U.S. Supreme Court and Capitol dome

The Reporter

Welcome! Available online and to our email subscribers, The Reporter supplements the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law’s Action Alerts and Updates by providing a periodic, in-depth bulletin on significant policy and law developments that affect people with mental disabilities.

Vol. XI, No. 5, November 9, 2012

Don't Legislate Discrimination!

In this Issue:

While the approaching "fiscal cliff" is obviously a significant concern as Congress enters its lame duck session, the disability community is focusing on a dangerous bill that would enshrine into federal law discrimination against Americans with disabilities. The bill, H.R. 2032, would restrict the ability to bring class action lawsuits to enforce the rights of people with disabilities in institutions. What is worse, the bill might have legs during the lame duck session's 11th hour. We have work to do!

Also in this edition of The Reporter, we examine other prospects for the lame duck session, and what the elections mean for the future of the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid and Olmstead.

Don't Legislate Discrimination: Stop H.R. 2032 in Its Tracks!

We expect the House Judiciary Committee will take up a very dangerous bill, H.R. 2032, in early December. Action is necessary to stop the bill. H.R. 2032 would write into federal law unnecessary and discriminatory hurdles for Americans with disabilities. The American Bar Association, disability advocates and many others strongly oppose this legislation.

The bill would restrict the ability of protection and advocacy systems to bring class action lawsuits that would enforce the rights of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in institutions. The bill would also make it more difficult for the U.S. Department of Justice to enforce the rights of such individuals. This would undermine the very system that Congress recognized was desperately needed to enforce the rights of institutionalized people with disabilities. 

Together, we can -- we must -- stop this bill. It should not even be on the table!

What You Can Do

If your U.S. Representative (identify yours here) serves on the House Judiciary Committee (see list below), please call them using the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121, and ask them to fight this discriminatory legislation.

Suggested Message

  • My name is ___ and I live in ___. I'm calling to ask Representative ___ to strongly oppose H.R. 2032 and to ask that the Representative urge the leadership of the House Judiciary Committee to oppose H.R. 2032.
  • H.R. 2032 would write into federal law discrimination against Americans with intellectual and developmental disabilities in institutions, and diminish civil rights enforcement for these Americans.
  • The American Bar Association, disability advocates and others strongly oppose this discriminatory bill.

More on H.R. 2032

  • The bill would create different rules of civil procedure for people with intellectual disabilities than for everyone else.
  • The bill would make it difficult to pursue class relief on behalf of institutionalized individuals with intellectual disabilities.
  • The bill would prevent effective representation of individuals with disabilities in institutional settings.
  • The bill is unnecessary. The existing rules for class actions already provide the type of protections that this bill supposedly provides.

Members of the House Judiciary Committee

  • Sandy Adams (R-Fla)
  • Mark Amodei (R-Nev)
  • Howard L. Berman (D-Calif)
  • Steve Chabot (R-Ohio)
  • Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah)
  • Judy Chu (D-Calif)
  • Howard Coble (R-NC)
  • Steve Cohen (D-Tenn)
  • John Conyers Jr (D-Mich)
  • Ted Deutch (D-Fla)
  • Randy Forbes (R-Va)
  • Trent Franks (R-Ariz)
  • Elton Gallegly (R-Calif)
  • Louis B. Gohmert Jr (R-Texas)
  • Bob Goodlatte (R-Va)
  • Trey Gowdy (R-SC)
  • Tim Griffin (R-Ark)
  • Darrell Issa (R-Calif)
  • Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas)
  • Hank Johnson (D-Ga)
  • James D. Jordan (R-Ohio)
  • Steven A. King (R-Iowa)
  • Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif)
  • Dan Lungren (R-Calif)
  • Tom Marino (R-Pa)
  • Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)
  • Mike Pence (R-Ind)
  • Pedro Pierluisi (3-PR)
  • Ted Poe (R-Texas)
  • Jared Polis (D-Colo)
  • Ben Quayle (R-Ariz)
  • Mike Quigley (D-Ill)
  • Dennis Ross (R-Fla)
  • Linda Sanchez (D-Calif)
  • Bobby Scott (D-Va)
  • F. James Sensenbrenner Jr (R-Wis)
  • Lamar Smith (R-Texas)
  • Maxine Waters (D-Calif)
  • Melvin L. Watt (D-NC)

Election Effects on Health Reform, Medicaid and Olmstead

As you know by now, President Barack Obama (D) will return for a second term in the White House, Democrats have increased their majority in the U.S. Senate, and Republicans have maintained their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. Divided government means tough negotiations are necessary to move nearly anything. During the 113th Congress starting this January, Senate Democrats will have enough votes to deflect, if they so choose, more attempts by the House Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA or health reform) and to de-fund safety net programs critical to our most vulnerable citizens.

For President Obama's second term, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will continue implementation of the health reform law. HHS will likely also continue to encourage states to adopt the Medicaid expansion option under the ACA. Lastly, it is our hope that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) will continue making strides in its fulfillment of the mandate that public systems support the true integration of people with mental disabilities, as set forth in the landmark 1999 U.S. Supreme Court decision Olmstead v. L.C.

We anticipate that President Obama's second term will bring renewed and strengthened efforts to implement these and other laws that will make it possible for people with mental disabilities to live full and independent lives.

A Lame Duck, a Fiscal Cliff ... a Grand Bargain?

After a long, hard-fought campaign season, voters across the country are weary of partisan politics and more than ready for their lawmakers in Washington to put differences aside and work together for the common good. This helps explain the conciliatory tones leaders in Washington have been sounding since the election. What this means for the post-election weeks of the 112th Congress, the "lame duck" session, is uncertain. However, both sides are working furiously to find a new deficit deal that may avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff," a package of nearly across-the-board spending cuts set to take effect this January.

Last year, Congress and the president agreed on the existing deficit deal, the Budget Control Act. That law established the now-defunct Supercommittee and charged it with developing a plan that would produce at least $1.2 trillion in savings. But the Supercommittee was unable to reach an agreement, triggering across-the-board cuts applied equally to defense and non-defense spending, starting January 2013.

In the Budget Control Act, advocates successfully shielded from the automatic cuts Medicaid, Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and several other programs. Yet, many lobbyists and lawmakers in Washington are highly motivated to replace or suspend the current deficit deal and its imminent "fiscal cliff" with a new “grand bargain” on spending cuts and revenues.

Disability advocates are concerned about what such a bargain might entail. It is possible that these negotiations will target anew Medicaid and other safety net programs currently omitted from the cuts. Furthermore, because it is so difficult to pass stand-alone legislation in a divided Congress, it is quite possible that other legislation, such as H.R. 2032 discussed above, will hitch a ride on larger, "must pass" legislation, such as a new deficit deal to avert the "fiscal cliff" -- yet another reason to take action on H.R. 2032.

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