June 22 will be the 19th Anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Olmstead v. LC. The case involved Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson, two women intellectual disability and psychiatric disabilities who were living at the Georgia state psychiatric hospital. Despite clinical assessments determining that a community setting would be appropriate, the state of Georgia refused to allow them to receive services outside of the institution. The Court ruled that placement in an institutional setting against one’s will against clinical recommendations violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Recently, the Administration announced a change in immigration policy that has resulted in children being separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border. Historically, crossing the border illegally was considered a civil offense and parents were able to stay with their children while legal proceedings were carried out (for example, to determine whether the family qualified for asylum). Under the new policy, crossing the border illegally is considered a criminal offense. Children are not allowed to stay with their parents while criminal proceedings are carried out because adult detention facilities cannot ensure child safety. Last Friday The Arc released a statement regarding the forced immigrant family separations that are occurring at the U.S.-Mexico border. “The Arc stands with the immigrant community and the many organizations and individuals that have come out in opposition to this abhorrent practice,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc. “The notion of uniformed, federal border protection agents forcibly separating parents from their children is outrageous.” Read The Arc’s full statement here.
Rescissions are a process that the President may use to ask Congress to cut already appropriated spending. When the Administration makes the request Congress has 45 days to act. A simple majority of votes is needed in both the House and Senate to pass a rescissions bill. The House has passed a bill (H.R. 3) and the Senate must act by Friday June 22. H.R. 3 contains $15.3 billion worth of rescissions. The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is targeted for nearly half of these rescissions, with nearly $7 billion in reductions. Earlier this year Congress, with strong bipartisan support, had extended the CHIP funding for 10 years. The decision to rescind funding from CHIP could destabilize the program and creates uncertainty if a state must respond to issues such as natural disaster, large layoffs due to plant closures, or an overall economic slowdown.
On June 15, a House Appropriations subcommittee approved the largest of the 12 annual nondefense discretionary (NDD) spending bills, the one that funds the Departments of Health and Human Services, Education, and Labor, and related agencies (L-HHS-ED). The $177.1 billion measure for fiscal year (FY) 2019 does not include an increase over FY 2018 (unlike other NDD funding bills), setting up a contentious situation where select program increases come at the expense of other programs. In addition, disagreements over cuts to certain programs and politically divisive policy additions to the bill could derail the measure when it goes to the full House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday. The Committee report with detailed line item funding amounts should be posted tomorrow.
On June 6, the Federal Commission on School Safety held its first in a series of public listening sessions. The Commission was created shortly after the shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and is composed of the Attorney General and the Secretaries of Education, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security. Annie Acosta, Director of Fiscal and Family Support Policy at The Arc, provided comments before the commission. She urged the commission to look comprehensively at school safety, recognize the importance of school climate, explore root causes of student behavior, prioritize evidence-based approaches, address the proper role of school resource officers, and maintain the Department of Education and Justice’s joint 2014 Discipline Guidance package. See the archived listening session here.
On June 7, the Senate approved Kenneth Marcus to become the head of the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) on a party-line vote of 50-46. Marcus served as the acting head of the OCR from 2003-04 and as the staff director of the bipartisan U.S. Commission on Civil Rights from 2004-08 and is the founder and president of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. Marcus is expected to have an important role in the Department of Education consideration of repealing or significantly revising the Obama administration’s 2014 Discipline Guidance package.
Last week, the Social Security Board of Trustees released “The 2018 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Federal Disability Insurance Trust Funds.” The 2018 report finds that at the end of 2017, Social Security’s reserves were $2.89 trillion. The Trustees continue to project that Social Security’s combined Trust Funds can pay all scheduled benefits through 2034, at which point the Trust Funds would be able to pay approximately 79 percent of scheduled benefits. The Trustees also find that the Social Security Disability Insurance Trust Fund can pay full scheduled benefits through 2032, after which the fund will be able to pay about 96 percent of scheduled benefits. This is 4 years later than projected in the 2017 Trustees Report, due to ongoing declines in applications, awards, and the number of people receiving Social Security disability benefits. Additional key points about the Trustees Report are available from the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Social Security Task Force.
The Social Security Subcommittee of the House Committee on Ways and Means held a hearing on the 2018 Trustees Report. The witness was Stephen C. Goss, Chief Actuary, Social Security Administration. Visit the Committee web site to view testimony and archived video.
On June 7, the Department of Justice announced that it will not defend key provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in a lawsuit challenging the law’s constitutionality. The lawsuit filed by Texas and 19 other states, argues that since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act reduced the penalty for not purchasing insurance to $0, it no longer raises revenue, and is therefore no longer constitutional under the tax powers of Congress. Furthermore, they argue that if the court strikes down the individual mandate, the rest of the ACA must also be struck down. The Department of Justice response argues that the individual mandate is unconstitutional but other provisions of the ACA should remain intact. The Administration further asserts that two critical protections for people with pre-existing conditions, guaranteed issue and community rating provisions, are unenforceable. Guaranteed issue is the provision that prevents denial of coverage based on health status and community rating helps keep insurance affordable for people with health conditions. California and sixteen other states have filed a motion to intervene, which would allow them to defend the law. Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc submitted a declaration in support of California’s motion to intervene. Read The Arc’s statement here.
Last week, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry released draft text of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. The draft represents the Committee’s bipartisan proposal to reauthorize the Farm Bill, which establishes farm policies and programs and nutrition programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The Committee has scheduled a meeting to review and vote on the bill on Wednesday, June 13. Visit the Committee web site for more information and live video the day of the hearing.
We want to hear from you about the change-makers in the policy arena! The Arc’s Catalyst Awards were created to recognize individuals, businesses, and other organizations that are catalysts for achievement in the lives of people with I/DD. Will you help us recognize the next advocacy powerhouse? In 2015 during the inaugural awards, the Stephen Beck, Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (or ABLE) was awarded Public Policy Victory of the Year. In 2016, Patti Saylor won Community Advocate of the Year for her tireless and fearless advocacy at both state and federal levels of government after the death of her son, Ethan. In 2017, officials from both New York and Indiana wonPublic Policy Victory of the Year for their work increasing salaries for direct support professionals (DSPs).
This year’s categories include: Self-Advocate of the Year, Community Advocate of the Year, Local Government Advocate of the Year, State Government Advocate of the Year, Federal Government Advocate of the Year, Public Policy Victory of the Year (State or National), and Legal Advocate of the Year. Know someone who deserves to be recognized? Nominate them today! Deadline: June 8, 2018.