for the week of December 4, 2017
Major Events Ahead
Budget & Appropriations/Tax Policy – House and Senate to Negotiate Differences Between Tax Bills That Would Harm People with Disabilities
The House and Senate are scheduled to vote on moving forward with a conference committee today to iron out the differences between the tax bills that both chambers passed. The House passed its bill on November 16 and the Senate narrowly passed (51 to 49) its bill in the early morning hours of December 2. Both bills, named the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, make significant changes to the tax code for both individuals and corporations. Both would add about $1.5 trillion to the deficit over 10 years, increasing pressure to cut Medicaid and other programs to pay for the tax cuts that disproportionately benefit upper income individuals and large corporations. The Senate bill goes further by effectively repealing the individual mandate for people to have health insurance which is projected to result in 13 million fewer people with health care coverage and increase premiums by 10%. Click here to read a description of the major differences in the House and Senate bills and click here to see the differences in key provisions for people with disabilities. The Arc’s statement on the Senate’s passage of its tax bill can be found here.
Advocates are urged to turn their attention to their representatives in the House to oppose the bills TODAY. The House and Senate need to pass the identical bills in order for a measure to become law. It is still possible that the House may simply pass the version the Senate passed on Saturday morning. If this were to happen, the President is all but certain to sign the measure and it will become law. Therefore, the time to act is now. See action alert.
Employment/Family Support – House to Hold Hearing on Workforce Leave Policies
On December 6, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions will hold a hearing titled “Workplace Leave Policies: Opportunities and Challenges for Employers and Working Families”. Visit the committee web site for more information or to access live video on the day of the hearing.
Major Recent Events
Budget & Appropriations – Short Term Funding Bill Introduced to Avert a Government Shutdown
House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) over the weekend introduced a two-week continuing resolution (CR) that would extend all provisions in the previous CR until December 22. The measure also includes temporary aid for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The current CR runs though Friday, December 8. Chairman Frelinghuysen confirmed reports that the two-week CR is meant to allow lawmakers more time to reach a deal on increasing the spending caps for defense and non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs. NDD programs include many programs that benefit people with disabilities such as education, housing, employment, and transportation programs.
Social Security – Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Hosts Webinar on Harmful Congressional Proposal to Stop SSI benefits for People with Outstanding Warrants
The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Social Security Task Force and Justice in Aging held a webinar on Monday, November 20, 2017. The webinar reviewed proposed Congressional legislation to revive a disastrous old policy to prohibit the payment of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to people who are the subject of an arrest warrant for an alleged felony or an alleged violation of probation or parole. It featured remarks by Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL) and presentations by Dara Baldwin, National Disability Rights Network; Tracey Gronniger, Justice in Aging; and T.J. Sutcliffe, The Arc. They discussed the details of the proposal, who it would harm, and why it is bad policy. Click here to view the archived webinar.
Education – GAO Issues Report on Disability and Private School Choice
On November 17, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a new report detailing the impact of private school choice on students with disabilities. After examining the 27 voucher programs and education savings account programs operating in 14 states and DC, GAO determined that Congress should consider taking action to force states to disclose to families that they give up their rights under federal special education law when a child with disabilities is moved from a public school to a private school. The report found that private school choice programs sometimes provide families with inaccurate information about federal special education law. Despite the Education Department’s urging that states share more information with families about their rights, GAO found that “more than 80 percent of students nationwide who are enrolled in private choice programs designed for students with disabilities were enrolled in a program that either provided no information about changes in their rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), or provided some inaccurate information about these changes.” The report comes amid the Trump administration’s support for expanding private school choice. To read more from the GAO report, click here.
Education – Congressional Briefing to be Held on Over-Identification and Discipline in Special Education
Representatives Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) and Donald McEachin (D-VA) will host a briefing on the over-identification and discipline in special education on Thursday, December 7th from 3:30 – 5:00 pm. The Obama administration established a rule in 2016 that created a standardized approach to determine whether school districts have significant disparities in how they identify, segregate, or discipline minority students with disabilities. According to press reports, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is strongly considering eliminating this regulation. The briefing panel will discuss the research on significant disproportionality, what these practices look like in the classroom, and policy implications, including what it would mean to rescind the regulation.
Health Care – Health Insurance Open Enrollment Continues Through December 15
Now is the time for individuals who are uninsured or are looking for affordable health insurance to investigate the private health insurance plans available through state marketplaces (to find your state information visit the health care website). During open enrollment a person can purchase private health insurance through the marketplace in each state. There may also be financial assistance to help with health care costs available for low and moderate incomes. It is also important for people who currently have insurance through the marketplace to look at the plan to determine if it will continue to meet their needs. Individuals who do not take action will be automatically re-enrolled in the current plan. Re-enrollment is also an important opportunity for people to report any changes in income. To learn more, read The Arc’s blog post. Open enrollment ends on December 15, 2017.
Miscellaneous – Kennedy Foundation Accepting Applications for Fellowship Program Through Dec 15
The Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation is currently accepting applications for its 2018 Public Policy Fellowship Program. Each year the Foundation brings professionals, family members, and persons experiencing disability to Washington, D.C. for a one-year, full-time, intensive immersion experience. Throughout their time in the District, fellows actively participate in public policy development in the offices of a Member of Congress, Congressional committee, or federal agency. This experience is a unique chance to understand the intersection of public policy, disability advocacy, and the political process. Please see the full announcement for more details. Applications will be accepted until December 15.