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Policy Update

National Association of Counsel for Children (NACC)

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NACC FEDERAL POLICY UPDATE
Winter 2010 Edition (Monday, March 22, 2010)
 
By Miriam A. Rollin, Esq.
NACC Policy Representative
 

Since the previous Guardian update, Congress advanced health care reform legislation (including home visiting provisions).

Health Reform Bills/Voluntary Home Visiting Legislation

The U.S. House of Representatives last night passed – as part of House passage of health reform legislation previously passed by the Senate on Christmas Eve ’09 – an early childhood, voluntary home visitation grant program through the Maternal and Child Health Bureau in HHS with a capped entitlement funding level of $1.5 billion over 5 years. The Senate, in the coming week, will consider the "reconciliation bill” package of amendments to the Senate bill that the House also adopted last night.

The House-passed and Senate (pending) health care reform bills would obviously also have significant impacts on children’s physical and mental health coverage. The complexity of those issues precludes meaningful presentation in this brief update, but interested individuals may be interested in the following overview, from the Georgetown University "Center for Children and Families”:

The key provisions for families and children include:

  • Makes coverage more affordable for middle class families by boosting their bargaining power through new health exchanges and providing tax credits to those who need extra help buying insurance.
  • Provides Medicaid coverage to low-income families, allowing children and parents to be covered together.
  • Continues the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) which has successfully worked in partnership with Medicaid to drive down the number of uninsured children to its lowest level in over 20 years.
  • Ends insurance companies' discrimination based on pre-existing conditions.
  • Allows parents to keep their college-age children (up to age 27) on their family health plans.
  • Requires insurance companies to provide pediatrician-recommended care for children so they can grow and thrive.

Fiscal Year 2010 Appropriations and FY 2011 Budget Proposal

In late February 2009, President Obama submitted his first budget outline (for FY 2010) to Congress; a more detailed budget was submitted in early May 2009. The budget included continued funding for most current programs that benefit court-involved children and families, as well as new initiatives in education (including early learning, see below), health care and home visitation (see above). The House and Senate passed the final Congressional Budget Resolution for FY 2010 (S. Con. Res. 13) on April 29, 2009, largely following the contours of the President’s budget outline. In December 2009, the full House and the Senate completed action on the final FY10 appropriations bill that included the programs that most directly affect court-involved children and families: those within the Labor/Health and Human Services/Education agencies, and those within Commerce/Justice/Science agencies, largely following the President’s proposed budget. The President signed into law that funding "consolidated appropriations bill” on December 16, 2009.

In early February 2010, President Obama submitted his FY 2011 budget proposal, which again included continued funding for most current programs that benefit court-involved children and families, although there were some proposed funding reductions, most notably in the juvenile justice and delinquency prevention area. Congress has not yet begun taking action on the FY 2011 budget or appropriations bills.

Early Learning Challenge Fund Legislation

H.R. 3221, a higher education bill that includes provisions to implement a new early learning challenge fund initiative of President Obama, was introduced in mid-July 2009, and marked up and reported out by the House Education and Labor Committee in late July 2009. The full House of Representatives passed H.R. 3221 in mid-September 2009. The bill would provide $1 billion per year over 8 years to provide state challenge grants to improve the quality of early learning programs around the country, with a focus on ensuring that more low-income children, birth to age 5, are in higher quality early learning programs. Most of H.R. 3221 was incorporated into the health reform amendments package passed in the House last night, but unfortunately, the Early Learning Challenge Fund initiative was not incorporated into that package. Strong support in the Obama Administration and in Congress remains for this new, proposed early learning investment; thus, the investment still may be able to advance to enactment, through some alternative vehicle.

Child Safety in Boot Camps and other Private Residential Programs

H.R. 911, the Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act of 2009, was voted out of House Education and Labor Committee on 2/11/09, and was adopted (under suspension of the rules) by the full House of Representatives by a vote of 295-102 on 2/23/09; a similar bill had passed on the floor of the House on 6/25/08, but was never enacted. The legislation sets minimum standards for boot camps and other private residential programs as well as civil penalties for violation of those standards, and provides for federal oversight of such programs, including mandates that complaints of child abuse/neglect in the programs be investigated. No Senate action has been scheduled.

Gangs Legislation

On 1/6/09, Senators Feinstein and Hatch reintroduced the latest version of their "gangs bill” as S. 132. This bill includes mandatory minimums and other enhanced penalties, and increased federalization of gang crime, although the bill now also includes some prevention resources, and no longer has the previously-included section providing for expanded prosecution of juveniles as adults in federal court. Companion legislation in the House, H.R. 1022, was introduced on 2/12/09 by Reps. Schiff and Bono Mack. No House or Senate Judiciary Committee markup of any of these bills has been scheduled.

On 2/13/09, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Rep. Bobby Scott, introduced the Youth PROMISE Act, H.R. 1064, along with Rep. Castle and several other cosponsors; the bill now has over 230 House cosponsors. The bill would support a variety of proven-effective prevention and intervention approaches to reduce youth involvement in gangs and violent crime. The Senate companion legislation, S. 435, was introduced on 2/13/09 by Senators Casey and Snowe. A House hearing on the Youth PROMISE Act was held in the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime on July 15, 2009. House markup of H.R. 1064 was held in the full Judiciary Committee on December 2, 2009. No date for House floor consideration has been set. 

Juvenile Justice Reauthorization Bills 

On 3/24/2009, S. 678, a bill to reauthorize and improve the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, was introduced by Senators Patrick Leahy, Herb Kohl, and Arlen Specter. The Senate Judiciary Committee marked-up the bill on December 17, 2009, but no Senate floor action has been scheduled, and no House companion bill has been introduced yet. On 3/16/2009, Rep. Bobby Scott (Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime) introduced a simple reauthorization bill (H.R. 1514) for the Juvenile Accountability Block Grants (JABG) program; no markup has been scheduled yet.

 

For further information on any federal legislation (including copies of bills, copies of committee reports, floor votes, etc.), visit Thomas.loc.gov

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