Capitol Insider

For the week of May 27th

Major Events Today

Justice – Supreme Court Reaffirms Atkins v. Virginia Decision

Earlier today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Freddie Lee Hall in the
case Hall v. Florida, a death penalty case concerning the definition of intellectual
disability (ID) that Florida uses in deciding whether an individual with that
disability is protected by the Court’s decision in Atkins v. Virginia. In 2002, the
Supreme Court ruled in the Atkins v. Virginia case that executing inmates with ID
is unconstitutional as it violates the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual
punishment.

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of Hall. The justices stated that Florida
cannot rely solely on an IQ score to determine whether an inmate has ID.  Justice
Anthony Kennedy stated that IQ tests have a margin of error and those inmates
whose scores fall within the margin must be allowed to present other evidence.
Additionally, Justice Kennedy modified the 2002 Atkins decision by adopting the
term “intellectually disabled” and abandoning “mentally retarded,” which has
previously been used by the court in its opinions.

To read The Arc’s statement visit our blog.

Major Events Last Week

Appropriations – Senate Appropriations Committee Approves Total FY
2015 Funding Amounts for 12 Appropriations Bills

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved its FY 2015 funding amounts
for federal agencies, known as “302(b) allocations” by voice vote on May 22.
The allocations adhere to the overall $1.014 trillion discretionary cap
established by the Bipartisan Budget Act, and the defense and non-defense
caps within it.  The next step is for the respective Senate appropriations
subcommittees to allocate funding for specific line items.

Two of the 12 appropriations bills fund the vast majority of disability-related
discretionary programs – The Labor-HHS-Education bill and the Transportation-
Housing and Urban Development (HUD) bill.  The Senate’s Labor-HHS-
Education discretionary allocation is $156.773 billion, the same amount it
received in the FY 2014 omnibus, and its Transportation-HUD discretionary
allocation is $54.439 billion.  Earlier this month, the House released its 302(b)
allocations, providing lower amounts for these bills at $155.693 billion and
$52.029 billion.Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has dedicated two weeks in
June and two weeks in July for floor time for spending bills.   The Senate Labor-
HHS markups are expected to be held on June 10 and June 12 for the
subcommittee and full committee.  However, the prospects for the House and
Senate to agree to a Labor-HHS-Education spending bill before the 2015 fiscal
year begins on October 1 are uncertain.  If the Labor-HHS-Education funding
bill is not passed, one or more continuing resolutions are expected that would
likely provide level funding.   See current funding levels for disability-related
programs at The Arc website.

Autism – House Subcommittee Hearing on Federal Response to Autism
Spectrum Disorders

On May 20, the Government Operations Subcommittee of the House Oversight
and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. John Mica (R-FL), held a
hearing entitled “Examining the Federal Response to Autism Spectrum
Disorders.”   The hearing focused largely on the report of the Government
Accountability Office (GAO) that found many of the research programs funded by
the Combating Autism Act had the potential for duplication.  Dr. Thomas Insel,
Director of the National Institute of Mental Health and Chair of the Interagency
Autism Coordinating Committee, strongly defended the research programs,
arguing that no actual duplication was found and that duplication should be
encouraged in scientific research to validate results.   To read the testimony and
see the archived webcast, visit the Committee website.

Employment – Bipartisan, Bicameral Proposal to Reauthorize the
Workforce 
Investment Act Announced

Last week, a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers announced that they have
reached a deal to modernize the nation’s workforce development system through
new legislation, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).  The bill
would reauthorize and update existing federal workforce development programs,
including the Rehabilitation Act which provides for vocational rehabilitation
services for people with disabilities. WIOA represents a compromise between the
SKILLS Act (H.R. 803), which passed the House of Representatives in March of
2013, and the Work force Investment Act of 2013 (S. 1356), which passed the
Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee in July of
2013. The proposal was develop by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA),
Representative John Kline (R-MN), Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN),
Representative George Miller (D-CA), Senator Patty Murray (D-WA),
Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), and
Representative Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX). With regard to the Rehabilitation Act,
like S. 1356, WIOA focuses vocational rehabilitation outcomes on competitive,
integrated employment and promotes greater emphasis on transition services for
youth with disabilities. To learn more, view the one-page summary, a statement
of managers and detailed summary , and the legislative text. The Senate and
House are expected to consider WIOA in June. The Arc supports this bipartisan,
bicameral compromise.

Social Security – Senate Holds Hearing on Strengthening Social Security

Last week, the Senate Committee on Finance, Subcommittee on Social Security,
Pensions, and Family Policy, chaired by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), held a
hearing on “Strengthening Social Security to Meet the Needs of Tomorrow’s Retirees.”
Witnesses were: Stephen Goss, Chief Actuary, Social Security Administration; Dr.
Teresa Ghilarducci, Chair of the Economics Department, New School for Social
Research, The New School; Dr. Jason J. Fichtner, Senior Research Fellow, Mercatus
Center, George Mason University; Dr. Maya Rockeymoore, President & CEO, Center
for Global Policy Solutions.  Visit the Committee website to view opening statements,
testimony, and video of the hearing.

Major Events Ahead

Autism/Health – House Subcommittee Markup Scheduled on the Combating
Autism Act

On May 28, the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy & Commerce Committee
is scheduled to markup H.R. 4631, the reauthorization of the Combating Autism Act.
H.R. 4631 largely extends the research, surveillance, public awareness, and
professional training activities under the Combating Autism Act for an additional 5
years.  It would, however, reform the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee
(IACC) to promote greater coordination among federal agencies and require the
Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review the existing landscape of services
(federal, state, local government, and the private and non-profit sectors), conduct a
survey of stakeholders, and make recommendations to enhance coordination,
efficiency, and the value of the services currently provided to assist individuals
with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Unfortunately, this bill does not include a
name change. For more information on the House markup, see the
Committee website.

Announcements

Civil Rights – New Survey on Guardianship Released

TASH, ASAN, ACLU, The Arc of Michigan, and Quality Trust are collaborating on a
survey of parents and individuals with disabilities to understand what they may have
experienced related to guardianship.

The survey sponsors are seeking information on how and when people with disabilities
are put under guardianship (or conservatorship).   If you are a parent and/or a person
with a disability over 18, please take this important survey – http://tash.org/ymq6. The
deadline for this survey is June 4.


Tony Paulauski
Executive Director
The Arc of Illinois
20901 S. LaGrange Rd. Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423
815-464-1832 (OFFICE)
 
Tony@www.thearcofil.org