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Major Events Last Week
Budget – House Passes FY 2013 Ryan Budget
As expected, on March 29, the House voted to pass the Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Resolution. The measure passed by a vote of 228-191
. This plan for federal spending and revenue would be very harmful for people with disabilities as mandatory programs that people with disabilities rely on (Medicaid, Medicare) would be significantly cut and/or restructured, funding for critical discretionary programs (such as housing, education, employment, and transportation) would be slashed, and the health care reform law would be repealed. Specifically:
- Medicaid would be cut by $810 billion over 10 years (a 33% cut by 2021), converted to a block grant, and all “dual eligibles” would be placed entirely in the Medicare program.
- Medicare would be converted to a “premium support program” by offering vouchers to purchase private insurance or the traditional Medicare program starting in FY 2023 for new beneficiaries. This would end the Medicare guarantee and raise health care costs for people with disabilities and seniors.
- Non-defense discretionary programs would be cut by $800 billion below the amount of the automatic spending cuts from the Budget Control Act (an approximate cut of 9%).
- Social Security reforms to provide solvency over the next 75 years would be considered under an expedited Congressional process, as opposed to normal deliberation.
Several alternatives to the FY 2013 House Budget Resolution introduced as amendments were defeated. These included the more austere plan developed by the Republican Study Committee that contained even steeper cuts in spending and a plan developed by the House Progressive Caucus which called for more investments in spending and raising revenue to help reduce the deficit.
The Senate, however, is not likely to vote on a FY 2013 Budget Resolution because the Budget Control Act already set spending caps for FY 2012 to 2021. Therefore, with different target levels set for spending, House and Senate differences may not be resolved until after a post-election “lame duck” session of Congress is convened.
Civil Rights – Americans with Disabilities Act
Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) introduced S. 2186 and S. 2191, which would prohibit the Attorney General from administering or enforcing certain accessibility regulations relating to pools at public accommodations or provided by public entities. The bills are in response to the Department of Justice (DOJ) rule that requires new swimming pools to be accessible to people with disabilities. The rule was to have become effective on March 15, but DOJ extended the date to May 2012 and has proposed extending the deadline to September 2012. The Arc and other disability organizations are drafting a letter to Senators expressing concern about depriving people with disabilities access to swimming pools and prohibiting an executive branch agency from enforcing its own rules. The Arc also will submit comments to DOJ opposing an additional extension of the compliance deadline.
Social Security/Employment – Rebuild America Act Introduced
Senator Harkin (D-IA) introduced S. 2252, the Rebuild America Act of 2012. The bill seeks to improve the employment and economic security of America’s middle class. Among its many provisions, the bill proposes to strengthen Social Security through a balanced approach that advances solvency of the Social Security Trust Funds while also enhancing the benefit calculation formula and annual cost-of-living adjustments for all Social Security programs, including Supplemental Security Income. The bill also proposes to extend the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) program through 2015 and to expand and increase the WOTC for workers with disabilities. The Arc supports these two provisions. The bill was referred to the Committee on Finance.
Employment – Bill Introduced to Reform Workforce Investment System
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA), and Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV) introduced H.R. 4297, the Workforce Investment Improvement Act of 2012. The bill consolidates more than 20 Federal job training programs into a Workforce Investment Fund that would provide formula funds to state and local workforce investment boards for employment and training programs. Under the bill, states would have the option of including vocational rehabilitation (VR) State Grants in the Workforce Investment Fund. The bill also would consolidate the Projects with Industry and State-Supported Employment Services Programs into the existing VR State Grants program. The bill was referred to the Committee on Education and the Workforce, and to the Committees on the Judiciary, Agriculture, Energy and Commerce, and Transportation and Infrastructure.
Transportation – Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012
The House and Senate have passed the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012 (H.R. 4281), a three-month extension of the surface transportation programs. The spending authority for Highway Trust Fund programs would have expired March 31 without the extension, potentially halting road and transit projects throughout the country. Congress has had difficulty agreeing to a longer term extension of the programs.
Autism/Data – New CDC data shows sharp increase in Autism prevalence; Senate Issues Proclamation
On March 29, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new data on the prevalence of autism showing that one in 88 children has autism or a related disorder, a 23% increase since the last report in 2009 and a 78% increase since the first report in 2007. The Arc spoke out to warn that this could be a “perfect storm,” with proposed cuts to Medicaid in Congress threatening services and supports for people with autism. On the same day, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) submitted Senate Resolution 413 supporting the designation of April 2012 as National Autism Awareness Month.
Civil Rights – Technology
The Administration is seeking input on how the federal government can improve compliance with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. Section 508 requires all of the federal government’s websites and electronic information to be accessible to people with disabilities. People can submit ideas, vote on existing ideas, or add comments on the Section 508 website. The comment period has been extended indefinitely while the administration addresses accessibility issues with the website.
The Department of Health and Human Services announces new members of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced last week that she has invited 15 individuals to serve as public members on the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC). The IACC is a federal advisory committee established by the Combating Autism Act of 2006 and reauthorized by the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2011. To read about the new members of the committee click here.
Register for Disability Policy Seminar
Make your plans to attend the 2012 Disability Policy Seminar in Washington, D.C. April 23-25. This event is the biggest and best opportunity for advocates to advance the grassroots movement for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. But this year it is even more important to make your mark in Washington as we approach a pivotal presidential election in November. This unique platform offers you the opportunity to come together with other advocates, learn about the issues, and speak with your elected officials about what is important to you. This year’s seminar will include a Capitol Hill reception on Tuesday, April 24, for seminar attendees only, hosted by the office of the Honorable Tom Harkin, U.S. Senator from Iowa. If you have already registered for the Seminar, we need your RSVPfor this special event.
Attending the Seminar? Schedule Appointments today!
Attendees are encouraged to begin to reach out for appointments with elected officials as soon as possible – due to the frequency of Congressional recesses, time to meet in Washington with constituency groups like us is more limited than in recent years.