the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, acting on complaints he has heard from the community regarding inaccessible hearing rooms and offices on Capital Hill, materials provided in inaccessible formats, and individuals not being provided with the time necessary to convey a message during hearings and meetings, has charged his staff with convening a committee of disability community members and experts in accessibility to address these issues. AUCD Disability Policy Fellow, David Morrissey, has joined this committee led by Aaron Bishop, Senator Enzi's professional staff for Disability Policy.

Disability Policy Seminar
Over 500 people have registered for the upcoming Disability Policy Seminar (March 4-6), making this one of the largest Seminars ever. The Seminar is co-sponsored by AUCD along with The Arc, UCP, NACDD, and AAIDD.

While the deadline for online registration has passed, onsite registration is still possible. Download registration information, the Program At-A-Glance, participant list, and fact sheets. A final program for the Seminar will be posted later this week.

If you are planning to attend, reading the fact sheets prior to arrival can help make the Seminar less overwhelming. The fact sheets are great resources for others who are not able to attend as well as members of Congress during your visits.

Please coordinate with others attending from your state and schedule Hill visits prior to arrival.

The AUCD Legislative Affairs Committee will meet during the Policy Seminar at 12:00 pm on Sunday, March 4, in Congressional C&D.

AUCD also has organized an panel on Autism scheduled for Sunday at 4:15 pm. The panel of congressional staff and other experts will discuss the Combating Autism Act and needs additional legislation.