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IDEA Update - October 7, 2003

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The House and Senate have both introduced their respective bills (H.R. 1350 and S. 1248). The full House passed its bill. In the Senate, the bill was passed out of Committee and is awaiting consideration by the full Senate.

Senator Kennedy’s (D-MA) office called a meeting of the Washington-based education and disability groups to provide us with an update on the progress of the Senate bill, S. 1248. Several CEC members and staff, including Deb Ziegler, the Assistant Executive Director for Public Policy, attended the September 22nd meeting.

According to Sen. Kennedy’s staff, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee’s report on S. 1248 should be completed on October 2nd, and within four days it should be reported out of Committee and sent to the full Senate. This version is expected to contain several technical changes from the Committee-passed bill. At the same time, a document that details the differences made to the bill should be made available.

During the briefing, Kennedy’s staffers reinforced that the Senator is adamant about not wanting to dismantle the “Adequate Yearly Progress” provision and other issues under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act on the backs of students with disabilities.

The Senate has scheduled a recess from October 3rd through the 14th. It is hoped that they will take up the bill within a few days after they return from recess.

For this schedule to play out, both Senator Kennedy (the Committee’s Ranking Member) and Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) (the Committee’s Chairman) must agree to several conditions: that once the bill is taken up on the Senate floor, there will be no more than three amendments offered by each party (Republicans and Democrats); both sides have to agree on the schedule of the bill (when it will be considered) as well as how long will be allowed for debate on the bill; and that no secondary amendments will be allowed to be offered.

If the above scenario comes true, and the bill does go to the Senate floor on or about October 16th, it may likely be conferenced with the House version in November and December, with a full vote on the conferenced version coming after Congress returns from its winter recess in January.

Of course, this timeline is speculative, and is based on the best information available at this time. If we receive additional information about the reauthorization schedule, we’ll let you know as quickly as possible.

The Senate bill contains no provision concerning attorney fees, but if floor amendments are offered, an amendment limiting or capping attorney fees is highly likely to be one of them.

The Senate will be in recess from October 3 to October 14. It is important that parents, attorneys and advocates try to meet with their Senators while they are back on their home turf and emphasize the importance of preserving parents' access to due process by continuing to allow for reimbursement for reasonable attorney fees.

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