AUCD Legislative News In Brief

March 17, 2014

AUCD Legislative News In Brief
  March 17, 2014   |  Vol. XIV, Issue 11
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Congressional Schedule

The House and Senate are both in recess this week and will return next week.

Combating Autism Act

AUCD and other CCD advocates have been meeting with Members of the House Subcommittee on Health regarding the reauthorization of the Combating Autism Act. According to Hill staff, it appears that Representatives Smith (R-NJ) and Doyle (D-PA) are prepared to introduce a bill soon. AUCD has been advocating for a change to the title of the law and informing Members about the need for additional services for adults with ASD and other developmental disabilities.  However, hill staff have not shared any draft bills with advocates; therefore, it is unknown whether any changes will be proposed.  Senator Menendez (D-NJ) is also preparing a bill to be introduced soon.  Again, the Senate draft bill has not been made public.  If the law is not reauthorized by September 30, 2014, activities authorized under the law will expire.  The reauthorization will be a focus of the upcoming Disability Policy Seminar (April 6-9).

Affordable Care Act

Days Remaining in Open Enrollment: 14

AUCD has contributed a blog post to the National Disability Navigator Resource Collaborative about the end of open enrollment and ways to get involved in making sure that each American knows about his or her options for affordable health insurance. Enroll America, a national nonprofit dedicated to helping Americans enroll in health insurance, will host thousands of events across the country, including a bus tour of Ohio and Texas, to help people learn about their options and get covered. With only two weeks remaining, consider sharing this information with your networks. You can find events in your area on the Get Covered website.

Education Funding

On March 5, Congressmen Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), David McKinley (R-WV), Tim Walz (D-MN), Chris Gibson (R-NY), Jared Huffman (D-CA), and David Reichert (R-WA) introduced the IDEA Full Funding Act (H.R. 4136). A similar bill (S. 108) was introduced by Senator David Vitter (R-LA) in early 2013. The bill would require regular increases in appropriations to meet the funding level originally authorized in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Originally passed in 1975, IDEA authorized federal funding to cover up to 40% of the per pupil cost to states providing special education services. However, Congress has never appropriated that amount and the current funding is at just 15.3 percent of the per pupil expenditure. Bills to fully fund IDEA have been introduced in nearly every Congress but never enacted.

Kids First Research Act

The Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act is headed to the President's desk after it passed the Senate by unanimous consent last week. The House approved the bill 295-103 in December of last year (see December 2 In Brief.) The bill diverts $126 million from public financing of presidential nominating conventions into the National Institutes of Health Common Fund to support pediatric research. However, the bill only provides the authorization for the change. For the funding to reach NIH it must be included in the FY15 appropriations bill. The bill had bipartisan support and bipartisan opposition. Some opposed the bill because they believe any cuts should go to deficit reduction, others were concerned the funds will not actually reach NIH through the appropriations process. The $126 million is also a small increase compared to the $1.5 billion cut to NIH research through sequestration. As always, AUCD will monitor the appropriations process for this and other research funding.

Unemployment Insurance / Social Security Disability Insurance

A bipartisan group of Senators has reached an agreement on a bill (S. 2148) to extend emergency unemployment benefits for those who are still unable to find work; this agreement does not include a provision in previous proposals that would have cut disability insurance benefits. In 2008, Congress increased the number of weeks that workers could receive federal unemployment insurance (UI) benefits in response to the economic downturn. This extension expired on December 28, 2013 for 1.3 million long-term unemployed workers. Continued slow growth in the economy has caused leaders in the Senate to seek ways to continue the extended benefits (see January 6 In Brief). Some of the proposed plans included cuts to Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) benefits for workers who concurrently receive both UI and DI. AUCD and the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities strongly opposed this proposal (see January 13 In Brief) and are pleased that it is not included in this bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) plans to bring the bill up for a vote when the Senate returns from recess on March 24.

Child Abuse

Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act

Senators Christopher Murphy (D-CT) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) have introduced the Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act of 2014 (S. 2054). The bill addresses the lack of federal regulation regarding the treatment of minors in residential facilities. It would establish standards to prevent child abuse and improve access to medical care during emergencies; prohibit physical or mental abuse and withholding of essential food, water, clothing, shelter, or medical care; restrict the use of restraints; require parental consent for nonemergency medication changes; and require reporting of any deaths to the protection and advocacy system within 48 hours after informing the state of the death. Covered programs include public or private residential programs that provide behavioral modification programs and therapeutic boarding schools and are designed for children with emotional, behavioral, or mental health problems or alcohol or substance abuse issues. AUCD signed onto a CCD letter in support of the bill.

Social Security

On March 6, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Restoration Act of 2014 (S. 2089). Last year, Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) introduced similar legislation in the House (H.R. 1601). The bill proposes to update and index to inflation the SSI asset limits and income disregards. Specifically, the bill would raise asset limits from the current $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a couple to $10,000 for an individual and $15,000 for a couple; the limit would rise with inflation thereafter. The bill would also make other improvements to the SSI program that simplify administration and support beneficiaries.  AUCD supports the bill.

Aaron Bishop Named Commissioner, Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Administration for Community Living Administrator Kathy Greenlee has appointed Aaron Bishop as Commissioner of Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AIDD). Aaron Bishop, former AUCD staff and UCEDD staff at the Waisman Center in Wisconsin, has been serving as Acting Commissioner since November 2013, when his predecessor, Sharon Lewis, took on the roles of deputy administrator of ACL and disability policy advisor to Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.

Disability Policy Seminar

Staff of the Disability Policy Seminar are busy confirming speakers and preparing fact sheets for the upcoming event.  Fact sheets and the final program will be available on the Seminar website soon.  While early registration has ended, it is still possible to register for the event. However, please be sure to make your appointments for the April 9 Hill visits before you arrive (see tips for making Hill appointments). To find out who else is coming from your state, see the list of registrants.

Disability Policy Leadership Fellow

Applications are due March 31 for the 2014-2015 Fellowship in Disability Policy Leadership. The purpose of the fellowship is to provide significant experiences in national level activities related to policy and legislative development, advocacy, program development, technical assistance, and AUCD administration. Current UCEDD, LEND, and IDDRC staff and trainees are eligible to apply. For more information, see the application announcement.


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