Children's Monitor Online
A Public Policy Update from the Child Welfare League of America

   
   
Vol. 20, Issue 23: 6/11/2007   
Headlines

House Moves on Labor-HHS, Abstinence and Education May Make Veto-Proof

Senate Finance Markup of SCHIP Reauthorization Legislation Set for Thursday

Father's Day: CWLA Continues Care About Kinship Campaign

Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Hearing on Gangs Legislation

CWLA Supports Reauthorization of the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act

CWLA Legislative Alerts Available to Subscribers

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



House Moves on Labor-HHS, Abstinence and Education May Make Veto-Proof

In one of the clearest changes from recent congresses, the House Appropriations Committee acted on legislation for the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-HHS) as one of its first appropriations bills to be voted on. The House Subcommittee on Labor-HHS acted on Thursday, June 7.

The bill allocates $151 billion in discretionary spending, an increase of 4.6% from the FY 2007 total of $144 billion. The biggest increases of more than 7% were in education funding and some health funding. Much of the human service funding fell short of increases for which advocates were looking. Both Head Start and child care funding received increases of just $75 million. That put child care at $2.13 billion in discretionary funding, compared to $2.06 billion in 2007, and Head Start at $6.96 billion, compared to $6.88 billion in 2007. Discretionary funding for Promoting Safe and Stable Families remained at $89 million, the same level as 2007, and funding for CAPTA state grants stayed at $27 million. Community-based prevention grants stayed at $42 million. Discretionary grants did increase by $10 million to $35 million. These grants are awarded in a competitive process or are allocated by earmark.

The full Appropriations Committee is set to vote on the Labor-HHS bill on June 14. The bill will go up for debate on the House floor by June 21. The President has indicated he would veto any bill that exceeds what he asked for, but the Administration's funding levels for this bill would force actual cuts in funding after several years of near freezes. In an effort to attract Republican support and make a veto more difficult, the Labor-HHS bill includes the funding level the President has requested for the abstinence-only pregnancy prevention programs. The program received $109 million in discretionary funding in 2007; the President requested $137 million for 2008, which is in the bill. The big increases in education make the bill politically popular; in fact, committee Republicans sounded positive about the legislation, which was approved by a voice vote.

While some Republican members of the House have been circulating a letter indicating their support for a presidential veto of bills that exceed the Administration's request, early reactions to the House Labor-HHS bill may make a presidential veto difficult to sustain. Under the law, a presidential veto would stand unless a super majority of two-thirds votes to oppose the veto. In such a case, the bill then becomes law without the President's support. For several congresses the Labor-HHS bill has been one of the last bills debated and voted on, and in some years it did not get a vote and was instead rolled into a massive end-of-year bill. Appropriators also moved bills on Homeland Security, Energy, and Military Construction-Veterans Affairs.

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Senate Finance Markup of SCHIP Reauthorization Legislation Set for Thursday

The Senate Finance Committee initiated internal discussions about details of legislation that would reauthorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Debate and markup of the legislation is expected to take place on Thursday, June 14. SCHIP currently provides health insurance for more than 6 million lower-income children and is set to expire on September 30, 2007. The reauthorization of SCHIP continues to be one of CWLA's legislative priorities. For more information, visit our website.

A June 5 meeting amongst members of the Finance Committee focused on pressing policy questions, such as income eligibility levels and whether to continue covering certain classes of adults under the program. Committee members also considered ways to finance the bill, in view of Congress's Budget Resolution containing a deficit-neutral reserve fund that allows up to $50 billion in additional spending for SCHIP over the next five years as long as costs are offset. No decision on that issue was reached. Possible "pay-fors" that members of Congress and advocates had previously brought up include raising the federal tobacco tax or reducing payments to the Medicare Advantage program. The latter is a Medicare program that pays private plans a higher rate of federal reimbursements than traditional Medicare services. Some advocates see Medicare Advantage as paying too much to the private sector and as a potential area of health care cost savings.

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Father's Day: CWLA Continues Care About Kinship Campaign

This week CWLA continued its Care About Kinship campaign to build support for the Kinship Caregiver Support Act. Just as CWLA did last month, CWLA is focusing efforts around Father's Day, encouraging supporters to contact their members of the Senate and House to become sponsors of the two kinship bills. The Senate bill (S. 661) was reintroduced by Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and Thad Cochrane (R-MS) in February and shortly before Mother's Day the House companion bill (HR 2188) was reintroduced by Representatives Danny Davis (D-IL) and Tim Johnson (R-IL). In addition to the original sponsors, Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), John Kerry (D-MA), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Norm Coleman (R-MN), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Patty Murray (D-WA) now cosponsor S. 661. The House bill quickly picked up support from Representative Dennis Moore (D-KS), with more cosponsors to be announced soon.

In the spirit of Father's Day we are urging members of Congress to cosponsor the legislation. We are launching this effort by encouraging members of CWLA to contact their House and Senate members to cosponsor the Kinship Caregiver Support Act. For more information, visit our website.

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Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Hearing on Gangs Legislation

On June 5 the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the Gang Abatement and Prevention Act (S. 456). The legislation is heavily slanted toward a federal law enforcement approach to reduce gang violence, emphasizing incarceration and longer sentences for convictions, and lacks focus on prevention and early intervention.

The punitive provisions in the bill would apply to youth and potentially will result in many more young people incarcerated in adult prisons and jails. Incarcerating gang members does not necessarily curb reoffending. There are proven prevention programs that work with seriously violent and at-risk youth, but the legislation doesn't do nearly enough to support and expand these efforts.

The committee is expected to vote on the legislation on June 14. It is unclear when the full Senate will consider the bill and what the House will do regarding gangs.

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CWLA Supports Reauthorization of the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act

CWLA supported legislation (S. 1514/H.R. 2511) that would reauthorize the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act. Named for Senator Gordon Smith's (R-OR) son who committed suicide after several years of struggling with mental illness, the original legislation provided support, training, and resources for the development of youth suicide prevention programs across the country. Each year, more than 4,000 Americans between the ages of 15 and 24 commit suicide, making suicide the third leading cause of death for this age group.

Introduced by Senators Smith, Christopher J. Dodd (D-CT), and Jack Reed (D-RI) and Representatives Bart Gordon (D-TN), Danny K. Davis (D-IL), and Greg Walden (R-OR), the reauthorization legislation would continue progress that has been made in reducing these tragic statistics. It would permit a total of $210 million over five years to help states and tribes develop and implement youth suicide early intervention and prevention strategies, raise awareness, educate individuals about mental illness and the risk of suicide, help identify young people with mental illness, and allow states to expand access to treatment options. Second, $31 million over five years would be authorized to fund a matching-grant program to colleges and universities to help raise awareness about youth suicide, train students and faculty on warning signs, and develop a referral system. Finally, the bill would reauthorize the Suicide Prevention Technical Assistance Center, which offers guidance to state and local grantees, creates standards for data collection, and collects, evaluates, and disseminates data related to suicide prevention programs.

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CWLA Legislative Alerts Available to Subscribers

CWLA's Legislative Alerts provide breaking news, advocacy information, and critically important timely details of legislative battles. In an effort to broaden CWLA's advocacy network on behalf of children, anyone can now subscribe and receive the same information. This effort compliments CWLA's weekly electronic legislative newsletter, the Children's Monitor, which is also available free to any subscriber. We encourage you to register to receive these items directly and to pass on the information to other colleagues, family, and friends.

Subscribe to Legislative Alerts.

Subscribe to Children's Monitor.

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

June 11: Care About Kinship Week: Sponsor S. 661, HR 2188
June 14: Tentative Date for House Appropriation Debate and Vote on Labor-HHS Bill
June 21: Tentative Date for House Debate and Vote on Labor-HHS Bill
June 30 to July 8: Congressional July 4th Break
August 6 to September 4: August Summer Break
October 1: 2008 Federal Fiscal Year Begins


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