Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Tuesday Quick Hits: Hot Policy Topics for this Week

Tuesday Quick Hits: Hot Policy Topics for this Week

North Carolina:
Tuesday, December 18th, 2007
House Select Committee to Investigate Alleged Misconduct and other Matters Included in Inditments Against Representative Thomas Wright. 4:00pm 544 LOB.
As we head into the Holiday break, committee meetings at the General Assembly are slowing down. That said one important meeting will be held this week. The House Select Committee will meet on Tuesday, December 18th at 4:00pm to consider the charges against Representative Thomas Wright. The House will be reviewing the possibility of expelling Representative Wright. The last time the General Assembly expelled a seated member was in 1880.


FY 2008 Appropriations

Congressional leaders worked through the weekend to finalize a compromise omnibus appropriations bill to consolidate the remaining 11 appropriation bills for FY 2008. The House passed this omnibus appropriations bill on Tuesday evening. It did include funding for the war in Afghanistan but not for the war in Iraq. The Senate has received this bill and will most likely add additional funds for the war in Iraq or make the funding flexible to either Iraq or Afghanistan. The House will then receive this bill back and most likely it will pass with the Senate changes. The House will then vote on the final bill (which will be identical to the Senate-passed bill to avoid the conference process) on Friday. It is expected to include earmarks, small increases for some disability programs, and small cuts for others.

The compromise omnibus bill contains funding for the following select programs of interest to the disability community:

*Special Education: The Special education grants to states will receive a $259 million increase above FY 2007.

*Vocational Rehabilitation - Vocational Rehabilitation State Grants will receive the mandatory cost of living increase of $36 million.

*Social Security – Funds will be increased to administer the Social Security Administration, known as the Limitation on Administrative Expenses (LAE). The compromise bill sets the LAE figure at $9.918 billion. This would be an increase of over $451 million over the amounts appropriated for FY 2007. The increase is critical to allow the Social Security Administration to address the crisis of backlogs in making decisions on disability cases. As regularly reported in the press, people are losing their homes and families, and some people even die, while waiting for a decision on a claim in the Social Security appeals process.

*Housing - The omnibus bill restores President Bush's $112 million cut to the Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities Program, providing level funding of $237 million. In addition, $30 million is provided for new Section 8 vouchers targeted to non-elderly persons with disabilities.

National Disability Rights Network provided this chart to us on Monday afternoon. Items in ( ) are a negative.

Program FY 08 Appropriations Difference Between FY08 and FY07
CAP $11.576 million ($206,000)
PAIR $16.201 million ($288,000)
PAIMI $34.880 million + $880,000
PADD $39.024 million + $306,000
PAVA $5.256 million + $426,000
PATBI $2.9475 million ($22,500)
PAAT $4.264 million ($75,820)


Looks like Congress will attempt to address Medicare/Medicaid this year. This Medicare package will include the CMS moratorium language which has been lobbied for by disability advocates. It will also include an extension of current funding for SCHIP (state children’s health insurance plan) until March 2009.

Many health care stakeholders view this bill as the vehicle to make changes to Medicare and Medicaid. The disability community, for example, is seeking to secure a two-year moratorium on proposed Medicaid regulations on the rehab option and school based services/transportation as well as an extension of the exceptions process on Medicare caps on physical, occupational, and speech therapies.

The Medicare bill will be originating in the Senate on Tuesday, December 18, 2007. It will need to get through the Senate with better than 60 votes and then Head to the House.

Special thanks to DPC and National Disability Rights as well as CSPAN and others.

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