The Arc thanks the lead sponsors of this important bill, Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Mike Doyle (D-PA), and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ).
Major Events Last Week
Budget/Deficit Reduction – Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction holds second hearing
The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction held its second public hearing on September 22, entitled Overview: Revenue Options and Reforming the Tax Code. The bipartisan Committee, established by the Budget Control Act, is charged with identifying $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction which can include spending cuts from all entitlement and discretionary programs as well as revenue increases. It is expected to finalize its plan by late October or early November in order to allow sufficient time for the Congressional Budget Office to develop cost estimates before the November 23 deadline for the Congress to vote on its legislative proposal. Learn more about the Budget Control Act and how it may affect funding for discretionary disability-related programs. The Arc strongly supports a balanced approach to reducing the deficit, since greater revenues would result in fewer spending cuts for disability-related programs. The hearing is archived on the Committee’s website at http://deficitreduction.senate.gov/public/.
Social Security – Bill to secure long-term solvency introduced
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and 9 co-sponsors introduced the Keeping Our Social Security Promises Act (S. 1558). The bill seeks to ensure long-term solvency of the Social Security Trust Fund by eliminating the cap on earnings subject to payroll taxes. It would immediately eliminate the cap on earned income above $250,000 and gradually (over 25 years) eliminate the cap between the current level ($106,800) and $250,000. The Chief Actuary of the Social Security Administration has projected that applying the Social Security payroll tax to earned income above $250,000 will raise about $85 billion per year and will extend the solvency of Social Security for the next 75 years. The Arc supports proposals to ensure the long-term solvency of Social Security that spread the costs, while preserving the program’s basic structure and strengthening its insurance functions.
Employment – CMS Releases Information Bulletin Regarding Prevocational Services under the Home and Community Based Services Waiver
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released an Informational Bulletin regarding Updates to the Section 1915(c) Waiver Instructions and Technical Guide regarding employment and employment related services. Specifically, the Bulletin provides updates to several sections of the current Waiver Technical Guide Version 3.5, which was released in January of 2008, in advance of a future release of Technical Guide Version 3.6. Major changes include highlighting the importance of competitive work, acknowledging best and promising practices, clarifying that Ticket to Work Outcome and Milestone payments do not conflict with payment of Medicaid services, splitting supported employment into two definitions, adding a new service definition for career planning, emphasizing person centered planning, clarifying that volunteer and other unpaid activities are appropriately described in prevocational services as opposed to supported employment, and clarifying the time-limited nature of pre-vocational services (without giving specific limits).
Social Security – House hearing on Social Security work incentive programs
On September 23, the House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Social Security and Subcommittee on Human Resources, held a joint oversight hearing on work incentives in Social Security disability programs. The hearing focused on work incentives for people with disabilities who receive Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits, including work incentive programs authorized under the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999 (P.L. 106-170). Click here to review witnesses’ written testimony and here to watch an archived video of the hearing.
Education – No Child Left Behind
The Obama administration announced its plan to allow states to waive certain requirements under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) which also is called No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Under the current law, 100% of students must be proficient in reading and math by 2014. Most schools are not reaching that goal. In order to receive relief from the penalties for not reaching their goals, schools must adopt “college and career ready” standards, focus on 15% of their most-troubled schools, and create guidelines for teacher evaluations based in part on student performance.
Several bills have been introduced in the Senate that would amend ESEA. Proposals include requiring interventions in only the lowest performing 5% of schools and allowing any student with a disability to be assessed with alternate assessments rather than the regular assessments given to other students (S. 1571) and removing the Secretary of Education’s ability to put conditions on waiver requests (S. 1567, S 1568, and S. 1569). The Arc is monitoring these developments closely since the NCLB is considered to have been the source of some improvements in the education of students with disabilities.
Transportation – Department of Transportation publishes rule amending ADA regulations
The Department of Transportation published the final rule amending its Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations to require intercity, commuter, and high-speed passenger railroads to ensure, at new and altered station platforms, that passengers with disabilities can get on and off any accessible car of the train. This long awaited rule requires passenger railroads, such as AMTRAK, to provide level-entry boarding at new or altered stations in which no track passing through the station and adjacent to platforms is shared with existing freight rail operations. For new or altered stations in which track passing through the station and adjacent to platforms is shared with existing freight rail operations, passenger railroads will be able to choose among a variety of means to meet a performance standard to ensure that passengers with disabilities can access each accessible train car that other passengers can board at the station.
Major Events This Week
Autism – Reauthorization of the Combating Autism Act clears Senate, awaiting signature by President Obama
In a great victory for the disability community, last night the Senate cleared, by voice vote, a bill (HR 2005) to continue funding to educate professionals about proper screening, diagnosis, and intervention for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as well as many other developmental disabilities. It also funds ASD research and surveillance. The bill authorizes $231 million a year from fiscal 2012 through 2014 for these efforts. See the action alert above to thank the bill’s lead co-sponsors in the House and Senate.
Appropriations – short term FY 2012 spending plan clears the Senate, House action expected shortly
The Senate passed two short term appropriations bills last night to give the House two options for funding the federal government. One bill would fund the government until November 18,2011. The other bill would fund the government until October 4, to allow the House enough time to return from the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah and consider the longer-term bill. The House is in recess this week but is expected to approve a bill by voice vote. If there are problems, then it is expected that the shorter term bill will be passed with the House returning next week to address the bill to fund the government until November 18. This process is expected to avert the threatened government shutdown.
Next week we will return to our normal schedule for Capitol Insider. You will receive your next edition on Monday, October 3.