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Legislative Announcements Listed in Past Issues

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Surgeon General Report Highlights Unmet Healthcare Needs for People with Mental Retardation
Surgeon General David Satcher issued a report in February, 2002, calling attention to the failure of U.S. healthcare system in responding to changes in the lives of people with mental retardation. The report notes that people with mental retardation have received inferior care in the nation's residential institutions. It includes six major goals for the healthcare system. The complete report, entitled, "Closing the Gap: A National Blueprint to Improve the Health of Persons with Mental Retardation," is available online.

President Lays Out FY 2003 Federal Budget
President Bush laid out his $2.12 trillion budget plan for FY 2002 in February with major increases proposed for defense, homeland security, and biomedical research, while limiting funds for many domestic programs. The most significant recipient of the limited funds is the Department of Labor. The President would cut discretionary spending by 7 percent, including a $600 million cut in job-training programs. Several employment programs under the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services have been eliminated from the budget or consolidated. The Supported Employment State Grants and Recreational programs are completely zeroed out. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part B state grants, on the other hand, would receive a $1 billion increase. The budget and appropriations process is now in full swing as Congress uses the President's budget as a base from with to begin work on a congressional budget resolution. All of the President's budget documents are available online.

Social Security Administration (SSA) Issues First "Tickets to Work"
In early February, 2002, SSA Commissioner Jo Anne Barnhart delivered the first tickets in the nation as part of Social Security's new Ticket to Work Program. The program, enacted as part of the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999, is designed to help people with disabilities go to work. Under the program, Social Security disability and Supplemental Security Income disability beneficiaries will receive a ticket that may be redeemed to obtain vocational rehabilitation, job training, and other support services from a network of employment service providers. The program has started in 13 states and will be implemented nationwide by January, 2004.

Bush Administration Issues Olmstead Report
On December 21, 2001, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy Thompson submitted to the President the first report of agency efforts to meet Executive Order No. 13217, "Community-Based Alternatives for Individuals with Disabilities," signed in June, 2001. The report, entitled "Delivering on the Promise: Preliminary Report of Federal Agencies' Actions to Eliminate Barriers and Promote Community Integration," sets forth a summary of the actions that federal agencies propose to take in several key areas, including health care structure and financing, employment, housing, and personal assistance. The complete report is available on the Heath and Human Services Web site.

Bush's Special Ed Commission Makes a Plan But Needs More Time
The President's Commission on Excellence in Special Education laid out its plan to evaluate the successes and failures of special education in the U.S. recently. But with six task forces each needing to gather input from the special education community and meet publicly at least once, the commission says it will not make President George W. Bush's aggressive April 30 deadline for a final report.

Supreme Court Narrows Reach of the ADA
In a January 8, 2002, ruling that may affect millions of workers, a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the reach of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The justices said a lower court used the wrong standard in determining whether an impairment that prevents an employee from doing a specific, job-related manual task qualifies as a disability under the federal law. In the high court's opinion, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said the proper test instead involved whether the impairments prevented or restricted an individual from performing tasks "that are of central importance to most people's daily lives." O'Connor said the law clearly precluded impairments that interfere in only a minor way with performing manual tasks. She said the impact of the impairment must also be permanent or long term. The ruling may affect millions of U.S. workers who suffer repetitive strain injuries or similar impairments that leave them partly disabled.

Bush Nominates New Assistant Secretary of Labor for Office of Disability Employment Policy
On December 7, 2001, President Bush announced his intention to nominate W. Roy Grizzard to be Assistant Secretary of Labor for the new Office of Disability Employment Policy (this is the office that subsumed the programs and staff of the former President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities). Dr. Grizzard is currently Commissioner of the State of Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired. White House press release online.

Three More Members Appointed to Presidential Commission
President Bush has announced that he intends to nominate three additional members of the White House Commission on Excellence in Special Education. They are Stephen Hammerman of New York (an industrialist with expertise in job training programs); Floyd Flake (former Congressman and head of Edison Schools); and Bill Berdine from Kentucky (chairman of the Special Education Department at the University of Kentucky and the president of HECSE).

ESEA Conference Committee Update
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Conference Committee today (November 30, 2001) rejected efforts by Senators Hagel and Harkin to attach an amendment for full funding for the IDEA to the ESEA reauthorization bill. The conferees were meeting in an effort to wrap up work on the ESEA bill. The conferees also rejected two discipline amendments solely directed at students with disabilities. The conferees had hoped to finish work on the ESEA measure today but have agreed to meet again next week to deal with the remaining unresolved issues. The Labor/HHS/Education appropriations conference committee is holding off meeting until work on the ESEA bill is completed so that they will know which education programs to appropriate funding for.

Key Legislation Introduced
Important new legislation has been introduced (as of November 2001) to: 1) provide for coverage of new medical technology under Medicare (H.R. 2973); 2) stabilize and improve the Medicare + Choice program (H.R. 2980); and 3) fully integrate beneficiaries of the Individual Case Management Program into the TRICARE program (H.R. 2987). For information about these resolutions or to contact your U.S. Senator or Representative, call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 225-3121.

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