H.R.4631 – To reauthorize certain provisions of the Public Health Service Act relating to autism, and for other purposes

15 May

Public Law 112-32 was passed in 2011 as “An Act To reauthorize the Combating Autism Act of 2006.” Commonly referred to as the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act (CARA) it was what some have called a “dollars and dates” bill as it took Public Law 109-416 (the Combating Autism Act) and essentially extended it with a new sunset date and new authorized appropriations. This was somewhat of a necessity at the time as Congress had many other issues to face that year and a full revision of the bill would likely not have passed. As it is the bill was passed pretty much last minute.

That was 2011. Here we are three years later and, well, the sunset of the reauthorization is upon us again this September. I’ve been waiting for the new bill to go online so as to discuss it. The bill has been introduced but as of now the text is not available online. The bill, HR 4631, is titled “To reauthorize certain provisions of the Public Health Service Act relating to autism, and for other purposes.”

Right off the bat there’s something to discuss: the lack of the word “combating” in the title. In 2006 we had the Combating Autism Act of 2006. In 2011 we had HR 2005, the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2011. The term “combating” was deemed stigmatizing (and other things) by many, especially autistic self advocates. Some groups, especially certain parent advocate groups, welcomed the term combating.

Perhaps the title will evolve along with the bill. We may yet see a “combating autism reauthorization” this year.

Disability Scoop has already covered the proposed bill in Congress To Weigh Increased Autism Funding.

One change they note is in how people will be appointed to the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee. Public members are now appointed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. According to Disability Scoop the proposed bill would add someone to oversee implementation of the Strategic Plan (drafted by the IACC) and:

What’s more, the bill would require that a staffer be designated within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to oversee implementation of the strategic plan created annually by the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee. The makeup of the federal advisory panel would also change, with the top Republican and Democrat in both the House and U.S. Senate appointing one representative to the IACC apiece.

That seems, in my opinion, to politicize he IACC in a way I’d prefer didn’t happen. It will likely end up growing the IACC even larger than it is at present which, again in my opinion, is not a good direction. The second generation IACC was significantly smaller than the present version (3rd generation) and from my view was more efficient for it.

What is vital in this process, again in my opinion, is that the bill move quickly. The previous bills had sunsets with the fiscal year–i.e. the bills and the IACC end in September. The reauthorization in 2011 wasn’t passed until September–giving no time for a new IACC to be seated and start work. The main tasks of the IACC are to provide updates to the Strategic Plan and an summary of advances for the year. Both are due at the end of the calendar year: December. See the gap? For this IACC, we will leave at the end of September and will not provide updates. While it would be a huge task for OARC and a new IACC to provide updates this year, leaving a gap where no IACC exists is not beneficial to the communities.

This week we have IMFAR, the largest autism science conference. It’s huge and, let’s face it, it’s that big in part because the U.S. taxpayer has decided to invest in this area. I, for one, hope that the U.S. taxpayer continues to see the value in helping these communities.


By Matt Carey

note: I serve as a public member to the IACC but my views here and elsewhere are my own.

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One Response to “H.R.4631 – To reauthorize certain provisions of the Public Health Service Act relating to autism, and for other purposes”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2014 | Left Brain Right Brain - May 17, 2014

    […] include the “Combating” term that is the topic of controversy. This is contrary to what I wrote in my previous article on the […]

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