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Federal Legislative Update September 2009


September 25, 2009

September 18, 2009

September 11, 2009

News from Capitol Hill. . .

9/25/2009

Urge Congress to Support Bills to Fully Fund Special Education

Bipartisan bills have been introduced in both the House and Senate that would fulfill the federal government’s decades-old commitment to special education:

  • The Everyone Deserves Unconditional Access to Education (EDUCATE) Act, (H.R. 3578) introduced by Representatives Van Hollen (D-MD), Walz (D-MN), and Platts (R-PA),

And the

  • IDEA Full Funding Act (S. 1652), introduced by Senators Harkin (D-IA) and Roberts (R-KS)

Both NEA-supported bills would make new funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) “mandatory” and bring funding up to the federal government’s fully committed level in six years.  “Mandatory funding” means that special education, which is a federally mandated program, wouldn’t be subject to the unpredictable yearly “appropriations” process, but funds would flow automatically without any further action needed by Congress. 

For too long, Congress has failed to live up to its commitment to special education.  This continued underfunding forces school districts to either raise taxes or cut other critical services to cover special education costs.  These two new bills recognize that schools and the students they serve cannot afford to wait any longer for the relief they so desperately need. 

Contact Congress Today!  Tell your Senators and Representative to cosponsor legislation to fully fund IDEA funding and make the funding mandatory.

Senate Finance Committee Continues Work on Health Insurance Reform


This week the Senate Finance Committee continued work on a health care bill.  The framework put forward by Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) is unacceptable and must be fixed:

  • It violates the most basic promise of health care reform -- a guarantee of good, affordable coverage.  It could actually make health care worse for many people.  
  • It places no responsibility on employers, is not affordable, offers poor coverage, includes unfair taxation, and provides for no public option.
  • It violates the President’s proposals.  The President promised: affordable coverage; good benefits; an end to medical bankruptcy; employer responsibility; a public option to compete with insurers.

Take Action: Tell the Senate to Fix the Baucus Framework and Focus on Ensuring Affordable Health Care For All

Learn more about NEA’s position on health care.
Read more about health insurance reform myths vs. facts.

House Acts to Extend Unemployment Insurance

The U.S. House of Representatives voted this week to throw a lifeline to hundreds of thousands of American workers hit hard by what some refer to as “The Great Recession.”  The House passed the Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2009 on a 331-to-83 vote.  The bill would extend unemployment insurance for 13 weeks to those who are about to exhaust their benefits in certain states.  “Though there are positive signs that the economy is on the right track, many …. workers are still struggling to find jobs, and we must make sure they have the support they need,” said Representative Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL), who supported the bill.  “Extending unemployment benefits is a common-sense solution that will give a quick boost to [the] economy while providing immediate relief to struggling families.”  H. R. 3548 would extend benefits in 27 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico where jobless rates are higher than 8.5 percent. 

The national unemployment rate has reached 9.7 percent and is expected to hit 10 percent within the coming months.  Experts estimate that by the end of the year more than 1 million workers will lose their unemployment insurance

You can check how your representative voted by clicking here: http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2009/roll722.xml.

News from Capitol Hill. . .

9/18/2009

THE FIGHT CONTINUES ON HEALTH CARE: CHAIRMAN BAUCUS RELEASES UNACCEPTABLE PROPOSAL

Congress continued to focus on health care this week. Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) released a draft proposal that NEA believes is unacceptable:

  • The Baucus Framework violates the most basic promise of health care reform -- a guarantee of good, affordable coverage. It could actually make health care worse for many people.
  • It places no responsibility on employers, is not affordable, offers poor coverage, includes unfair taxation, and provides for no public option.
  • The Baucus Framework violates the President’s proposals. The President promised: affordable coverage; good benefits; an end to medical bankruptcy; employer responsibility; a public option to compete with insurers.

The Baucus Framework must be repaired. The Senate Finance Committee must pass legislation that, at a minimum, addresses the most egregious problems with the Baucus plan.

Take Action: Tell the Senate to Fix the Baucus Framework and Focus on Ensuring Affordable Health Care For All

Learn more about NEA’s position on health care.
Read more about health care reform myths vs. facts.

VICTORY: HOUSE PASSES SIGNIFICANT FUNDING FOR HIGHER EDUCATION, SCHOOL MODERNIZATION, AND EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

This week, the House of Representatives passed the NEA-supported Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (H.R. 3221). This landmark bill:

  • Provides $8.8 billion to community colleges over the next ten years — including money for grants to help students stay in and complete college, and funds to help repair and modernize community college facilities.
  • Increases the Pell Grant scholarship to $5,550 in 2010 and $6,900 in 2019. (The current Pell Grant maximum award is $5,350). About 6 million lower-income students received help from Pell Grants to attend college in 2007-2008.
  • Lowers interest rates on need-based federal student loans.
  • Simplifies the federal financial aid application.
  • Provides $4 billion in grants to states and local school districts to help repair and modernize K-12 school facilities, which will stimulate the creation of more than 100,000 new jobs in the construction and related industries.
  • Makes significant investments in comprehensive, high quality early childhood education, including professional development for early childhood providers.

The Senate is expected to take up similar legislation later this fall.

SOCIAL SECURITY OFFSETS: COSPONSORS CONTINUE TO CLIMB

The Social Security Fairness Act (H.R 235/S.484), which would repeal the unfair Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision, now boasts 307 cosponsors in the House and 29 in the Senate. See if your Senators and Representative have cosponsored this important bill.

Despite this overwhelming support, Congress has not moved the bill forward for debate and vote.

Tell Congress: The busy legislative agenda is no excuse! Pass the Social Security Fairness Act.

News from Capitol Hill...

9/11/2009


CONGRESS RETURNS TO WORK: TIME FOR ACTION ON HEALTH CARE REFORM! 

Congress returned to work this week after an August recess dominated by contentious debates on health care reform.  Now, it is time for action

Click here to call your Senators and tell them enough politicking, it's time to get real health reform done.


We've already made historic progress.  Three committees in the House have passed strong health reform bills and referred them to the floor.  And the late Senator Kennedy's Committee has passed a strong bill as well.

Still, some in the Senate are waffling and asking for more time.  Give them a call and tell them to support Kennedy's bill that will lower our health care costs, improve our coverage, and give us the choice of a public health insurance option.

Call your Senators right now, when your call can make the most impact!  You will fill out a quick form with your call back phone number.  You will receive a call back to connect you to your Senator. 

We've waited long enough.  We can get real reform done this year.  Call your Senators today and make them do it!

Learn more about NEA’s position on health care.
Read more about health care reform myths vs. facts.