Last week, the U.S. Senate passed by a vote of 86 to 11 its version of the “Farm Bill” (Manager’s Amendment to the House version of the Farm Bill, H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018). The bill reauthorizes farm programs and policy as well as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). It is a bipartisan bill that did not include cuts and other provisions that were contained in the House of Representative version of the bill. The next step will be a negotiation between the House and Senate to find a compromise between the two approaches. More than 11 million people with disabilities rely on SNAP to help put food on the table. For more information about The Arc’s position see our statement.
On June 21, the House of Representatives passed by a vote of 213-211 the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R.2, also known as the “Farm Bill”). The bill reauthorizes farm programs and policy as well as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). If enacted, the House bill would make major cuts to basic food assistance under SNAP. The Arc has strongly opposed the House bill. In contrast, the Senate Agriculture Committee recently marked up its own bipartisan proposal to reauthorize the Farm Bill, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (S.3042), which protects SNAP. Read The Arc’s statement on passage of the House Farm Bill.
On June 19, the House of Representatives passed H.R.6042 by voice vote. This bill delays implementation of the Electronic Visit Verification (EVV) requirements of the 21st Century Cures Act by one year, until January 2020. The bill also expresses the sense of Congress that CMS should hold at least one public meeting and solicit ongoing stakeholder input on its recently-issued guidance. Learn more about this newly-passed bill here.
The Senate passed S. 2614, Kevin and Avonte’s Law, by unanimous consent on July 14. This bill, sponsored by Senators Charles E. Grassley (R-IA) and Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), would provide grant funds to state and local law enforcement agencies and nonprofit organizations for education, training, and technology to help prevent and reduce the harm from wandering (or “elopement”). The Arc supports Kevin and Avonte’s Law and encourages our members to thank their Senators and reach out to their Representative about the House bill, H.R. 4919, during the long summer recess. Click here for more information.
On December 3, the House of Representatives passed the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act (H.R. 647) as a free-standing bill by a vote of 404 to 17 (with 13 Members not voting). On the same day, the House also passed the ABLE Act as Division B of H.R. 5771, commonly referred to as the “tax extenders” package (Division A, the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014, provides for tax extenders). A vote in the Senate on H.R. 5771, inclusive of the ABLE Act, is expected this week.
The ABLE Act aims to change the tax code to allow for tax advantaged savings accounts for individuals with disabilities for certain expenses, like education, housing, and transportation. Similar to existing “Section 529” education savings accounts, ABLE accounts would let individuals and families save for disability-related expenses to supplement, but not replace, benefits provided through Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, the beneficiary’s employment, and other sources. If properly managed, funds in the ABLE accounts would not jeopardize eligibility for critical federal benefits. With a full understanding of its features, individuals and families could use the ABLE accounts as another tool in planning for the lifetime needs of an individual with long term disabilities. The version of the bill that passed the House includes age limitations and a cap on contributions, added in July by the Committee on Ways and Means to reduce the costs of the bill. If the ABLE Act becomes law, The Arc will issue a fact sheet reflecting the details of the bill as it has changed through the legislative process. Further details must come through the regulatory process.
The House is scheduled to take up S. 3412, with a vote expected as early as Wednesday.
The Senate is expected to continue debate this week on a two-year, $109 billion surface transportation bill. This bill would extend the highway and transit programs authorized by the surface transportation bill. The current temporary extension is set to expire March 31, 2012. The House is still trying to find a compromise over the funding levels that would garner enough support to pass a bill.
The Senate is expected to vote this week on a two-year, $109 billion surface transportation bill. This bill would extend the highway and transit programs authorized by the surface transportation bill. The current temporary extension is set to expire March 31, 2012. The House is still trying to find a compromise over the funding levels that would garner enough support to pass a bill.
The Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee voted 18 to 14 to approve H.R. 2441, a bill sponsored by Rep. Edward Royce (R-CA) to eliminate the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF). The NHTF was created in 2008 to provide communities with funds to build, preserve, and rehabilitate rental housing for people with the lowest incomes, such as SSI and SSDI beneficiaries. For FY 2012, the President’s budget requests $1 billion to start up the NHTF. The Arc supports the NHTF to address the housing crisis for people with disabilities. In 2010, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment was $785 per month – far higher than $703, the average monthly SSI income. To move forward, H.R. 2441 must next be approved by the full House Financial Services Committee. There is no related legislation in the Senate.
H.R. 2218, which was introduced by Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA), Chair of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education, was approved last Wednesday by a vote of 34-5 by the Education and Workforce Committee. The bill is the second bill proposed by the Republicans to update the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind. The bill would amend the charter school program which authorizes funding for states to plan and start up charter schools. H.R. 2218 would authorize $330 million for Fiscal Year 2012 and for each of the next 5 years to states to award grants for replication and expansion of high-quality charter schools.
The bill includes measures designed to hold charter school accountable for educating all children with disabilities. Most children with disabilities who attend charters have learning disabilities and disabilities such as attention deficit disorder. Charters typically have not educated children with more significant disabilities.
The first bill to amend ESEA was passed by the committee last month and would cut half of the current Department of Education programs.
The Senate continues working on a comprehensive overhaul of the law. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, had said the Committee would mark up a bill after the spring recess but he has not yet released legislation.