Thursday, October 29, 2009

Medicaid: skip the headlines, read the fine print

Mainstream and alternative media alike are shouting the headlines about the release of the House Democrats' health bill. If you haven't seen this news, take a look at the Washington Post, the New York Times, or your own local media outlet.

For transportation, though, the important thing is to burrow deep into this bill, where Section 1737 would establish, for the first time in health care history, a statutory mandate for states to provide non-emergency medical transportation as part of their program of Medicaid benefits.

While Medicaid transportation is nothing new in most of the US (the Community Transportation Association has an entire portion of its web site dedicated to this topic), it has been addressed as a regulatory matter by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, as a result of legal action in the 1980s. But if this section of the House bill becomes law, the transportation component becomes grounded in actual law, not simply in the rulings of federal courts.

Stay tuned, to see - first - if this bill makes it through to House passage, and then to see what happens in the Senate and thereafter.

News, Necessary, but not a Surprise

While "Capitol Clips" would love to claim ownership of a transportation policy crystal ball, that's not really the case this week.

The current continuing resolution and SAFETEA-LU extension were set to expire on Halloween. There was almost no doubt that some kind of continuation of appropriations and extension of SAFETEA-LU (and some otherwise expired pieces of non-transportation legislation) was going to happen. As predicted, Congress tacked on a six-week "CR" to the FY 2010 Interior/Environment appropriations bill, which now is headed to President Obama's desk for an anticipated signature.

If you're thirsty for news and insight, check out the coverage on DC.Streetsblog, or for something a little closer to mainstream media, visit As always, the details of appropriations, including continuing resolutions, can be found on-line at Thomas.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Extensions? Continuations? -- An Update

Whether because of the ongoing health care debate or other factors, progress on the annual cycle of appropriations has slowed in Congress. This month, President Obama signed the USDA appropriations into law (PL 111-80), and is expected to sign the Homeland Security appropriations into law any day now. Transportation-HUD appropriations have passed both the House and Senate, but there've not been any conference committee negotiations. The Senate hasn't even taken up Labor/Health & Human Services/Education spending. Up-to-the-minute details are kept on the "Thomas" web site.

The current one-month continuing resolution expires on Halloween. There'll be some kind of continuation after that point. One possibility, reported in Government Executive, is a continuing resolution through mid-December, tagged to one of the bills soon to emerge from conference, such as the Interior/Environment appropriations bill. Or maybe Congress will take a different approach.

What is much less certain is the nature of the next SAFETEA-LU extension. DC.Streetsblog reports that a six-month extension remains under consideration. The House passed a three-month extension of SAFETEA-LU last month. As reported through several intermediaries, Congressional Quarterly is hinting that the White House idea of an 18-month extension may be slipping off the table in Congress. In any case, some kind of extension for the highway and transit authorization must be passed this week.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sign Up for On-Line National Dialogue on Coordination!

As part of the National Resource Center's partnership, you and your interested colleagues are invited - no, urged - to please join a Federal Government Online Outreach Effort to Develop New Ideas in Transportation Access for People with Disabilities, Older Adults and Persons of Limited Income

Do you have suggestions and ideas that you would like to share with national leaders that can assist communities to increase access to affordable and reliable transportation services for people with disabilities, older adults, and people with limited incomes?

If so, please register to participate in an upcoming national online dialogue with representatives of the federal government, state and community leaders! For more information, and to register, just click the link to visit the Dialogue

The Federal Interagency Coordinating Council on Access and Mobility (CCAM) invites you to participate in the United We Ride National Dialogue. This groundbreaking, web-based interactive dialogue is designed to allow a broader range of opinions and ideas to inform future policies, the CCAM Strategic Plan and to strengthen the CCAM's relationship with is vast array of partners and stakeholders, including state, local, and tribal governments, transportation agencies, human service agencies, healthcare providers, employment specialists, educators, and consumers.

In order to capture this critical feedback, the CCAM is seeking your participation in a 2 week long, web-based dialogue that will begin on November 2nd and end on November 13th. This dialogue will allow participants to submit, comment, and rate ideas interactively on how to increase access to affordable and reliable transportation services for people with disabilities, older adults, and people with limited incomes. Your invaluable participation will directly inform the work of the CCAM on future policy decisions and the Strategic Plan.

This dialogue is being organized by the National Academy of Public Administration and Easter Seals, in partnership with the National Resource Center for Human Service Transportation Coordination, the Federal Transit Administration, and the Office of Disability Employment Policy.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The New Year Begins

The newest federal fiscal year began this week, on October 1, 2009. Late in the day on Sept. 30, Congress sent President Obama legislation that includes a one-month (to October 31) continuing resolution for nearly all federal spending, and which includes a one-month extension of SAFETEA-LU.

FTA Invites Comments on Proposed Sec 5307 Circular

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has drafted a proposed new program circular for its "Section 5307" formula grant program for transit in urbanized areas. A notice announcing this proposal appears in the October 2, 2009, Federal Register. Comments are due to FTA by November 30, 2009. A copy of the proposed circular can be accessed on-line from the FTA site. NOTE that this is only a proposal; no changes have been made to current Section 5307 guidance.

President Issues Order on Distracted Driving

[Corrected October 5]

On October 1, President Obama issued an Executive Order that prohibits Federal employees from text messaging while driving during the course of doing work that is supported by the Federal government, and calls upon Federal agencies to "encourage" their contractors, grantees and subrecipients to adopt similar policies that restrict text messaging while driving. The text of this order, which takes full effect by December 30, 2009, can be found on the White House web site. It was issued in conjunction with this week's Distracted Driving summit, convened by DOT Secretary Ray LaHood.

[Note: this text has been corrected, thanks to a commenter's input]