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Colorado Quarterly Magazine 

"Rewriting the Myths, Redefining the Realities"

 

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Ask The Candidates: TCQ Survey

The Colorado Quarterly sent the following survey to all of Colorado’s Congressional candidates. We received replies from Wayne Allard (R), running for reelection to the Senate; Mike Feeley (D), running for U.S. Congress District 7; and Mark Udall (D), running for reelection to U.S. Congressional District 2. The questions followed by each candidate’s responses follow.

1. Recently the Supreme Court has ruled in a number of cases brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These rulings have favored the employer over the employee. In addition, legislation has been introduced in Congress that substantially weakens the ADA’s ability to guarantee accessibility to public accommodation. Would you support legislation to clarify and strengthen the civil rights of persons with disabilities by strengthening the ADA?

Udall: I consider the ADA to be one of our country’s fundamental civil rights laws. I do not think it should be weakened, and am prepared to support efforts to make it more effective.

Feeley: Yes. We should make accommodations wherever possible so people with disabilities are able to participate fully in our society and economy.

Allard: I support the Americans with Disabilities Act. Congress passed the ADA in 1990 in order “to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.” I believe it is important to provide assistance for those who need it. If a person is disabled he or she may require assistance in physical and cognitive areas that others do not. Congress should keep this principle in mind when considering legislation that supports the civil rights of individuals with disabilities. Further, I believe disagreements between employers and disabled employees can be worked out. Smart employers will strive to accommodate the employees they hire, and savvy disabled employees will ensure their valuable time is well spent with an employer that cares about their needs.

2. The long-term care program under Medicaid has a built in bias in favor of nursing home care. Legislation known as MiCassa has been introduced to correct this imbalance. MiCassa allows persons with disabilities, as well as older persons, to receive services in a non-institutionalized setting. Will you support MiCassa?

Udall: I am a proud co-sponsor of H.R. 3612, the MiCassa bill.

Feeley: Yes. A non-institutional setting often provides a greater level of dignity and independence and should be encouraged whenever possible. I formerly served on the board of an independent living center in Colorado and I know first hand how independent living can enhance an individual’s quality of life.

Allard: I strongly support independent living programs for those with disabilities. The Medicaid Community Attendant Services and Support Act (MiCassa) would require that states cover under Medicaid community-based attendant services for certain individuals with disabilities who are Medicaid recipients. MiCassa would provide individuals with disabilities the dignity that comes from independent living. Currently the Senate Committee on Finance is evaluating MiCassa to determine its fiscal and other implications. If the bill passes, Medicaid beneficiaries would be able to receive care in their homes rather than in nursing homes.

Congress should make every effort to ensure that federal services, such as those in MiCassa, are cost effective and provide care that helps, and not hurts, its beneficiaries. Federal studies show that in-home care can cost substantially less than nursing home care. Congress also must keep in mind that many patients desire to receive care at home rather than in institutional settings.

3. During the next session of Congress, the Rehabilitation Act will be reauthorized. Will you support maintaining the Rehabilitation Administration Services in its current organizational location in the Department of Education and support efforts to better integrate employment services among Vocational Rehabilitation, the Work Force Centers, and Centers of Independent Living?

Udall: I support keeping the Rehabilitation Services Administration in the Department of Education. Moving the RSA to another location could result in decreased funding for vocational training and rehabilitation programs. I support efforts to better integrate vocational rehabilitation, work force centers, and centers for independent living.

Feeley: I do not know what alternatives are being considered. However, I will do all I can to see that the disabled community gets the services they deserve.

Allard
: If given the privilege to serve again in the U.S. Senate next year, I will have the opportunity to support the reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act. Since 1920, Congress has supported the Rehabilitation Act and Congress has increased funding for Rehabilitation Act programs. Every year Congress provides more than two billion dollars for Rehabilitation Act programs.

Further, as Congress evaluates the Rehabilitation Act reauthorization, I am confident that Congress will keep in mind the benefits of maintaining the Rehabilitation Administration Services under the U.S. Department of Education. Congress also must keep in mind that integration and inclusion are vital. Individuals with disabilities thrive when they work in settings with typical individuals. In this light, Congress should consider the inclusion and training benefits the Centers of Independent Living, Vocational Rehabilitation and Work Force Centers provide. I am confident Congress will continue to support legislation to empower individuals with disabilities and give them the opportunity to live independently and with dignity.


4. The Supreme Court ruling in the Olmstead Case stated that services must be provided in the most integrated setting consistent with the individuals needs. Do you support making policy and funding changes needed to fully implement Olmstead, especially with regard to community based services for persons who are mentally ill and developmentally disabled?

Udall: Generally, I support proposals to fully implement Olmstead. Individuals should be able to have access to community-based living. That is why I cosponsored and voted for H.R. 1180, which provided access to community-based health care and established a Ticket-to-Work and self-sufficiency program to provide work opportunities for persons with disabilities.

Feeley: Yes

Allard: In the Olmstead case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Title II of the ADA requires that states place individuals with mental disabilities in community settings rather than institutions when the state’s treatment professionals have determined that community placement is appropriate, that community placement is not opposed by the individual with a disability, and that the placement can be reasonably accommodated. I support the ADA and the ruling of the Supreme Court. In addition, Congress should clarify unclear legislative language in the ADA, keeping in mind the Olmstead ruling. At the same time, Congress also must consider the fiscal imposition that clarification could place on states to provide community-based services for mental health patients. I am confident an agreement can be achieved in Congress that allows opportunities for community-based care and that provides fiscal discipline.

5A. Persons with disabilities benefit enormously from public transit. The reauthorization of the Transportation Efficiency Act (TEA 21) will occur this session. Will you support a greater federal investment for all community and public transportation programs?
 
Udall: I have been a consistent supporter of greater investment for community and public transportation programs, and I will continue to support them if re-elected.

Feeley: Yes. It is good for the disabled community and good for the environment.

Allard: Transit provides an important service for a community. Whether citizens rely upon transit as a primary or alternative means of transportation, it can offer many benefits. I supported TEA 21, which contained significant transit funding increases. Based on the tremendous demand for transit dollars over the last five years it is safe to assume that the transit investment will grow under reauthorization. I strongly support a result-oriented approach that invests taxpayer dollars in the most effective and efficient programs. Unsuccessful
programs should be reformed.

5B. Changes also need to be made in the allocation of the TEA 21 funds. Bus trips make up the majority of daily public transportation, and ought to receive more federal capital investment. Currently, federal capital grants are dispersed at 40 percent new rail starts; 40 percent rail modernization; and 20 percent buses and bus facilities. Will you support a change of that formula making it more equitable, for example a one-third, one-third, one-third split?

Udall: Yes, I will support a change in the way TEA 21 funds are allocated to better reflect the percentage of use of buses and bus facilities.

Feeley: I am undecided.

Allard: The current 40-40-20 distribution of money between rail new starts, rail modernization, and buses is a point of great interest for me as part of reauthorization. The Senate Subcommittee on Housing and Transportation, of which I am the Ranking Member, has been holding a series of hearings on TEA 21 reauthorization. At a number of these hearings I have made inquiries of witnesses as to their views on the current funding split. I am confident that during reauthorization we can find a funding distribution that balances the higher costs of rail projects with the greater utilization of buses.

5C. Public transportation for persons with disabilities in small urban and rural areas is woefully inadequate. Would you support doing away with the current formula of 84 percent of all formula funds going to large-urban areas of more than 200,000 in population; 10 percent going to small-urban areas of between 50,000 and 200,000 populations and 6 percent going to rural areas of less than 50,000 population and recommend a new formula that would more favorably represent small urban and rural providers (e.g. 60 urban/20 small-urban/20 rural)?

Udall: No.

Feeley: Need more information before making a decision.

Allard: Although some may consider transit in rural areas an oxymoron, rural citizens have a significant need for transit services. Elderly, disabled, ill, or low-income residents may depend on transit services for basic needs such as attending medical appointments. During reauthorization of ISTEA I supported more money for rural areas, and I have recently cosponsored legislation that would provide significant additional funding for rural transit programs. I am hopeful that during reauthorization Congress will work to find an equitable distribution, while giving all areas more resources.

6. Accessible, affordable housing is key to establishing an independent life style for persons with disabilities. Will you support expanding the supply for accessible, affordable housing? How do you think we can do this?

Udall: Yes. I cosponsored H.R. 425 and H.R. 2349, which would increase the supply of affordable housing available to persons with disabilities. These bills promote the preservation of affordable housing units by providing matching grants to States and fills the growing gap in the nation’s ability to build affordable housing. Feeley: No response.

Allard: I believe that providing accessible and affordable housing is a partnership between the federal, state, and local governments. Although the federal government may be able to help provide resources, the state and local governments are in the best position to understand the needs of their particular citizens. Accordingly, I have supported housing policies that minimize federal bureaucracy in favor of greater local control. I have also supported increases for the low-income housing tax credit program, which has been the largest producer of affordable rental housing in America.

I have also worked to promote homeownership. In particular, I have been working closely with Secretary Martinez of the Department of Housing and Urban Development to enact the American Dream Downpayment Fund. This program would provide $200 million in grants to state and local governments for down payment assistance for low-income and first-time homebuyers. Down payments are one of the biggest barriers to homeownership, and my bill will allow 40,000 families to become new homeowners.

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