Legislative News InBrief

March 12, 2007

Vol. VII, Issue 11

2007 Disability Policy Seminar
A record number of individuals attended the Disability Policy Seminar last week (March 4-6). Of the over 600 attendees, nearly 100 were from the AUCD network, including a record number of trainees. Attendees made Hill visits with others from their states. Fact sheets from the seminar are available on the AUCD website. Many of the PowerPoint presentations also are available on The Arc website.

Budget and Appropriations
House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-WI) plans to mark up the FY 2008 budget resolution the week of March 19 with floor action the week of March 26, a week later than originally planned. The Senate Budget Committee plans to markup its budget bill the week of March 12.

The House is set to consider President Bush's $103 billion emergency spending request for the ongoing costs of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. House Democrats are considering adding $10 to $15 billion to the bill for domestic priorities, including $735 million for the State Children's Health Program, $4.3 billion for agriculture disaster relief, $400 million for low-income energy assistance, and the House minimum wage package.

Representatives James Langevin (D-RI) and Jim Ramstad (R-MN) are circulating a "Dear Colleague" letter to every member of the House of Representatives asking them to sign on to a letter to the Appropriations Committee to support the highest level of funding for the UCEDD and LEND programs. The deadline for members to sign on is March 16. View AUCD's Action Alert.

Combating Autism Act Funding
Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) are circulating a letter asking members to support federal funding for autism activities. The letter seeks $168 million in FY 2008 for autism research, surveillance, and services in the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education Appropriations bill, consistent with the authorization in the Combating Autism Act. Advocates must now encourage their representatives to sign on to this letter and support this essential funding. View AUCD's Action Alert.

Post-Secondary Education Demonstration Project Funding
Representative Hinojosa (D-TX) is circulating a "Dear Colleague" letter addressed to the House Appropriations Committee urging support for funding of $10 million for "Demonstration Projects to Ensure Students with Disabilities Receive a Quality Higher Education." President Bush's FY 2008 budget proposal has, once again, called for the elimination of funding for this program. The program is currently funded at $7 million and supports 27 projects in 21 states. It is the only program in the Higher Education Act that supports students with disabilities in post-secondary education. The deadline for members to sign on is March 15. Watch for an Alert on the AUCD Action Center.

CDC Funding
The House Appropriations Committee held a hearing March 9 on proposed FY 2008 appropriations for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Witnesses included CDC Director Julie Gerberding; Anthony Fauci, director of the NIH Allergy and Infectious Diseases; and Gerald Parker, principle deputy assistance secretary of HHS. The hearing focused mainly on funding for emergency preparedness.

Education Funding
The House Appropriations L-HHS-ED Subcommittee has scheduled a hearing on funding for the No Child Left Behind Act on March 14. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings is among those scheduled to testify.

Community Choice Act
Senators Harkin (D-IA) and Specter (R-PA) introduced the Community Choice Act of 2007 (S. 799). The Community Choice Act would help correct the institutional bias in Medicaid by requiring states to provide community-based personal attendant services and supports. AUCD has long supported this bill, which was previously known as MiCASSA. Research conducted by the RRTC on Personal Assistance Services last year estimated the costs of the bill in the $2 to $3 billion range, versus the CBO score of upwards of $20 billion. The new name, Community Choice Act, better reflects the purpose of the bill and advocates are encouraged to use this new name when asking for co-sponsors. Current co-sponsors include: Kennedy (D-MA), Inouye (D-HI), Salazar (D-CO), Biden (D-DE), Lieberman (ID-CT), Clinton (D-NY), Schumer (D-NY), and Dodd (D-CT). View the press release AUCD issued on the bill.

NCLB Reauthorization
The Senate HELP and House Education and Labor Committees are planning a joint hearing this week on the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act. Representatives from school administrators, school boards, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and the Aspen Institute Commission are among those scheduled to testify.

AUCD signed on to testimony delivered by CCD Housing Task Force Co-Chair Andrew Sperling before a House Financial Services Subcommittee on March 9. The testimony highlighted the importance of Section 8 housing and supported the current version of the Section 8 Voucher Reform Act (SEVRA). This would establish a more efficient voucher funding policy and streamline rules for individuals with disabilities. In addition, testimony called for more accountability and oversight of HUD to ensure vouchers targeting individuals with disabilities are provided to individuals with disabilities.

Mental Health Parity
Reps. Patrick J. Kennedy (D-RI) and Jim Ramstad (R-MN) introduced the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act, H.R. 1367, to require mental health benefits offered by group plans with 50 or more enrollees to be equal to coverage for other medical conditions. This includes application to co-payments, coinsurance, deductibles, out-of-pocket limits, and day and visit limits. There are 256 bi-partisan cosponsors on the House bill. AUCD signed on in support of this bill. A similar bill, S. 558, was approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on February 14.

Autism Awareness Month
The Senate adopted a resolution on February 13 designating April 2007 as "National Autism Awareness Month." The resolution reflects the Senate's recognition of an autism epidemic, noting the CDC's new prevalence statistic of 1 in 150, and a commitment to raising awareness within the general public. Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) introduced the resolution with co-sponsors Sens. Russell Feingold (D-WI) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). "This resolution recognizes the importance of autism awareness," Hagel said. "The prevalence of autism among children remains high, while the causes of autism are poorly understood and there is no cure. It is critical to support research and improve treatments of autism that will foster the health and well-being of autistic individuals." April has traditionally been Autism Awareness Month, recognized and promoted nationally by the autism community.