Here is this week’s Capitol Insider from The Arc of the United States. Tony

Capitol Insider
for the Week of February 21, 2012
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Major Events Last Week
Budget – President Obama’s 2013 budget request provides mostly level funding for disability-related programs, with a few cuts and increases
On February 13, President Obama released his spending and revenue plan for the fiscal year starting on October 1, 2012. The Section 811 Supportive Housing for People with Disabilities program experienced the largest percentage cut with a 10% reduction from FY 2012. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Early Intervention Part C program, on the other hand, received one of the largest increases. Visit The Arc’s website to see how disability-related programs fared in the President’s Budget.
The President’s budget reflects the Administration’s priorities and is the starting point for the annual budget process. The Republican controlled House of Representatives is expected to issue its own budget blueprint in the coming weeks. However, final spending bills may be largely determined by possible Congressional action to change the automatic spending cuts scheduled to take place in January of 2013. The President’s budget offers a replacement for these automatic spending cuts required by the Budget Control Act, which as enacted, would cause disability-related and other non-defense discretionary programs to be cut by about 9%.
Social Security / Employment / Health Care – Congress approves full-year extension of payroll tax holiday, extended unemployment benefits, and extended Medicare physician payment rates
Congress approved legislation (H.R. 3630) to extend for the rest of 2012 the temporary payroll tax rate reduction for workers, current Medicare reimbursement rates for doctors, and some long-term unemployment insurance benefits. The legislation extends through December 31, 2012 the 2 percent reduction in the Social Security payroll tax rate for workers that was initiated as economic stimulus in 2011. It also extends current Medicare physician payment rates, avoiding a scheduled 27.4 percent cut in reimbursements. It extends certain unemployment insurance benefits for long-term jobless workers, but also reduces the maximum number of weeks of long-term benefits to 73 weeks from 99 weeks. Benefits in states with jobless rates below 9 percent would be capped at 63 weeks. The reduction would be phased in between May and September, 2012. Finally, the legislation extends Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) through September 30, 2012.
Education/ESEA Reauthorization – Hearings on two bills that would reauthorize ESEA
The House Education and Workforce Committee, chaired by Rep. John Kline (R-MN) held a hearing concerning two bills that would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act: the Student Success Act (H.R. 3989), and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act (H.R.3990).
Under the current law, students with the most significant cognitive disabilities take an alternate assessment on alternate achievement standards.  The law allows this alternate assessment for up to 1% of all students (10% of students with disabilities). Under H.R. 3989, the cap would be lifted. Without the cap, schools could decide to use alternate standards and alternate assessments for larger numbers of students.The bills would reduce the current law’s focus on the participation and progress of students with disabilities and other subgroups.
Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Mike Enzi (R-WY) introduced a bill to reauthorize ESEA earlier this year which was reported out of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee favorably. There are differences between the House and Senate versions of the ESEA reauthorization bills. There is little optimism that ESEA will be reauthorized this year.
Health Care – CMS Provides More Health Care Reform updates on Essential Health Benefits
Last Friday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published a fact sheet that deals with questions that have been raised by states, advocacy groups, and others about how states should develop their essential health benefits packages. Last December, CMS released a bulletin that gave states the flexibility to choose from a variety of existing plans as models for their benefits packages.  The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires that the plans include 10 categories of benefits including rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices.  To see the questions and answers view this FAQ from the CMS website. CMS has not yet released a notice of proposed rulemaking on these critical issues but the guidance is expected to help states move forward with implementation of the ACA.
Education / NCLB Waivers – New Mexico’s NCLB Waiver application approved
The Department of Education approved New Mexico’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Waiver application, making it the eleventh state to receive a waiver. Several additional states intend to apply for NCLB Waivers by the February 28 deadline. Other states have expressed interest in applying but say they need more time. In response, the Department has set a third-round deadline of September 6, 2012. The Department also has created an application process for these states to request a one-year freeze in their annual achievement targets to keep the list of schools failing to make adequate yearly progress from growing. In order to obtain a one-year freeze, states have to meet several requirements, including publicly reporting on achievement gaps and graduation gaps for subgroups of students (e.g. students with disabilities).
The Department created a “cheat sheet”for states that intend to apply for NCLB waivers. Based on feedback to the original 11 states from peer reviewers, the Department suggests that states pay attention to:
  • “Meaningful” consultation with stakeholders, especially those representing students with disabilities.
  • Plans for helping students with disabilities, including professional development for all teachers not just special education teachers.

Identification of low performing subgroups and targeted interventions even in schools that are not among the lowest performing 5%.

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