From the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) Weekly Advocacy Monitor, September 07, 2011
This week Congress returns to Washington, D.C. after the annual August recess. House members returned today and members of the Senate are expected to return on Tuesday. Both Houses return to a full calendar to end the year. There are many legislative issues and concerns that congressional committees will take on before the end of the first half of the 112th Congress.
This week has already proven to be a busy one. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, scheduled a hearing on Voting Rights for Thursday, September 8th. The hearing will assess the impact of voting laws recently passed by several states. Among other things, these new laws will significantly reduce the number of early voting days, require voters to show photo identification before voting, and make it harder for volunteer organizations to register new voters. The hearing will scrutinize the claims of the proponents, who say that these new laws will reduce voter fraud. It will also review the evidence demonstrating that these laws will make it harder for tens of thousands of [Americans with disabilities], elderly, minority, young, and low income Americans to exercise their right to vote. NCIL will submit a statement to the Subcommittee that discusses the issues and concerns that affect people with disabilities and staff will be in attendance.
Many advocacy coalitions have been meeting in D.C. to create strategies and discuss opportunities to advance the disability agenda. There are many bills, both old and new, that we would like to see progress from committees to the floors of the House and Senate.
These bills cover many areas of concern for each of NCIL’s consumer-driven advocacy committees. We remain hopeful for speedy Reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act and the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and several other important bills. NCIL staff is working with congressional staff and representatives to see that these bills become reality soon. Stay tuned for further updates!
On Thursday, September 8, 2011 President Obama will address a joint session of the US Congress, the nation, and the world. The President will lay out his jobs plan, which we hope will create better economic outcomes for the nation.
On September 2, 2011 the US Labor report stated there was "a net job change of zero" with an unemployment rate of 9.1 percent. As reported in August 2011 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of unemployed persons with disabilities is much higher. The numbers show that 970,000 people with disabilities were unemployed in July 2011 compared to 919,000 in the same month last year. By comparison, unemployment for persons without disabilities took a dip in July 2011. (BLS – August 2011)
NCIL remains at the forefront of the fight for employment rights for persons with disabilities. We continue to hold meetings with the Administration and members of Congress to ensure that persons with disabilities are a part of job strategies and the conversations currently happening in our nation’s capitol. Employment is one of the most important components for an independent life.
We must make sure that the NCIL community remains at the forefront of the conversations through data analysis and active policy change. In the next few months many important decisions will be made about employment and where our nation is headed economically. NCIL will remain diligent in our efforts and continue to keep you updated on these most important developments.
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The Joint Select Committee or "Super Committee of 12", which is comprised of six Democrats and six Republicans from both the House and Senate, has chosen two staffers. Last week the Super Committee named Mark Prater as staff director and yesterday it announced that Sarah Kuehl will serve as deputy staff director. Prater is the Senate Finance Committee deputy staff director and minority chief tax counsel. Kuehl is a senior budget analyst for the Senate Budget Committee.
Senator Pat Murray (D-WA) and Representative Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), the Committee’s Co-Chairs announced that the first meeting of the Committee will be on Thursday, September 8 in the Rayburn Building and will be open to the public. There will be opening statements by members and a consideration of rules for the process. The first hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday, September 13. The transparency of the upcoming hearings is still not clear. There has been no confirmation that these hearings will be open to the public or televised. NCIL staff will attend those meetings that are open to the public.
The party leadership appointed the twelve members of the Committee, who will be responsible for producing a bill to reduce the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion by November 23. The House and Senate must vote on this bill, with no amendments, by December 23. If the Committee does not achieve a goal of at least $1.2 trillion in cuts or their work is not enacted by January 15, 2012, then the “triggers” would be implemented and spending would automatically be reduced by $1.2 trillion over nine years. The Senate leadership vows that part of this Committee’s work must be to discuss revenues and ensure that tax increases be part of the solutions. Many believe that this Committee will propose cuts and / or policy changes to the entire "Entitlement Program," consisting of Social Security – Medicare and Medicaid.