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Legislative Update

April 14, 2014

In this update: 
■ On Capitol Hill: House Approves Fiscal 2015 Budget 
■ Arne Duncan Discusses Proposed College Ratings System 
■ Kathleen Sebelius Announces Resignation 
■ Center on Transition Innovations 
■ VCU’s ASPiRE Recognized for Volunteerism and Community Service 
■ Children’s Services: MACPAC March 2014 Report to Congress 
■ MIRC Meeting Update 
■ Executive Branch Media Talks 
■ State & Local Government Meetings 

On Capitol Hill: House Approves Fiscal 2015 Budget 

The House approved a fiscal 2015 budget on April 10th that would cut federal spending by $5 trillion and significantly revamp social welfare programs. The measure, which cleared the House 219-205, is essentially a political document that has no chance of being passed in the Democratic-controlled Senate. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (Wisconsin) is expected to relinquish his gavel at the end of this Congress and his final budget is seen as more of an outline of Republican priorities, including the repeal of Obamacare. 

The budget resolution relied entirely on Republican support to pass through the House. Still, 12 Republicans opposed the package, up from 10 GOP lawmakers who voted against the Ryan budget last year. As expected, no Democrats offered their support to the Republican plan. 

A large portion of the savings Ryan’s budget projects comes from reducing health care coverage and subsidies under Obamacare. An additional $700 billion-plus in savings comes from cutting Medicaid and other health care programs, while hundreds of billions in additional cuts come from food stamps, education and farm programs. Ryan would cut Obamacare benefits but retain its tax increases and reductions in payments to providers. It also would turn Medicare into a voucher program — Republicans call it “premium support” — for those who enroll in the program beginning in 2024. 

There is no practical reason for Congress to pass another budget right now. Ryan brokered a deal last year with Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (Washington) that sets spending levels through next year. Given that framework, Senate Democrats are not planning on proposing a budget of their own this year. 

Arne Duncan Discusses Proposed College Ratings System 

On Tuesday, April 8th, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan defended the Obama administration's proposed college ratings system while testifying before the House appropriations subcommittee that oversees the department's budget. Duncan explained that the college ratings system was needed to provide students with better information and to provide more accountability for taxpayer money. The department's 2015 fiscal year budget request seeks $10 million to help develop the ratings system. Duncan reiterated that the administration's goal in creating a ratings system is to make sure that federal student aid money is well-spent. 

To view the testimony, visit http://appropriations.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=374542

Kathleen Sebelius Announces Resignation 

Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, is resigning. A former governor of Kansas, Sebelius has been one of President Obama's longest-serving Cabinet officials and his only HHS secretary. She was instrumental in shepherding the health care law through Congress in 2010 and implementing its initial components. President Obama will nominate Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, to succeed Sebelius. Burwell was unanimously confirmed by the Senate for current post. She joined the Obama administration last year and held several White House and Treasury posts during President Bill Clinton's administration. Between her stints in the executive branch, Burwell served as president of Wal-Mart's charitable arm and head of the global development program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 

Center on Transition Innovations 

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) and Virginia Commonwealth University have announced the establishment of the Center on Transition Innovations (CTI). The new center is a collaborative venture of VDOE and the VCU School of Education’s Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC). It will serve as a statewide resource to support school divisions, service providers, students with disabilities and their families as they work together to facilitate successful transitions for students with disabilities after they leave school. CTI, which was funded through a $2 million VDOE special education and student services start-up grant, will assist stakeholders in identifying career goals, encouraging skill building so individuals can live as independently as possible in their communities and increasing inclusive postsecondary competitive employment, education, and training opportunities. Named to lead CTI are VCU faculty members Paul Wehman as principal investigator and Elizabeth Getzel as director. They will work with VDOE and other state agencies. Through its website, CTI will provide information on available resources including online courses, webcasts, videos, newsletters, fact sheets and topical papers. CTI will also be involved in transition-related research and transition program development. 

For more information, visit http://www.centerontransition.org/

VCU’s ASPiRE Recognized for Volunteerism and Community Service 

During an awards ceremony held at the Governor’s Mansion on April 10th, Governor McAuliffe announced the seven winners of the 2014 Governor’s Volunteerism and Community Service Awards including, Virginia Commonwealth University’s ASPiRE (Academic Scholars Program in Real Environments) program. These awards recognize individuals and organizations for their extraordinary volunteer efforts that make an impact on the lives of citizens throughout the Commonwealth.  VCU’s ASPiRE program enrolls undergraduates who commit to complete nine hours of academic coursework and at least 100 hours of off-campus service for at least four semesters. Between August and December 2013 alone, ASPiRE students contributed more than 7,500 service hours to the Richmond community. 

Children’s Services:  MACPAC March 2014 Report to Congress 

Children’s Hospital Association has developed a detailed summary of the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission’s (MACPAC) March 2014 Report to Congress. The report begins a discussion on the future of CHIP and highlights the short-term issues for children’s coverage under the program. The report also discusses the role of supplemental payments in Medicaid and shares the findings of a MACPAC staff analysis of Medicaid payments in five states. In addition, the report recommends that Congress and the administration should eliminate CHIP waiting periods, eliminate premiums in CHIP for children below 150 percent of the federal poverty level and collect provider level data on non-DSH supplemental payments to increase transparency. 

To view the summary, visit http://www.childrenshospitals.net/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Home3&ContentID=70172&Template=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm

MIRC Meeting Update 

The Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission (MIRC) held a meeting on Monday, April 7th. Topics discussed during the meeting included an update on the status of Medicaid reforms and explanation of reform Savings included in 2014-16 Biennial budgets; explanation of plans to provide access to health care for low-income Virginians including timeline for implementation; and an explanation of the proposed Medicaid audit, among other topics. 

To access the presentations, visit http://mirc.virginia.gov/

Executive Branch Media Talks 

Visit the following links to access President Obama’s and Governor McAuliffe’s regularly scheduled media talks. 

President Obama's Weekly Video Address 

Governor McAuliffe’s "Ask the Governor" Call-in Radio Show 

State & Local Government Meetings 

Visit the following links for information on official state and local government meetings open to the public. 

The Commonwealth Calendar 
Virginia’s Legislative Information System 
Virginia Regulatory Town Hall 
Richmond City Council 
Henrico County 
Chesterfield County 
Hanover County 
Goochland County 

Find us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/VCUGovernmentRelations?ref=hl. 

To view the university and health system’s legislative priorities, updates, legislative tracking lists, and more… go to the http://www.govrel.vcu.edu/. 

The next update will be available during the week of April 20, 2014. For questions regarding this information, please contact VCU Office of Government Relations at (804) 828-1235 or govrel@vcu.edu.   

To be added to or removed from the weekly legislative updates email distribution list, please send an email to govrel@vcu.edu.