AUCD Legislative News In Brief

October 7, 2013

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
  October 7, 2013   |  Vol. XIII, Issue 40
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Congressional Schedule

Both houses of Congress are in session this week and will continue to debate funding for the federal government.


Shutdown: Day 7

The new fiscal year began on October 1, but Congress had not yet passed any of the annual appropriations bills or a continuing resolution (CR) necessary to fund most of the federal government. (For more information, see last week's In Brief). Since October 1 the House and Senate have continued to volley bills, including a House proposal to delay the individual mandate for one year and cancel the Federal contribution to health insurance for members of Congress and their staff. The House has also proposed funding certain parts of the government, such as the National Institutes of Health, National Park Service, DC local services, Veterans benefits, the National Guard salaries, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and nutrition for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Senate leaders have continued their position that they will only accept a "clean" CR that simply continues to fund the entire government with no added provisions that negatively impact the ACA. For more details on the proposals, the see the New York Times' "The Back and Forth Over Shutdown."

Over the weekend the House voted unanimously to guarantee back-pay to federal workers furloughed during the shutdown. President Obama supports the measure and the Senate is expected to pass it this week.

During a lapse in appropriations (government shutdown) , large parts of the federal government must suspend work unless they serve certain national security or public safety functions, like air traffic controllers, or mandatory funding like Medicare and Medicaid. The Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and Maternal and Child Health Bureau have currently suspended regular operations, but the Administration on Community Living has said that HHS will continue to maintain the Payment Management System for processing grant drawdown requests. The New York Times has a simple chart of some well-known agencies and The Washington Post has more details on what agencies will be open or closed. The Department of Health and Human Services has released their contingency staffing plan and the White House has posted contingency plans for other agencies. For more information, see the Post piece, "Absolutely everything you need to know about how the government shutdown will work."

The effect on people with disabilities depends on the length of the shutdown. Most programs for people with disabilities, such as Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, Special Education, Vocational Rehabilitation and other programs are funded through mandatory spending or grants to states, so are not immediately affected by the shut-down. However, a long-term shutdown will increase delays in processing benefit claims and jeopardize funding to states. New grant work will be delayed and clinical trials set to begin at National Institutes of Health have been halted. Officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs stated they likely won't have enough money to pay disability claims or make pension payments for veterans if a government shutdown lasts for more than two or three weeks. That could affect some 3.6 million veterans who receive these benefits.

Affordable Care Act

Open enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplaces begins today, even with the lapse in federal appropriations. State-based Marketplaces are funded by federal grants that were awarded months ago. Most federal ACA programs are funded by mandatory spending and are, therefore, unaffected by the suspension in appropriations, and most Health and Human Services staff implementing the Marketplaces have been deemed essential and will remain on the job during the shutdown. Subsidies to purchase insurance are delivered through advanced tax credits funded through the tax code and not in annual appropriations.

Days until open enrollment ends: 175

The Health Insurance Marketplaces opened for enrollment on October 1. Across the country, state and federal exchanges reported high traffic. For example, Kentucky reported that by 7:30 a.m. on October 3, Kynect (the Kentucky Health Insurance Marketplace) had received 117,954 unique visitors with 108,994 people completing pre-screenings for eligibility and 3,505 families or individuals enrolled in health insurance through the Marketplace. Many visitors to both state and federal exchanges have faced long wait times and error pages, reportedly due to the high volume of visitors. Fortunately, people have until December 15 to enroll in a plan that will start January 1, and the open enrollment period for later plans lasts until March 31.

Asset Development

During the week of October 7th, national disability organizations and advocates are coordinating to advocate for the passage of the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act (S. 313/HR. 647). Advocates feel that this legislation is one of the few that might get action in this Congress. This important legislation would utilize the 529 college education saving account program to establish a savings tool for individuals with disabilities and families. The bill currently has an impressive 268 cosponsors in the House and 46 cosponsors in the Senate. This bipartisan, bicameral legislation is being led by Reps. Van Hollen (D-MD), Crenshaw ((R-FL), Sessions (R-TX), and McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Sens. Casey (D-PA) and Burr (R-NC). For more information and to help educate your Members, see AUCD's Action Alert.

Restraints and Seclusion

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) has indicated his plan to reintroduce the "Keeping All Students Safe Act" soon.  AUCD and other advocates have been meeting with Senators and Senate staff members throughout the summer, which has paved the way for the introduction of this bill.  However, this bill is still needs additional bipartisan cosponsors before it is introduced. To achieve this, advocates are now setting up appointments at the Senate offices in their local district offices to ask for and/or confirm their Senators' support for this bill. Target state directors may have heard from AUCD and APRAIS leaders regarding these state-level meeting. For more information, see AUCD's Action Alert.


AUCD signed onto a letter prepared by the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) in support of the Department of Education (ED) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to formally end the use of the Alternate Assessment on Modified Academic Achievement Standards (AA-MAS) for accountability purposes under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (see also the Sept. 3 In Brief). This regulation, known commonly as the "2% Rule" has been of significant concern to CCD members, including AUCD, since it was first proposed.  The letter specifically mentions support for the ED's actions to move away from the AA-MAS, including:

·         Limiting the funding to support assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards to a general assessment designed to assess virtually all students, including students with disabilities, and an alternate assessment designed for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities.

·         Prohibiting states that received Race to the Top funding from using an AA-MAS.

·         Requiring states that have received an ESEA flexibility waiver to phase out their use of an AA-MAS by the 2014-2015 school year.

This NPRM is the last step to formally rescinding the use of the AA-MAS.  For a press release and link to the NPRM, see the Dept. of ED website.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. This year, the theme is "Because We Are EQUAL to the Task." The Office on Disability Employment Policy at the Department of Labor leads activities for the month and resources, including sample press releases, are available on their website. The annual awareness event began in 1945 as "National Employment for the Physically Handicapped Week."

Cognitive Disability and Technology/Disability Data

AUCD staff participated in the annual Coleman Institute National Conference on Cognitive Disability and Technology held in Denver, Colorado last week. During the conference, the Institute unveiled its declaration on the Rights of People with Cognitive Disabilities to Technology and Information Access, a statement of principles intended to stimulate greater attention to the rights and possibilities for people with cognitive disabilities to access to technology and information access.  Anyone may endorse the principles online at the Coleman Institute website. 

During the conference, Executive Director of the Institute, David Braddock, provided an overview of the State of the States in Developmental Disabilities Project, administered by the University of Colorado and funded in part by the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. The SOS information is now available online with state-by-state comparative data for fiscal year 2011 spending on I/DD programs and services that will be helpful to state and national advocates.

AUCD Annual Meeting

AUCD's 2013 Conference: Promoting Inclusion in an Increasingly Diverse World is coming soon (November 16-20). There are several important sessions directly related to legislative affairs:  on Sunday, Nov. 17, the AUCD Legislative Affairs Committee meets; the first plenary on Tuesday morning features representatives from our Federal agency partners (e.g. ED, DOL, HHS, CMS); and on Wednesday morning Sen. Menendez (D-NJ) and Rep. Langevin (D-RI) have been invited to speak, followed by a small panel to discuss "Federal initiatives to Reduce Discrimination and Increase Civil Rights."  Last but not least, Wednesday afternoon has once again been allotted for AUCD members to visit their congressional delegations on Capitol Hill.  Please see the preliminary program for the incredible array of events and opportunities to share interests, talents, and perspectives and learn from others on a range of disability research, education, and training related topics.

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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