Major Recent Events
115th Congress – Parties Complete Leadership Elections
On November 30, the House Democrats selected their leaders for the 115th Congress. They re-elected Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as Minority Leader, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) as Minority Whip, and Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) as Assistant Minority Leader, and elected Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) as Caucus Chair.
President-elect Trump Selects Additional Nominees for Cabinet
Over the last several weeks, President-elect Trump announced his choices for cabinet secretaries who are important to disability policy:
- Department of Education – Betsy DeVos is a businesswoman from Michigan who has held leadership positions with the state’s Republican party.
- Department of Health and Human Services – Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) is a six-term Republican congressman from Georgia and a former orthopedic surgeon who chairs the Budget Committee and serves on the Ways and Means and Committee.
- Department of Housing and Urban Development – Dr. Ben Carson was the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Maryland from 1984 until his retirement in 2013.
- Department of Justice – Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) is a four-term senator and former United States attorney from Alabama who serves on the Armed Services, Budget, Environment and Public Works, and Judiciary Committees.
Hearings are expected on each nominee in early 2017.
A simple majority vote in the Senate is required for confirmation.
Education – Secretary Calls for End to Corporal Punishment in Schools
On November 22, Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. sent a letter to governors and state education officials urging an end to the use of corporal punishment. “School-sponsored corporal punishment is not only ineffective, it is a harmful practice, and one that disproportionally impacts students of color and students with disabilities,” King wrote. There are 22 states that either expressly permit in-school corporal punishment or where no state law prohibits it. The 15 states that expressly permit corporal punishment are AL, AZ, AR, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, MO, NC, OK, SC, TN, TX, and WY. The seven states where no state law prohibits corporal punishment are CO, ID, IN, KS, MA, NH, and SD. According to the Department of Education’s data, 110,000 students were subjected to some type of physical punishment in school during the 2013-2014 academic year.
Health Care – House Passes Medical Research Bill
Last week the House of Representatives passed the 21st Century Cures Act (H.R. 34) by a wide margin (392-26). The bill would provide additional funding for medical research at the National Institutes of Health, speed up the approval of treatments at the Food and Drug Administration, and help combat opioid abuse, among other provisions. It also incorporates the “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act” which makes numerous changes to the mental health system. Additionally, it incorporates the Special Needs Trust Fairness Act, which allows non-elderly individuals with disabilities to establish a special needs trust on their own without having to file a petition with a court. However, the bill contains some controversial provisions such as one requiring states to use an electronic visit verification system for Medicaid-provided personal care services and home health services. Furthermore, it takes $3.5 billion from the Prevention and Public Health Fund to help pay for the cost of the bill. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill this week.
Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Fellowship Program Accepting Applications
The Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation is seeking applicants for its Public Policy Fellowship. Applicants should be exemplary professionals, people with disabilities, or family members of people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. The fellowship prepares mid-career, or more seasoned leaders, to assume leadership in the disability public policy arena at the state or national level. Fellows spend one year in Washington, D.C. in the office of a Member of Congress, Congressional Committee, or federal agency. Learn more and apply for the fellowship here. Applications are due December 15, 2016.
The Arc of Illinois
20901 S. LaGrange Rd. Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423