Thursday, January 31, 2008

Live from Opening Doors- High Point

Dave Richard, Executive Director of The Arc of North Carolina, is introducing Bob Kucab with the Housing Finance Agency.
Bob Kucab is thanking the residents of this beautiful unit ffor letting us use their wonderful home.
"A home of ones own is the cornerstone of ones independence. Although housing may not be a complete solution for people with developmental disabilities, We need leadership in order to secure funds in the General Assembly. "
Bob Kucab is introducing Senator Katie Dorsett and thanking her for all of her work on housing and supporting people with developmental disabilities.

News: Senate Takes Up Its Economic Stimulus Plan Today

The Senate Finance Committee will be presenting an economic stimulus plan that differs from the House plan. The Senate plan will include additional money for retired people, disabled veterans and extends unemployment insurance benefits. The Senate will vote on the plan today.

Here are the differences in the plan:
Rebates House -- $600 per individual, $1,200 per couple, plus $300 per child Senate -- $500 per individual, $1,000 per couple, plus $300 per child
Shot in arm House -- $146 billion Senate -- $200 billion
The cutoff House -- $75,000 per individual, or $150,000 a couple Senate -- $150,000 per individual, or $300,000 a couple
Seniors, veterans -- The Senate version would extend rebates to 20 million seniors and 250,000 disabled veterans who are ineligible under the House plan
Total Cost of Plan--House $146 bn -- Senate $157 bn

Read more:

Federal Update: Economic Stimulus Package

Capitol Hill Watch House Passes Economic Stimulus Package Without Medicaid Funding; Senator To Introduce Amendment To Include Funding in Senate Package
[Jan 30, 2008]

The House on Tuesday voted 385-35 to approve a $146 billion economic stimulus package (HR 5140) that does not include a temporary increase in the federal medical assistance percentage for states' Medicaid programs, the AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. The bill faces a "murky future in the Senate," as senators favor a larger package that could include Medicaid funding, according to the AP/Times-Dispatch (Hirschfeld Davis, AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch, 1/29). Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Wednesday is expected to offer an amendment to the Senate's package that would temporarily increase the FMAP, CongressDaily reports. Five committee Democrats on Tuesday sent a letter to Finance Committee leaders expressing their support for additional Medicaid funds. States, unions, health organizations and community groups also support the amendment, "but that might not be enough to win the needed votes in the committee," according to CongressDaily (Cohn/Johnson, CongressDaily, 1/30). Supporters of additional Medicaid funding say that without a temporary increase to the FMAP, many people will lose access to health care services, as at least 25 states face budget shortfalls in fiscal year 2009, according to an analysis released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities on Monday. According to the analysis, "In the last recession, some 34 states cut eligibility for public health programs, causing well over one million people to lose health coverage" (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 1/28).The full Senate could take up the measure as early as this week. However, USA Today reports that action on the bill "would slow down if senators seek to add spending for such things as food stamps, Medicaid, low-income heating assistance" and other programs (Wolfe, USA Today, 1/30).

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said it is unlikely the Senate will simply accept the House's version without making any changes. He said, "I think that there's 51 Democratic senators without exception who believe this package can be made better," adding that he expects to have enough Republican support to change it.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she hopes the Senate will "take this bill and run with it," and not add on additional measures. She said, "It's important that this bill not get overloaded. I have a full agenda of things I would like to have in the package, but we have to contain the price," adding, "We made a decision because that's where we could find our common ground" (AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch, 1/29).
President Bush said, "The temptation is going to be for the Senate to load it up. We need to get this bill out of the Senate and on my desk so the checks can get in the hands of our consumers, and our businesses can be assured of the incentives necessary to make investments" (USA Today, 1/30).

Information Provided by: Kaiser Family Foundation

Live Blog Event: Opening Doors High Point

The Arc of North Carolina Policy Blog will be live from High Point today. The Arc of North Carolina and The Arc of High Point will be hosting a ribbon cutting for supportive living apartments, Opening Doors High Point. We will be there to bring you the highlights live!!!

Announcement: Opening Doors High Point Ribbon Cutting

The Arc of North Carolina and the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency are proud to announce the opening of a new collaborative housing project for persons with disabilities. The Arc of North Carolina was awarded grants from the NC Housing Finance Agency’s new Housing 400 Initiative and received funding from the City of High Point to purchase and renovate four condominium units to provide inclusive, affordable housing for people with disabilities. These four 2-bedroom units are located within existing condominium communities and will be able to serve up to eight people. The units are conveniently located on a bus line and in walking distance to shopping, employment and recreational opportunities. Tenants will hold a lease to their unit and pay rent based on their income. Individualized services will be available through The Arc of High Point which is received a grant from the United Way of High Point to support the residents of these apartments. Opening Doors Supportive Apartments High Point is the second of the Housing 400 Initiative-Supportive Housing Development Program grantees to open its doors for people with disabilities to live in a supportive and inclusive housing unit. The Housing 400 Initiative received bi-partisan legislative support in the General Assembly. The 2007-2008 Fiscal budget includes $7.5 million in non recurring funding to finance additional independent and supportive living apartments for people with disabilities. The Arc of North Carolina extends its thanks to the many elected leaders who worked to get this funding into the budget. Dave Richard, Executive Director of The Arc of North Carolina, states “Opening Doors is an excellent example of a collaborative project that incorporates non-profit organizations, state and local funding and a best practice principle to benefit people with disabilities in the most inclusive of settings, their own home in their choice of community”.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Julia's Musings: A Conversation with Ron Pollack

This was my first Families USA Conference. One thing that was striking was the diversity of groups working for one common cause, to improve health care for all people. A wise man once told me that we can get no where if we are all under the table fighting for scraps.

Ron Pollack has succeeded at building a big table full of advocates that represent various ages, races, disabilities, and genders. It is a very impressive table.

I opened my discussion with Mr. Pollack by asking the obvious question, “How do you get so many people to come to the table?”

Ron Pollack answered by giving more wise advice, “Real change, passing meaningful health reform, will need to engage millions upon millions of people from across the country. It is important to get people of different ages, racial and ethnic backgrounds and people who are not viewed as being ideologically in line with where we are. Health care should not be viewed as an issue of the Left. It should transcend politics and party.”

Building consensus within a coalition can be a difficult proposition. I asked Mr. Pollack how Families USA created consensus around their health care agenda. “Many people are open to building consensus and can quickly understand that if you have a larger group you have more strength in the public arena. You need to sort through the tensions and differences and then put attention to what you have in common. Many groups are amenable to that. Nothing creates a desire to work together than a few successes.”

After a long conference that offered a wealth of information I asked Ron Pollack what he would like to see attendees to take away from this conference:

“We may be on the cusp of a potential historic change, depending on what happens in the November elections. If the election turns out with a health care president our job will be to work intensively and cohesively. We must work smart. We must be careful about the opponents of health care reform. They will be disciplined. Those who support health care reform in the past have not been as disciplined. As a result the proponents have helped to contribute to the demise of health care reform. No proposal is going to be perfect but the bottom line is we need to work together to push the process forward and we can not kill it with the shortcomings.”

Julia's Musings: A Conversation with Drew Westen

Drew Westen has written a ground breaking book that focuses on building an emotional message that can drive a political agenda. Creating a new message for the disability community’s policy agenda has been a hot topic recently. Well, at least in my corner of the community.

Westen admitted that he has not done a ton of work on disability language, but he was willing to try to address the situation. I asked him how he would assess the use of language in the disability community today.

Westen stated, “the disability community seems to be making the same mistakes as the Left. We (people with disabilities) speak about our community euphemistically.” This turns people off. We should be looking at language that makes the larger community identify with us. Terms such as “differently abled” move the disability community into a place of “us vs. them.” To create a bigger tent, we need to have the larger community identify with our agenda and our stories. “There is nothing more powerful then getting people to identify. The otherness that comes along with disabilities needs to be disabled.”

Drew Westen’s book and numerous articles address the way our brain creates networks and how these networks are activated. The disability community needs to not active the connections that make people think “they are not like me.” Instead, we need the larger community to look at us and think “They are me.”

When asked how to re-message the disability policy agenda Westen offered this insight “There is nothing American’s admire more than those who face extreme adversity and come out the other end. Americans are willing to give a hand up, not a hand out.”

Westen closed our discussion with these simple words, “Humanize It!” We in the disability community need to create a message that humanizes our policy agenda. We need to move from demands of special to a discussion of equity. We want equity in education, in employment, in housing, in the economy. We need to explain to anyone willing to listen that disability is not an illness but a state of being. We need to, in Drew Westen’s words, “speak to the better angels of our consciousness and moralize our message.” Disability can happen to your child, your spouse, your family member, or your friend. Do they not deserve equality in this world? The answer is “Yes!”

Monday's Quick Hits: Hot Policy Topics for This Week

North Carolina:

Monday, January 28, 2008
House Select Committee on Adoptee Birth Certificates
2:00PM 544 LOB
The issue of access to adoptee birth certificates was a little talked about policy issue during the long session. This is the first committee meeting regarding this issue since the break.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Dropout Prevention:
Dropout Prevention and High School Graduation, Joint Legislative
10:00AM 643 LOB
Dropout Prevention has been a topic in the media and in the Education Oversight Committee. The current four year graduation rate for children with disabilities stands at 48.4%. This is the lowest graduation rate among all tracked groups including Hispanic students and African American students. How our state addresses dropouts will continue to be a hot topic through the break and into the short session.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Gang Prevention:
House Select Committee on Street Gang Prevention
10:00AM 1228/1327 LB
This will be the second meeting of this group since the end of the long session. This committees work will probably overlap with the work of other juvenile justice committees.

Public School Funding Formulas, Joint Legislative Study Committee
11:00 AM 643 LOB
This will be the second meeting of this committee since the break. Public School Funding will be important to low economic performing counties.

Thursday, January 31, 2008
Business Development:
DOT Disadvantaged Minority-Owned and Women-Owned Businesses Program, Joint Legislative Commission
10:00AM 544 LOB
We will be monitoring this committee as we continue to encourage our state officials to consider people with disabilities as they create economic development packages.

Public School Funding Formulas, Joint Legislative Study Committee
10:00AM 643 LOB
(See above)


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson announced an economic stimulus package that, much to the disappointment of Medicaid advocates, does not include an increase in the Medicaid Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP – the federal share of Medicaid spending). The agreement includes tax rebates for middle and low income individuals and business tax credits. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) ceded negotiating authority with the Bush Administration to the House believing that a package could be developed more quickly. However, Majority Leader Reid later said that the Senate could improve on the House package. The National Governors Association, and other Medicaid stakeholders including organizations representing people with disabilities, children, seniors, unions, and health and long term services providers had been advocating for a temporary increase in the federal Medicaid match as a means of assisting states and Medicaid beneficiaries during an expected economic downturn when many states are already being forced to make cuts to their Medicaid programs. The Bush Administration, along with many Congressional Republicans, does not support a temporary FMAP increase.


The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published a proposed rule in the Federal Register on January 18 that would allow more Medicaid beneficiaries to be in charge of their own personal assistance services, including personal care services, instead of having those services delivered by an agency. CMS requests public comment on how states could allow Medicaid beneficiaries who need help with the activities of daily living to hire, direct, train or fire their own personal care workers, including family members. The proposal would put into place a provision of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 that allows states to elect a state plan option to provide care in ways that previously required “waivers” of previous Medicaid laws. Enrollment in the new state plan option is voluntary for individuals and the state must also provide traditional agency-delivered services if the beneficiary wishes to discontinue self-directed care. There is a 30-day comment period; comments are due February 19, 2008. See the proposed rule at:

Special thanks to DPC for the Federal Update Information.

North Carolina News: NC NAACP Candidate Forum on WRAL Tonight

On Saturday the North Carolina NAACP held their gubernatorial candidate forum. Lt. Governor Bev Perdue (D), the Honorable Bob Orr (R), North Carolina Treasurer Richard Moore (D) and Dennis Neilsen (D) attended this event. WRAL will air this forum tonight, Monday, at 7:00pm.

National News: President Bush's Last State of the Union Address is Tonight

This evening President Bush will give his final State of the Union address. The President will be discussing the economy, earmarks, and the war in Iraq. The economy has become a hot topic on the campaign trail. Live coverage of this address will begin at 8:00pm ET.

Julia's Musings: Interview Update

We had a little technology glitch this weekend. The interviews with Drew Westen and Ron Pollack will be up this evening. We promise!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Julia's Musings: It's the Last Day of Health Action 2008

Good morning everyone. Today is the last day of the Families USA Health Action 2008 Conference. This has been a very impressive conference. This morning plenary is about how to advocating for health care during an election cycle. Don't forget we will be posting later this evening an interview with Drew Westen and Ron Pollack.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Julia's Musings: Day Two Trend Report

Day two is over and here is the trend report.

The two major trends today are linked, language and culture.

Dianna Ragbeer, Director Public Policy and Communications with The Children's Trust, discussed the efforts in Florida to increase enrollment in SCHIP. Recognizing the cultures that exist in Miami-Dade County, collaborative efforts included working with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. All of their media buys and their 211 help line provide information in English, Spanish and Hatian Creole.

Philippe Villers of Families USA and Celinda Lake of Lake Research both highlighted a new take on "universal health care". Not the movement but the message. Here is the new language "guarnateed health care". Guaranteeing health care for all people is really want advocates want. Universal has those not so great connotations (universal = socialized).

So there is your trend report for the day. Tomorrow we will feature two interviews, one with Drew Westen and the other with Ron Pollack.

Drew Westen: Author of The Political Brain-Health Care as an Emotional Issue

Drew Westen, the author of The Political Brain, spoke out on messaging health care this afternoon. Key to this message-Emotion! Health care in statistics not so emotional. But what if we used some of these quotes to disucss health care needs:

"People who work for a living ought to be able to take their child to the doctor when they are sick".

What would happen if we discussed universal health care this way:
"A family doctor for every family".

How about the economic issues of providing health care. What if we were to say:

"Individuals and small businesses are being strangled by growing health care costs. Business is the economic engine of our nation and it is choking on health care costs."

Cool Quick Quote from Drew Westen:
Regarding strategy and the health care message-
"Don’t play checkers if the other side is playing chess!"

Read more about Drew's book:

Workshop I: Enrolling and Retaining Children in Medicaid and CHIP

Here is the panel for this workshop:
Stan Dorn-The Urban Institute
Caroline Rivas-Community Health Councils, Inc.
Michael DeChiara-Community Partners, Inc.
Diana Ragbeer-The Children's Trust

Returning to last nights "Trend" discussion, all of these presenters hit on the following topics:

-Outreach: how to do we find the children who are eligible for SCHIP in our states.
-Retention: how do we retain our enrollment numbers.
-Utilization: how is the program being utilized and who is utilizing the system.
-Culturally Appropriate Services: in a culturally diverse environment how do we leave no one behind.

Quick cool quote from the workshop:

Stan Dorn: After showing us a slide of Issac Newton's First Law of Motion - An object at rest tends to stay at rest- Dorn stated "Do we want to be working with Issac Newton or against Issac Newton?"

More from Issace Newton:

Julia's Musings: Day Two in DC

Good morning all! After a few cups of coffee we are back to live blogging from the Families USA Health Action 2008 Conference. On this blog we have been closely following SCHIP and the battle in DC over SCHIP Reauthorization. I will be attending a workshop on CHIP and on what is happening in health care expansion. Check back for more info as the day progresses. Also tonight I will give another "Trend" report from the conference.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Julia's Musings: Looking Back-Trends from the First Day

It’s all about the trends. Starting with Senator Lincoln and ending with Senator Salazar attendees received a unified message. 47 million people are uninsured. 9 million children are without health insurance. Racial and ethnic health care disparities are still not being addressed. The fight to pass SCHIP Reauthorization is not over.
Sprinkled through this message were the buzz words of the day, “prevention” and “technology”.
Probably the most interesting spin on the health care debate came from Senator Blanche Lambert Lincoln. In her morning remarks she addressed the overlap between health care policy and economic policy. Looking at the interplay between the economy and health care, although not new, was definitely refreshing.

Blogging the Blog Workshop

Here is the panel for the blog workshop:
Ezra Klein - The American Prospect
Anthony Wright - Health Access
Meg Kroeplin - Community Partners

John McDonough - Health Care for All is moderating the workshop.

Each one of these blogs reflects a different way to utilize the blog format. Here are there links:

Health Access California


Yes....I just blogged a blogging workshop.

Senator Ken Salazar (Colorado) Addresses the Lunch Crowd

Senator Ken Salazar addressed the conference attendees during lunch today. Senator Salazar echoed the stark facts that have been presented throughout this conference. 47 million people do not have health insurance in our nation. 9 million children are uninsured. Two-thirds of the uninsured are middle class working families. Health care premiums are up 70%. Monthly health insurance premiums average $1,200.00. For many working families the monthly finance decision comes to this "Do we pay the mortgage or do we pay for health insurance?".

Senator Salazar's top five health care challenges:

1. We need to create a health care system that includes high quality health care that is cost effective and maximizes the health care dollar.

2. We need consumer tools that will help people make intelligent choices. Prevention.

3. We need to have a way to treat chronic illness. A way to provide the consumer with the medical care they need.

4. We need to invest in quality providers. Provider development.

5. We need to address the health disaparities that still exist in our nation.

Senator Salazar stated that "the time has come for fundamental health care reform".
It will probably not happen during this Congressional session. Instead Senator Salazar stated that the U.S. Senate Finance Committee will probably spend this session laying the ground work for change in the future. This will be a session of research and study.

Opening Plenary: Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Speaker Nancy Pelosi opened her address by stating that there are "millions of health providers across America and they are called mom, dad and family". Pelosi added that this is where our focus has to be, with the family. Pelosi spoke to the right that every American has to quality and affordable health care. "The health of our citizens is a measure of our strength as a nation".

On the topic of universal access to health care, Speaker Pelosi presented the audience with the questions she has been asking advocates and professionals in the health care arena. The question is when talking about universal health care we want to have universal access to what? What should this health care look like?

Here is what Speaker Pelosi thinks it must include:
-a strong commitment to bio-medical research
-common record of health care for the nation utilizing technology while preserving patient confidentiality
-eliminating the disparities in health care from the standpoint that good health in the populace is important to all of us
-work force development in the health care profession
-personalizing medical treatments to the need of the consumer
-investing in research
-provide incentives such as loan forgiveness to doctors who are willing practice in low income/rural areas
-a strong focus on prevention of chronic disabilities/diseases.

And here is one more comment from Speaker Pelosi on SCHIP. "The fight is not over, we will not give up until every eligible child is insured by SCHIP".

Opening Plenary: Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones-Ohio

The second speaker this morning is Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones of Ohio. Congresswoman Jones is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. Jones gave a passionate address regarding the barriers to health care for ethnic and racial minorities in the United States. Ethnic and racial minorities make up 1/3 of the population. This population makes up 1/2 of the uninsured in our nation.

Opening Plenary: Senator Blanche Lambert Lincoln-Arkansas

Senator Lincoln opened her comments stating that we are facing a health care crisis. The crisis is in access to quality and affordable health care. Lincolnt stated that "This has to be one of our top priorities". Senator Lincoln stated that the Institute of Medicine reports that 18 thousand people die each year because they do no have insurance. Senator Lincoln drew the connection between health care and our national economy. Lincoln stated that the economic toll of chronic diabetes last year was 174 billion dollars. The current number of people without health insurance in our nation sits at 47 million.

Senator Blance Lambert Lincoln gave us her topic health care issues.
Here they are:
-Passing the long term renewal of the SCHIP bill

-Broaden Medicare and Medicaid

-Create more health care insurance options for small business, employees of small businesses and the self employed by creating an strong insurance pool.

Julia's Musings: Opening Plenary Comments

Some background information. This is the 13th conference and by pre registration this is the largest conference.

SCHIP is first up on the hot topic list.

"Right in the middle of two distinct periods broad bi partisan support of chidlren's health coverage unfortunately President Bush vetoed this important legislation." -Ron Pollack

Senator Blanche Lambert Lincoln, Arkansas is the first speaker up. Here is her background:
She serves on the Senate Finance committee with jurisdiction over Medicare/Medicaid and SCHIP. She transends partisanship and ideology. She is one of the champions of a strong SCHIP and legisaltion that would give small business the opportunity to purchase health insurance through large insurance pools.

"She is a role model for so many people on our staff. Her lfe balance utmost professionalism with devlotion to family". -Ron Pollack.

Julia's Musings: Good Morning from DC

Good morning everyone. We are blogging live today from the Families USA Health Action 2008 Conference in Washington, DC. This is a national grassroots conference that brings together activists who are working to improve health care in their state and nation. This morning's plenary will feature Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Speaker Pelosi worked hard this past Congressional session on the expansion of SCHIP legislation. Just a quick reminder regarding SCHIP and North Carolina. Currently there are over 1,300 children with special needs being served by SCHIP in our state.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Julia's Musings: On the Road in DC

Greetings all after a quick plane trip from RDU I am in D.C. For the next few days I will be attending Families USA Health Care Conference. Tomorrow the conference will opening plenary will feature Speaker Nancy Pelosi. We will be blogging live from the event. Health care is a hot topic that is being addressed by all of the Presidential candidates during this long run for the White House. So, it will be interesting to see what grassroots activists from across the nation have to report from their state.

SCHIP Update: Second Veto Override Attempt Fails

The House of Representative today tried again to override President Bush's veto of SCHIP legislation. For the second time the House failed in its attempt coming up 15 votes short. In a Presidential campaign where health care is a hot topic it looks like SCHIP will be debated throughout the next Congressional session. If anything comes of the debate is yet to be seen. We will continue to track this story and bring you updates.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

SCHIP Update: U.S. Represenatives Attempt Override of President's Veto

Congress is back from its winter recess and first up is SCHIP. Tomorrow the U.S. House of Representatives will vote to override President Bush’s veto of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). This will be the second attempt to override the veto. Prior to Congress's winter recess it looked like any attempt override the veto would not occur. Congress did pass an SCHIP extension of funding when they passed the Medicaid/Medicare bill prior to break. We will be monitoring this vote.

Tuesday Quick Hits: Hot Policy Topics for This Week

After a one day break to remember the contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to our nation we are back.

This week The Arc of North Carolina Policy Blog will be heading to Washington, DC to attend the Families USA Conference on Health Care. We will be blogging live from this national conference.

North Carolina:

Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Economic Development:

10:00AM Room 544 LOB
Joint Select Committee on Economic Development Incentives
This joint select committee will continue its work on reviewing the process of how our state creates economic development incentive package to keep or recruit business in North Carolina.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

10:00AM Room 544 LOB
Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee
This is one of two committee that are focusing on transportation needs in our state. The North Carolina Turnpike Authority will present its annual report. Also on the agenda is a presentation by the Ports/Rail Access Coordination.

10:00AM Room 643 LOB
Joint Legislative Oversight Committee Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse
On the agenda for this meeting is an update on State Psychiatric Hospitals and Community Support Services presented by Secretary Dempsey Benton. Also on the agenda is a presentation by staff on MH/DD/SA System Indicators. There will also be an update on LME Crisis Servie Plans and DMHDDSAS Construction Projects.

12:30PM Room 421 LOB
House Select Committee on Rising Home Foreclosures
Home Foreclosures have been a hot policy topic through out the nation. This will be the first meeting of this select committee to address the issue of foreclosures in our state.

Thursday January 24, 2008,

10:00AM Room
North Carolina Study Commission on Aging
No agenda is available at this time for this meeting. This is the first meeting of this commision.


U.S. Congress
They’re back. Senate return tomorrow and the 110th Congress is underway for their second session. Not much will be able to move forward in either the House or Senate with out bi-partisan agreements.

Fiscal Year 2008 Appropriations
The White House is still pondering what, if anything, to do about the large number of earmarks contained in the Fiscal Year 2008 Omnibus Appropriations Act. Some fiscal conservatives are pressing for an Executive Order that would eliminate some of the earmarks. Other Hill Republicans oppose this maneuver, instead suggesting that the White House propose a rescission package of earmarks. An Executive Order can become effective immediately while a rescission package must be agreed to by the Congress. Few policy makers believe that the Congress would approve a rescission package.

Economic Stimulus
The Congress and the White House are trying to quickly craft a bipartisan deal to spur the economy in what may already be a recession. Among the types of spending being considered are aid to states for Medicaid, a food stamp increase, unemployment insurance expansion, new infrastructure (especially to rebuild bridges), business tax credits and a tax rebate for all taxpayers. President Bush will meet with Congressional leaders today to work on the plan. The House and Senate will hold hearings on the economy this week headlined by the Congressional Budget Office providing an analysis of the budget and economic outlook. The Senate Finance Committee will also deliberate on a stimulus package today.

Health Care

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives will vote to override President Bush’s second veto of the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007 (H.R. 3963). The House Democratic leadership does not expect to garner sufficient votes to override the veto.

Special thanks to DPC for the federal information updates.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Announcement: National Council on Disability Releases Report

On Tuesday, January 15, the National Council on Disability released its annual report on the state of disability policy, National Disability Policy: A Progress Report. The report is a comprehensive document covering education, employment, welfare, social justice issues and health care. The report notes the progress of policy and where it has occurred as well as making recommendations to the executive and legislative branches of the Federal Government.

In the news release sent out from the NCD, Chairperson John R. Vaughn states,
“NCD has observed many examples of continued progress in disability policy. Among these are the Help America Vote Act for increasing access to elections for Americans with disabilities, developments under the Assistive Technology Act that hold out the promise for enhanced coordination in the delivery of services, and the positive role of the Department of Justice in a recent Detroit public transit case. This is just some of the positive progress we note as a result of the Administration’s leadership through the New Freedom Initiative.”
“Notwithstanding this progress, many challenges remain for our citizens who are living with disabilities and who wish to be more independent, more productive, and more actively involved in their families and communities. Far too many Americans are desperately trying to improve the quality of their lives, but they are frustrated by a lack of affordable accessible housing, transportation, and long-term services and supports. NCD will continue to develop policy recommendations to address these issues.”
To read more about the report:
( or,

Legislative Update: North Carolina

Today the Joint Study Committee on Autism Spectrum Disorder, Law Enforcement, Public Safety, and First Responders met at the General Assembly. This was the first committee meeting of the legislative break. Dr. Gary Mesibov presented an overview of Autism Spectrum Disorder including a look at the history of diagnosing this disorder.

When asked about prevalence rates in North Carolina, Dr. Mesibov stated that we meet the national average of 1 in 150 births. The national average was based on an epidemiological study of eight year olds in 14 states including North Carolina.

As this committee progresses with its work it is critical to understand that all people with developmental and cognitive disabilities face communication barriers when interacting with law enforcement and the judicial system. The findings from this committee could prove to be an important policy directive to cover the broader disability community.

Sen. William Robert Purcell, MD (Co-Chair)
Sen. Thomas M. Apodaca
Sen. James Summers Forrester
Sen. John J. Snow, Jr.
Ms. Mary Jo Croom (Public Member)
Hon. George Wayne Goodwin (Public Member)
Ms. Claire Greer (Public Member)
Ms. Norma Houston (Public Member)
Ms. Susan K. McLean (Public Member)
Ms. Tracy McPherson (Public Member)
Mr. W. David Munday (Public Member)
Dr. Michael C. Teague (Public Member)
Rep. Bob F. England, MD (Co-Chair)
Rep. Martha Bedell Alexander
Rep. Earline W. Parmon
Rep. Karen B. Ray
Mr. Frederick L. Bone (Public Member)
Mr. Edmund W. Caldwell, Jr. (Public Member)
Chief William Farley (Public Member)
Ms. Marsha Davis Jones (Public Member)
Dr. Gary Mesibov, PhD (Public Member)
Hon. Edd Nye (Public Member)
Hon. Kimberly S. Taylor (Public Member)
Ms. Elizabeth H Thompson (Public Member

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Tuesday Quick Hits: Hot Policy Topics for This Week

North Carolina:


Wednesday, January 16, 2008
10:00am Room 544 LOB
Joint Study Committee on Autism Spectrum Disorder, Law Enforcement, Public Safety and First Responders.
This is the first meeting of this committee since the General Assembly adjourned the long session. An agenda for this meeting was not available at this time.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008
10:30 AM Charlotte Convention Center
21st Century Transportation Committee
The 21st Century Transportation Committee will be making several stops across our state as they continue to discuss the infrastructure needs of our state.

Thursday, January 17, 2008
10:00am 643 LOB
Public School Funding Formulas, Joint Legislative Study Committee
This is the second meeting of this committee.

U. S. Congress:

The Second Session of the 110th Congress officially convenes this week as the House of Representatives returns to work tomorrow. The Senate will reconvene next week. Not much legislative work is anticipated in January until both parties in both Houses meet in retreat settings later this month to craft agendas, tactics and schedules and the President delivers his State of the Union message on January 28. The economic crisis and economic stimulus packages are expected to dominate the early days of this Session of Congress.

FY 2008 Appropriations:
There are strong rumors that the White House is considering an Executive Order that would eliminate thousands of earmarks in the FY 2008 Omnibus Appropriations Act. Funding from the earmarks could be reallocated for tax rebates to tax payers or to such programs as SCHIP or bridge replacement.

On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), will hold a hearing on “Medicaid’s Critical Role for Americans with Disabilities.” Celine Fortin, Associate Executive Director of The Arc of New Jersey, will testify. To view the live web cast of hearing, please visit
at 10 a.m. EST on Wednesday, January 16.

On Thursday, under Suspension of the Rules, the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the Hope VI Improvements and Reauthorization Act of 2007 (H.R. 3524). This bill would reauthorize the HOPE VI program for revitalization of severely distressed public housing.

Election 2008:
North Carolina:
Two more people have announced their candidacy in state wide races.

Governor Race:
Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory will announce this week that he is going to run for Governor.
Read more:

Lt. Governor Race:
Republican Senator Robert Pittenger announced on Monday that he will be running for lieutenant governor.
Read more:

Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Michigan GOP Primary
The Republican candidates are campaigning in Michigan for independent, Democratic and Republican votes. There are no Democratic Primaries happening in Michigan due to a ruling by the Democratic National Party. Michigan moved up its primary against the rules presented by the DNC.

The candidates for both parties are spread out between Michigan, Nevada and South Carolina.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Julia's Musings: North Carolina Gubernatorial Candidates Debate State Economy

This evening UNC-TV will kick off the race for the Governor’s office with a candidate forum on North Carolina’s economy. The candidates will answer questions regarding the current economic outlook of North Carolina. The hot topic during the Special Session of the General Assembly in September was the creation of incentive packages to encourage corporations to move to North Carolina or, in the case of Goodyear and Bridgestone, expand existing sites in North Carolina.

Data collected in the Third Annual Disability Status Report shows that 38% of people with disabilities are employed. For people without disabilities that number is closer to 80 percent. People with disabilities are also more likely to be living in poverty. The report shows that 25.4 percent of working age people with disabilities lives in poverty compared to 9.5 percent without a disability.

Hopefully this evening we will hear how people with disabilities can be included in the economic growth of our state.

Tonight’s debate will be the first of three debates. The second forum will be about health care and the last forum will be on education.

Read More on Disability Unemployment Statistics:

Program Information:
UNC –TV Gubernatorial Candidate Forum
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Democratic Candidates:
Richard Moore
Bev Perdue
Dennis Nielsen
Republican Candidates:
Bill Graham
Bob Orr
Fred Smith

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Announcement: Public Forum Scheduled Regarding Pilot Program for Instant Runoff Voting in the Town of Cary

Public Forum Scheduled Regarding Pilot Program for
Instant Runoff Voting in the Town Of Cary

WHERE: Cary Town Hall – Council Chambers

LOCATION: 316 N. Academy St., Cary

WHEN: Thursday, January 17

TIME: 10:00 AM. to 1:00 PM

Each speaker will be allowed three minutes to make comments, as well as written comments to be submitted up to 72 hours after the forum. The information learned from this forum will be sent to the State Board of Elections for perusal and report to the General Assembly.
If you wish to speak at the forum or need additional information, please contact Cherie Poucher, director, Wake County Board of Elections at 856-6245 or e-mail
Learn more:

Monday, January 7, 2008

Election 2008: The Governor's Race in North Carolina

It is time to start thinking about who will be the next governor of North Carolina. To help the discussion along both UNC-TV will be hosting a series of candidate forums.
The first of these forums is Thursday, January 10, 2008. The forums will take place at 8 p.m. in Research Triangle Park and will be aired live on UNC-TV. The first topic up for the gubernatorial candidates is the state’s economy.

The second forum will be on February 7th and will focus on health. The final forum will be on April 24th and it will focus on education.

To read the candidate’s platforms on these important topics, we encourage you to visit their websites.

Democratic Candidates:

Richard Moore

Bev Perdue

Dennis Nielsen

Republican Candidates:

Bill Graham

Bob Orr

Fred Smith

(Edited to reflect change to Bev Perdue website)

Monday Quick Hits: Hot Policy Topics for This Week

North Carolina:

Tuesday, January 8 and Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee 643 LOB
This oversight committee will meet at 10:00 AM on Tuesday and 9:00 AM on Wednesday. The two day agenda includes presentation on drop out prevention, testing, and chart schools.
Link to agenda:,%202008/Jan%208-9,%202008%20agenda.pdf

Wednesday, January 9, 2008
21st Century Transportation –Prioritization and Efficiency Subcommittee
This committee will be meeting at 10:00 AM. 421 LOB

Juvenile Justice:
Corrections, Crime Control, and Juvenile Justice Oversight Committee Joint Legislative
This committee will meet at 10 AM 544 LOB

House Select Committee to Investigate Alleged Misconduct Against Representative Thomas Wright.
This committee will meet at 1:00 PM 643 LOB
This meeting was originally scheduled for January 3rd. Due to the passing of Representative Edith Warren’s husband it was rescheduled.
The committee is charged with reviewing the evidence of misconduct against Representative Thomas Wright.

Congress is still in recess. The House of Representatives is scheduled to reconvene on January 15th and the Senate will follow on January 22nd.

The White House:
The State of the Union Address is scheduled for Monday, January 28, 2008. President Bush’s administration will release its Fiscal Year 2009 Budget Request on February 4th.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is expected to publish a clarification to its December 28, 2007 Federal Register notice which appeared to announce the abolishment of its 10 regional offices. Aware that the notice had created some confusion, a CMS official indicated that the announcement was referring to internal organizational codes that have been abolished, not the regional offices.

Tomorrow is the sixth anniversary of the enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act. With the initial five year authorization already expired, the Congress and the Bush Administration are still far away from an agreement on how to improve the program and the outcomes for students. Department of Education Secretary Margaret Spellings will lay out her policy goals for 2008 in an address on January 10 at the National Press Club. Check the Department’s web site – - for the text of her address after it is delivered.

Special Thanks to DPC for the Federal Update.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

More Information on Secretary Benton's Press Conference

To read more about Secretary Benton's announcement regarding MH/DD/SAS Reform check out these links:

NC DHHS Press Release

Julia’s Musings: Secretary Benton Calls MH/DD/SAS Reform "A Work in Progress”

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dempsey Benton held a press conference today promising a “major” announcement regarding Mental Health/Developmental Disabilities/ Substance Abuse Services Reform. Promptly at 2pm Secretary Benton took his seat and began the press conference. I was very impressed with the calm nature of the new Secretary and the direct approach he took regarding issues facing reform. Secretary Benton opened the press conference by stating again that he was given clear marching order by Governor Easley to “fix the state’s public mental health, developmental disabilities and substance abuse services system”. The Secretary then went on to state that the “system is in a state of transformation”. Secretary Benton went on to lay out the key components necessary in restoring the public faith in Mental Health/Developmental Disabilities/Substance Abuse Reform. These steps include:
*A Hospital Management and Operations work group will be convened to work with the State Hospital Directors. The Committee will be comprised of individuals external to the department and will include academics, former state facility managers, advocates, the North Carolina Hospital Association and private providers. Areas of review will include protocols for violence, for placement of restraints, and administrative guidelines that can be consistently implemented throughout the state hospital system. (Committee will include; UNC School of Medicine/Department of Psychiatry, NC Hospital Association, Former State Facility Mangers, Representative from National Alliance on Mental Illness, and a Private Provider)
*A work group will be established to review the implementation of the state’s Crisis Service System, and the state’s overall strategy for providing inpatient services (beds) across the state. The group will review the current implementation activities and refine the definition of the core level of crisis services which should exist in all areas of the state.(Committee will include; UNC School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, NC Hospital Association, Local Management Entities, NC County Commissioners Association, NC Mental Health Association, NC Psychiatric Association, Dr. Marvin Swartz/Mental Health Commission and a Private Provider)
*Creation of a new web site to improve public understanding of the activities in the State operated facilities and to ensure transparency. The site can accessed at and will be fully operational by the end of January. It will include a broad array of information, including admissions/discharge data, patient deaths/injuries and staff injuries.Delaying the closing of Dorothea Dix and Umstead hospitals 60 days, giving the new Broughton Hospital management time to improve operations and also assuring sufficient time to address any remaining construction issues with the new hospital.
*Forming an external work group to assess the construction and operational questions associated with opening of the Central hospital. The group will meet with the architect and project manager to review these questioned areas. Also, they will ensure the new facilities at Cherry and Broughton meet high quality standards. The group will also review the plan for the transition of services from Dorothea Dix Hospital and John Umstead Hospital to the new hospital.
I was impressed by Secretary Benton’s candor. He displayed a clear understanding of the charge given to him by Governor Easley to “fix” the system. In the six months that he has held the position of Secretary, it is evident that he has developed an understanding of the fragility of mental illness system transformation. However, I was concerned that during the press conference his understanding of the fragility of developmental disability reform was not as clear. Aside from being mentioned during the opening statements, when Secretary Benton referred to Mental Health/Developmental Disability/Substance Abuse Reform needing to be “fixed”, there was nothing in the press conference that addressed the concerns of people with developmental disabilities and their families. There was an opening for this to occur when the plan on how to improve crisis services was being discussed, but that opportunity was missed by the new Secretary. People with developmental disabilities are still waiting to be included in a discussion regarding Crisis Services.
Crisis Services or the lack of them is not unique to people with mental illness. People with developmental disabilities daily face the lack of Crisis Services to address their needs. Looking at the composition of workgroups to address the "crisis" in Crisis Service delivery, we find no advocacy organization representing people with developmental disabilities . Not including organizations that represent people with developmental disabilities in solving the problem of Crisis Service delivery is an example of the confusion regarding MH/DD/SAS Reform. System Reform should be addressing the needs of all the groups affected by the legislation -Mental Illness, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse. By failing to include advocates for people with developmental disabilities on the committee that will address Crisis Services, we ignore people who have a dual diagnosis of developmental disabilities/mental illness. We aslo ignore the many other issues regarding Crisis Services delivery to the Developmental Disability community. The fragility of system reform is not unique to mental illness transformation. The fragility of developmental disability transformation must also be addressed.

2PM Announcement from Secretary Benton Regarding Mental Health/Developmental Disabilities/Substance Abuse Services Reform

The News and Observer reports that at 2pm today at the Adams Building on the Dix Campus, Secretary Benton will make a "major" announcement regarding Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, Substance Abuse Reform. The Arc of North Carolina Policy Blog will be reporting live from the 2pm press conference.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Answers to a Presidential Questionaire, Where do candidates stand on disability issues?

For voters with disabilities a hot topic in this years Presidential campaign is affordable access to health care. AAPD, ADAPT, NCIL, and SABE released responses to a questionaire they sent to all of the presidential candidates. Here are the candidates answers to health care questions.

Q: What steps would you take to ensure that people with disabilities have access to affordable, quality health care that is responsive to their needs?

Obama: As president, I will sign a universal health care plan into law by the end of my first term in office. I will moderAAPD, ADAPT, NCIL, SABE Questionnairenize the U.S. health care system to improve quality and reduce costs by $2,500 for a typical family. And I will increase investment in public health to prepare and protect Americans against emerging health threats and to reduce rates of preventable diseases.
My plan will cover the uninsured and lower costs to families and businesses. I will allow people who do not have access to group coverage through their employers or public programs (such as Medicaid, SCHIP, and Medicare) to buy into a national pool, which will offer a new public plan similar to the one I have as a member of Congress, and private plans that offer comprehensive benefits and meet quality standards. Federal subsidies will be made available to those who need it, to make coverage more affordable. And employers will have access to reinsurance to protect them from volatile and high increases in the cost of insurance. Finally, my plan will mandate health insurance coverage for every child in America.
My health care reform plan recognizes that although all Americans are affected by problems with our health care delivery system, certain patient populations are significantly more likely to experience difficulties gaining access to health care and to receive lower quality health care. I will require that all health care providers collect, analyze and report data on the quality of health care given to vulnerable populations, including those with disabilities, to ensure appropriate care and good health outcomes. My plan also emphasizes care coordination and integration, which is particularly important for individuals with disabilities who often have multiple providers. Last but not least, I will support additional training of health care workers so that they are better able to address the needs of disabled populations.

Richardson: My plan for universal coverage would ensure that Americans—with or without disabilities—would have access to affordable, guaranteed coverage.

Edwards: I understand that health care is of special concern to people with disabilities. Not only do they have particularly important needs, but their independence often depends on good health care.
We must act now to guarantee universal health care coverage for everyone in America. I am proud to be the first major presidential candidate to propose a specific plan to transform America's health care system and guarantee quality affordable health care for every man, woman and child in America. Under my plan, businesses will either cover their employees or help pay their premiums. The government will make insurance affordable through new tax credits and by leading the way toward more cost-effective care. New “Health Care Markets” will give families and businesses purchasing power and a choice of quality plans, including one public plan based on Medicare. Finally, once these steps have been taken, all American residents will be required to take responsibility and get insurance. Insurance companies will not be allowed to discriminate against people with preexisting conditions or disabilities.
Under my plan, families without insurance will get coverage at an affordable price. Families that have insurance today will pay less and get more security and choices. Businesses and other employers will find it cheaper and easier to insure their workers.
Beyond guaranteeing coverage, there is much that we can do to ensure that people with disabilities receive quality care. Medical training and education should help primary care physicians, dentists and allied health practitioners to work with adults with disabilities. Currently, federal funding for training physicians to treat patients with disabilities is focused on pediatric practitioners, but most people with disabilities are adults. Under my plan, we will establish a non-profit or public organization – possibly within the Institute of Medicine – to research the best methods of providing care, drawing upon data from Medicare and the new Health Care Markets and from medical experts from across the nation. Understanding and disseminating best practices for treating patients with disabilities will be an essential part of this initiative.

Clinton: As President, I will enact legislation to provide high quality affordable health care coverage for all Americans, including those with disabilities. I will ensure that disability advocates are included in the process of developing the legislation to provide health care coverage for all Americans, and that the system that I ultimately sign into law addresses the particular needs of individuals with special needs. Today, even those individuals who have health insurance are often under-insured – that is, when they need treatment, their health insurer denies the claim. These practices can have a particularly damaging impact on individuals with disabilities who often need care urgently. I have been working to address the major problems in our health care system for fifteen years. I have taken on the health insurance companies and other special interests that too often work against the interests of those in need of care. In addition to addressing discriminatory insurance practices, we have to make sure that there’s affordable health coverage for all. To that end, we need to develop the best approaches to delivering quality cost effective care that meets the needs of individuals instead of continuing with the antiquated policy approach of today that applies a one size fits all model
Beyond co-sponsoring the Medicare Disability Waiting Period Act of 2005, I’ve also supported the numerous and inadequate state-based medically needy programs that have a bias towards nursing home rather than home and community based coverage. I believe it’s time to focus on patients needs rather than on bureaucratic constraints imposed long ago. As President, I will continue to champion these policies.

Dodd: I believe that the federal government has a responsibility to ensure that every American receives affordable, quality medical care that meets all of their needs. As President, I will call on the federal government to create a health insurance marketplace based on, and parallel to, the Federal Employees Health Benefit Plan (FEHB). Every employer and individual will be given the chance to go to the marketplace to purchase high-quality, affordable health care or, if they wish, keep their existing insurance arrangements. No one will be forced into the marketplace, and individuals, as well as businesses, will contribute based on their ability to pay. By focusing on prevention, and by investing in technology and data collection for better care and better efficiencies, we can better serve all populations of patients. Savings in better care and better efficiencies will finance new coverage. In a Dodd Administration, universal health coverage will be achieved through universal responsibility and universal access will mean access to the doctors, treatments and medical equipment that an individual needs.

Q: How or will you use managed care principles to deliver healthcare services?

Obama: Important medical decisions should be made between patients and doctors, and my health care reform plan will ensure that insurers do not prevent disabled Americans from getting the care they need. My plan will constrain costs and adopt those managed care principles that work, such as the use of modern health information technology, disease management, care coordination and drug price negotiation, to achieve health care quality improvement and savings in the system that can directly benefit individuals and families through lower premiums. My plan will not contain costs at the expense of quality of care. To the contrary, my plan will both reduce health care costs and improve the quality of care.

Richardson: Sometimes managed care is the best way and sometimes not. Managed care organizations have brought many successful applications to health care and when applied effectively provide patients with coordinated care, case management, preventive health care and ensures that providers are well qualified. People, however, like choices and sometimes managed care eliminates the choice of a desired hospital or specialist due to a restricted network. My model for universal coverage preserves choice.

Edwards: Managed care has shown some success in managing the health needs to people with chronic health conditions and it should be a choice for people with disabilities. However, people with disabilities need access to specialists and care that is not artificially limited by narrow definitions of medical necessity.
There are also other ways to integrate care across multiple settings. I have called for investments in information technology and other initiatives to ensure that individuals with disabilities do not fall victim to the fragmentation of care. Something is wrong, for example, when the quirks of disparate payment systems – Medicaid reimbursing for institutional care, while Medicare pays for doctors – prevent health care providers from sharing information that could help patients.

Clinton: Poorly run fee for service as well as managed care is the wrong prescription for everyone, particularly people with disabilities. Rather than applying old line thinking of managed care or fee for service, I believe we should move towards patient-centered care. When my husband was President, I lead the fight for the Patient’s Bill of Rights in order to protect patients’ access to specialty care. I have also proposed establishing an independent public-private Best Practices Institute. This Institute would be a partnership among the public and the private sector that would let doctors, nurses and other health professionals know what drugs, devices, surgeries and treatments work best. These programs will be able to allow us to deliver the most affordable, and the highest quality, healthcare services to all Americans.

Dodd: Modeled on the Federal Employees Health Benefit Plan (FEHB), the Dodd healthcare plan will provide individuals with a wide variety of choices in choosing the type of health care plan that best fits their needs.

Want to read more:

The Arc of North Carolina Legislative Update December 2007

Happy New Year! Contained in this update is state and federal policy that was passed or discussed during December 2007. This update is a summary of happenings during the month of December 2007.

North Carolina:

In November and December new housing opportunities for people with developmental disabilities were unveiled. On Friday, November 30, 2007 The Arc of North Carolina and Lutheran Family Services of the Carolina broke ground on construction of Green Level Homes. This is a HUD811 apartment project for adults with developmental disabilities.
The ground breaking for Green Level Homes was followed by a ribbon cutting on December 4, 2007 for Opening Doors Supportive Apartments. The Arc of North Carolina, Durham County Community Living Programs, Inc. and the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency opened a new collaborative housing project for persons with disabilities, Opening Doors Supportive Apartments. Utilizing a grant from the Housing 400 Initiative and The Durham Center Housing Development fund we were able to purchase and renovate four condominium units to provide inclusive, affordable housing for people with disabilities. These scattered housing units are located near a transportation route and shopping area.

The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Education met this month to discuss the state of education in North Carolina. Topics covered during this meeting included a report on the four and five year cohort graduation rates for students in North Carolina.
The current four year cohort graduation rates for students with disabilities were 49.4% and the five year cohort graduation rate was 50%. These graduation rates included students with disabilities who completed an approved program of study under the Department of Public Instruction. Future topics for this committee will include study of access to the UNC system and higher education needs for students with disabilities. House Bill 1641 Study Disabled Access to UNC Facilities, a bill that passed the House Committee on Education and was included in the omnibus study bill may be used as a template for the committee in regards to studying access to higher education opportunities in our state. Also on the agenda for a future meeting is SL 2007-295 (HB 17) Study Services for Students with Disabilities in High School. This bill was passed by the House and Senate during this most recent legislative session. DPI will be reporting on the progress of this study and will present the results by March 1, 2008. The current 4 year cohort graduation rate for students with disabilities in our state is 49.4%. It is imperative that this number is addressed and that we find a way to graduate more students with disabilities.


Two separate transportation committees are each reviewing issues regarding infrastructure in our state. The 21st Century Transportation Committee was created in response to calls for a special session on transportation. This twenty-four member committee will be studying the following:
*researching traditional and non traditional funding sources*looking at innovative technology to improve the transportation system*adequately funding road construction*analyzing the safety of current roads and bridges*examining of the role of ports and mass transits*reviewing public transportation needs.
The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Transportation has been focusing on the restructuring of the Department of Transportation. Affordable, reliable, and accessible transportation options are critical to the success of integrating people with disabilities into our communities.

Mental Health/Developmental Disabilities/Substance Abuse Legislative Oversight Committee:
The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Mental Health/Developmental Disabilities/Substance Abuse Services has held four meetings since the legislative break. The majority of these meetings have focused on the crisis in Mental Health services. This months meeting was focused on the State Hospital Utilization Pilot and the Community Support Services. Grayce Crockett the Director of the Mecklenburg County Area MH DD SA Authority presented on their current program. Tom Galligan the Deputy Director for Budget and Finance in the Division of Medical Assistance presented on the expenditures the state is seeing with Community Support Services. There is a growing concern that community support services is outpacing the projected spending on these services.

CAP/Tier Waiver Workshop:

On December 19, 2007, we participated in the kickoff workshop for the planning and development of the new CAP-MR/DD waiver. The new waiver will be a tiered waiver. Community participation will be welcomed in the development of the new waivers and we will keep you up to date on what is happening.


SCHIP/Medicare and Medicaid:
SCHIP legislation was rolled into the Medicare/Medicaid bill. SCHIP legislation had been vetoed twice by President Bush. Prior to the break the Senate and House passed a Medicare bill that includes SCHIP continuation funding. This bill also included CMS moratorium language and it does include an extension on current SCHIP funding through March of 2009. During the earlier discussion around Medicare there was a provision that would have eliminated Medicare’s initial purchase option for power wheelchairs. For many people with mobility disabilities power wheelchairs mean the difference between staying at home or having a option to fully participated in their communities. Power wheelchairs often are extremely specialized to fit the needs of the user. The Medicare legislation that passed last evening did not include this provision. This is a major victory for the disability community. Medicaid physician reimbursements will be a on the Congressional agenda again next year and we will need to monitor it closely to ensure that there are no changes to the power wheelchair provision.

Omnibus Budget Bill: Labor/Health and Human Services/Education:
The Congress passed and the President signed the FY 2008 Omnibus Appropriations bill. Congress passed this legislation right before the winter recess. 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. Items in ( ) are a negative.Program FY 08 Appropriations Difference Between FY08 and FY07CAP $11.576 million ($206,000)PAIR $16.201 million ($288,000)PAIMI $34.880 million + $880,000PADD $39.024 million + $306,000PAVA $5.256 million + $426,000PATBI $2.9475 million ($22,500)PAAT $4.264 million ($75,820)

National Other:
Dec. 3,2007 was International Day of Persons with Disabilities. This year's theme focuses on how to ensure decent work for persons with disabilities. The recently adopted United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognizes that persons with disabilities have a right to work and to be employed on an equal basis with others. The United States have not yet signed on to this UN convention.

Wednesday Quick Hits: Hot Policy Topics for This Week

Happy New Year! 2008 promises to be a very busy political and policy year. The Arc of North Carolina is excited to be part of it by bringing you updates on state and national policy. This year we will also be bringing you updates on political elections. Starting this week will be blogging during the caucus and primaries. We will also be following our state elections.

North Carolina:

Thursday, January 3, 2008
10:00am The House Select Committee to Investigate Alleged Misconduct and Other Matters Included in Indictments Against Representative Thomas Wright, 544 LOB.
This House Select Committee will review evidence regarding the current legal process against Representative Thomas Wright. The committee is charged with deciding if there is enough evidence to take legislative action against Representative Thomas Wright. A seated Representative has not been removed from office by legislative action since 1880.

Friday, January 4, 2008

10:00am The General Statutes Commission, 1027/1128 LB.


Election 2008:
Let the caucus and primaries begin! Election 2008 which actually started in early 2007 is finally here!!
Iowa Caucus 2008:
Tomorrow, Thursday, January 3: Iowa Caucus
This is the first of the 2008 Presidential Primaries. The Des Moines Register poll is showing Senator Barack Obama leading at 32%, Senator Hillary Clinton with 25%, and former Senator John Edwards at 24%. Margin of error is 3.5%.
The same poll shows former Governor Mike Huckabee leading with 32%, former Governor Mitt Romney at 26% and Senator John McCain at 13%.
Read More:

Congress stands in recess/winter break until January 15th.