AUCD Legislative News In Brief
August 3, 2009
Vol. IX, Issue 33
The House has begun its month-long August recess; the Senate will recess at the end of this week. During the recess, staff working on health care reform will try to sort out the significant differences between the various bills and continue to negotiate bipartisan agreements (see AUCD side-by-side of the bills to date). Watch for action alerts over the recess to help move the process and ensure that important reforms that impact people with disabilities remain in the final package.
The Senate Appropriations Committee passed its FY 2010 L-HHS-ED appropriations bill last week. The bill provides a $2 million increase for the LENDS, the same amount provided in the House bill. University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) received an increase of $1.5 million in the Senate bill for a total of $39.4 million and $0.5 million more than the House bill. The DD Councils received an increase of $1.5 million to $75.8 million; the Protection and Advocacy System received a $1 million increase to $41 million; and the Projects of National Significance received level funding — $14 million. The other good news is that the new Higher Education Act model demos for targeted for students with intellectual disabilities receive $14 million in the Senate bill. The House bill would provide only $4 million for the program. A full analysis of the Senate bill compared to the House bill will be provided in the next issue of In Brief.
Health Care Reform
Last week, the Energy and Commerce Committee and other key Democrat party leaders continued to meet and negotiate with conservative ‘Blue Dog’ Democrats, eventually striking a deal on July 29 that allowed the bill to move forward in the Committee. Under the deal, the public option would not base provider rates on Medicare rates, but rather rates would be based upon the private market, which is similar to the system set up under the Senate HELP Committee bill. While linking provider rates to Medicare has potential to save money, the Blue Dogs feel it would also disproportionately hurt rural areas. Members of the Progressive Caucus, eight of whom also sit on the Committee, were disappointed in what they viewed as a weakening of the public option. In the compromise with the Blue Dogs, Chairman Waxman (D-CA) further agreed to reduce subsidies paid to low and middle income Americans purchasing insurance through the Exchange. He also agreed to expand the exemption for the employer mandate to businesses with payrolls up to $500,000 (up from the original maximum of $250,000). The Committee restarted its mark up proceedings on Thursday and after two long days filled with numerous amendments, the Committee voted 31-28 to approve the bill. The full floor vote will not take place until after the recess.
The Finance Committee also continued its negotiations, but still has not released a bill. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), one of the six members involved in the bipartisan negotiations, reported that the Finance Committee plan will not include a public option, but rather provisions for non-profit cooperatives. Similarly, it has been announced that the plan will not include an employer mandate like the HELP Committee or House bill, but rather will require employers that do not provide insurance for their employees to help pay for subsidies provided to workers in the Exchange. The Senate begins its August Recess on August 7th. The Finance Committee had hoped to pass a bill before the break, but it now appears unlikely.
Restraints and Seclusion
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on Friday sent a letter to state Chief School Officers to strongly encourage each state to review and, if necessary, revise its current policies and guidelines regarding the use of restraints and seclusion in schools to ensure every student is safe and protected. The letter further encourages states to use Recovery Act funds to implement a school-wide system of PBIS. It states that Districts could, consistent with program requirements, use funds provided for the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and State and local funds to provide professional development, develop data systems, and offer coaching to establish and sustain these programs. The letter directs state officers to the Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports web site (http://www.pbis.org/) for additional information on PBIS. Duncan encourages Districts to revise these policies prior to the start of the 2009-2010 school year. The letter is posted in full on the AUCD public policy website. House Education and Labor Committee staff have also indicated that they will begin drafting legislation over the August recess to address the urgent problem of improper uses of restraints and seclusion.
The House, by voice vote, passed HR 3325 on July 29, which would reauthorize through fiscal 2010 the Work Incentives Planning and Assistance program and the Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security program, both of which provide employment-related services for individuals with disabilities.
UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities
On July 30, United States Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice signed the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) at the United Nations in New York. Upon signature the U.S. must uphold the general purpose of the treaty, but is not legally bound under international law to any specific article until the Senate provides advice and consent and thus ratifies the treaty. Senate ratification requires a 2/3rds majority. The President is expected to submit the treaty to the Senate shortly after the signing, but there is no official word yet as to when that will occur. We anticipate more information on when the treaty will be presented to the Senate soon. The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) International Task Force (of which AUCD is a member) has been involved for the past year and a half in the effort to obtain a signature, and has posted information, including a webcast on the treaty, on the CCD webpage. Last week the CCD prepared the attached press release regarding the announcement. The release and more information about the treaty is available on the AUCD website.
The House of Representatives passed the Frank Melville Supportive Housing Investment Act (H.R. 1675) (on a vote of 376-51), which will significantly reform the Section 811 program. A new demonstration program is expected to triple the number of units to be built through use of other federal or state funds.
Educational ARRA Funding
President Obama and Secretary Duncan met on July 24 to announce the publishing of a Notice of Proposed Priorities (NPP) in the Federal Register for the $4.35 billion “Race to the Top” Fund. This largest-ever federal investment in education reform will reward eligible states for past accomplishments and create incentives for future improvement. Also announced was the publishing of proposed requirements, definitions, and approval criteria in the Federal Register for Phase 2 of the $48 billion State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF) and the release of fact sheets on approximately $9 billion in new grants to states and school districts. More information and an archived webcast is available on the Department website.
For copies of this and previous issues of Legislative News In Brief please visit the Public Policy Page of the AUCD website: http://www.aucd.org/template/page.cfm?id=164