Weekly Updates

Updates to the campuses regarding federal policy issues, legislation and current happenings.

Select the date you wish to review to expand the content. If you are looking for an update prior to those listed, contact Connie Johnson.

August 4, 2014

Congress kept very busy last week wrapping up its legislative business before adjourning for a five-week summer recess. Although the Senate remains technically in session, most lawmakers have left town and no significant work is expected to be conducted until the week of September 8th. We will resume our weekly federal updates at that point.

 

APPOINTMENTS/DEPARTURES

Cantor To Resign From Congress Early

Less than two months after his stunning primary upset and just hours after stepping down as House majority leader, Rep. Eric Cantor said July 31st that he will resign his seat in the House of Representatives effective Aug. 18th. “I want to make sure that the constituents in the 7th District will have a voice in what will be a very consequential lame-duck session,” Cantor said in an exclusive interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch, revealing that he has asked Gov. Terry McAuliffe to call a special election for his district that coincides with the general election on Nov. 4th. By having a special election in November, the winner would take office immediately, rather than in January with the next Congress. (Source: Richmond Times Dispatch).

NSF Deputy Director to Resign

Cora B. Marrett announced that she will resign her position as Deputy Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) effective Aug. 24th. Marrett was confirmed as NSF Deputy Director in 2011. She has also served as NSF's acting director and acting deputy director. Marrett served as the first assistant director for the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences directorate, and as assistant director for the Education and Human Resources directorate. (Source: NSF)

NOAA Assistant Secretary Nominated

President Barack Obama has nominated retired Coast Guard Vice Adm. Manson K. Brown to take over as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA’s) assistant secretary for environmental observation and prediction. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Brown would be responsible for providing policy direction for NOAA’s satellite, space weather, water, and ocean observations and forecast programs. (Source: NOAA)

VA Secretary Confirmed

On July 31st, the Senate voted 97-0 to approve Robert McDonald's nomination to lead the embattled Department of Veterans Affairs.
 Prior to joining VA, Secretary McDonald was Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer of The Procter & Gamble Company (P&G). (Source: Politico, VA)

 

BUDGET/APPROPRIATIONS

Congress Punts FY 2015 Funding Decisions to the Fall

As Congress left Washington, DC for its five-week summer recess, it did so without having approved any of the FY 2015 appropriations bills. The ongoing impasse between the House and Senate is expected to require approval of a short-term continuing resolution (CR), which would carry federal spending at its current levels into early December, following the mid-term November elections. 

So far, the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved eight of its 12 FY 2015 funding bills, but none has been approved by the full Senate. The Interior-Environment bill has not been considered in subcommittee, but the Senate panel has released draft subcommittee bills and reports for the Energy & Water, Labor-HHS-Education, and Financial Services bills (see more below). The House Appropriations Committee has approved 11 of its bills—all but Labor-HHS-Education—with full House approval of seven: Commerce-Justice-Science, Defense, Energy & Water, Financial Services, Legislative Branch, Military Construction-Veterans, and Transportation. (Source: CU, AAU)

  Senate Appropriations Committee Releases Labor-HHS and Energy and Water Bills

The Senate Appropriations Committee last week published draft committee reports for three draft FY 2015 funding bills:  Labor-HHS-Education, Energy and Water, and Financial Services-General Government. The release establishes Democrats’ priorities for the bills even as it appears that none of the three will be marked up in full committee. CU follows Labor-HHS-Education and Energy and Water, but not Financial Services-General Government.

--Senate FY15 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Bill and Report 

The Appropriations Committee has posted on its website the report to accompany the draft FY15 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill approved by subcommittee on June 10th. The measure would provide $30.5 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an increase of $606 million above the FY14 level. Within that total, the bill includes $100 million for the second year of the multi-agency Brain Research through Application of Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative, an increase of $60 million. 

For student financial aid, the subcommittee-approved bill would maintain the discretionary portion of the maximum Pell grant award at $4,860 for the 2015-2016 school year. When combined with mandatory funding, this would raise the maximum award by an estimated $100, to $5,830. The bill also would increase funding for several campus-based student aid programs. For the campus-based aid programs, the Senate bill would: 

  • raise funding for Federal Work Study by $35 million;
  • raise funding for TRIO by $8.4 million;
  • raise Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants by $15 million; and
  • raise funding for GearUP by $3 million. 

In addition, the bill would fund Title VI International Education programs at $81.2 million, an increase of $9 million. Some $5 million of the increase is for study abroad. The bill also includes $75 million for the President’s First in the World initiative, with $20 million set aside for minority-serving institutions. 

For the Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) program, the bill would provide $31 million, an increase of $1.7 million. As the higher education community requested, the humanities and social sciences are included as eligible fields for GAANN awards.  

--Senate FY15 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill and Report

The Senate Appropriations Committee has also posted the report to accompany its draft FY15 Energy and Water appropriations bill. The measure would provide $5.086 billion for the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, a $15 million, or .3 percent, increase over FY14. The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy would receive $280 million, which is the same as the FY14 and House FY15 levels, and $45 million below the Administration’s FY15 request. The bill would also provide $2.073 billion for the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, a $171.24 million, or 9 percent, increase over FY14, but $243.821 million below the Administration’s request (Source: AAU, CU)

 

EDUCATION

Identical Bills Aimed At Campus Sexual Assaults Introduced In House And Senate   

Last week, bipartisan groups in both the House and Senate introduced legislation aimed at mitigating sexual assaults on college campuses. At a press conference on July 30th, a group of eight Senators - led by Senators McCaskill (D-MO) and Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced the Campus Accountability and Safety Act (CASA). The following day, a group of 18 House members, led by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) introduced the companion bill in the House. The website of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand says the bill would:

1.     Establish new campus resources and support services for student survivors
2.     Ensure minimum training standards for on-campus personnel
3.     Create new transparency requirements
4.     Increase campus accountability and coordination with law enforcement
5.     Establish enforceable Title IX penalties and stiffer penalties for Clery Act violations

House Approves Three Higher Education Bills 

In July, the House approved three bills that would reauthorize portions of the Higher Education Act. The Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act (H.R. 3136) (co-sponsored by Rep. Jared Polis) and the Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act (H.R. 4983) were approved on July 23rd; the Empowering Students through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act (H.R. 4984) (also co-sponsored by Re. Polis) was approved the next day, July 24th.     

A group of 17 higher education associations – including the American Council on Education, the Association of American Universities, and the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities (APLU) sent a letter on July 22nd to House Education and the Workforce Committee Chair John Kline (R-MN) expressing support for the three bills. They noted, “We are particularly pleased that all three of these bills received strong and widespread bipartisan support when the Committee approved them.”  (Source: AAU)

Senators Probe Decline In State Role In Higher Education

At a July 24th hearing of the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, both Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) agreed that states should take a leading role in paying for and overseeing public colleges. On the other hand, Lisa Madigan, the attorney general of Illinois, told senators that the federal government wasn’t doing enough for student borrowers.

"The steady erosion of state investment in public higher education over the last few decades reflects a stunning abdication of responsibility on the part of states to preserve college affordability," Senator Harkin said in his prepared remarks. The solution, Mr. Harkin said, is to create incentives for states to increase their appropriations for higher education. Harkin and other Democrats on the committee also urged states to continue their scrutiny of for-profit colleges and, more recently, companies that claim to offer relief from student-loan debt. While Senator Alexander identified a different culprit for shrinking state support for public colleges—rising Medicaid costs—he said he too expects states to take the lead in paying for higher education. He added that the federal government could help states and colleges by reducing regulations for federally backed research on campuses and could help families and students by simplifying the process to apply for federal financial aid.

Harkin’s draft of the new Higher Education Act lays out two proposals for state-federal partnership. First, his rewrite suggests the federal government give eligible states annual block grants for additional public higher education funding, to us to reduce tuition costs or mitigate tuition increases. Second, Harkin’s draft includes a competitive grant system, under which states can apply for money to carry out comprehensive reforms. Read more here. (Source: Inside Higher Education)

 

PATENT/IP

Associations Comment On USPTO Guidance On Patenting Natural Products

Four higher education associations, including AAU and APLU, submitted comments to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on July 28 expressing strong concerns about the agency’s guidance memorandum on determining which natural phenomena and products are eligible to be considered for a patent. The Supreme Court, in its Mayo v. Prometheus decision in March 2012, left open the possibility of patenting particular, useful applications of a law of nature. The associations argue that the USPTO guidance is “overly broad” and contravenes the Court’s warning against over-interpreting this and other rulings in a way that might stifle innovation.

AAU, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, the Association of University Technology Managers, and the Council on Governmental Relations urge the USPTO to carefully consider this and other objections, and to “revise the Guidance appropriately in a way that directly addresses and is clearly consistent with the narrow rulings of the Supreme Court and supports the business community and economic development in the various States.” (Source: AAU)

White House Seeks Feedback on the Strategy for American Innovation

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the National Economic Council (NEC) are seeking public comments on the Administration’s Strategy for American Innovation. Comments are due on September 23, 2014. By way of background, the Strategy helps to guide the Administration's efforts to promote lasting economic growth and competitiveness through policies that support transformative American innovation in products, processes, and services and spur new fundamental discoveries that in the long run lead to growing economic prosperity and rising living standards. It was most recently updated in 2011.

OSTP and NEC are seeking detailed recommendations on a range of innovation policy topics. These are: overarching questions; innovation trends; science, technology, and research & development priorities; skilled workforce development; manufacturing and entrepreneurship; regional innovation ecosystems; intellectual property/antitrust; novel government tools for promoting innovation; and national priorities. The notice contains detailed questions on each of the topics listed.  For further information, please see the Request for Information. (Source: OSTP and AAU)

 

RESEARCH

Senators Introduce America COMPETES Act Reauthorization Bill

A group of six Democratic Senators, led by Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), on July 31 introduced the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2014. As previously reported, the committee had released a draft of the legislation earlier to solicit ideas and recommendations.  The measure has similarities to the COMPETES Acts of 2007 and 2010, and includes some of the key themes and principles found in the Guiding Principles for the America COMPETES Act Reauthorization, a document endorsed by more than 100 organizations, including CU-Boulder, in 2013.

The new bill is a five-year reauthorization (FY15 through FY19) that includes funding authorizations for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, as well as policy provisions for NSF, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education programs. (Source: AAU, CU)

Senator Harkin Introduces Bill to Restore Purchasing Power of NIH 

On July 24th, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education, introduced legislation aimed at restoring the buying power of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The Accelerate Biomedical Research Act (S. 2658) has been endorsed by several organizations, including the Association of American Universities (AAU).  

The Senator’s press release notes that after Congress doubled the NIH budget between 1998 and 2003, “austere budget caps” led to a 20-percent erosion in the agency’s purchasing power for biomedical research. The bill seeks to reverse that trend by instituting a budget cap adjustment that gives priority to NIH over the remaining fiscal years of the Budget Control Act. The measure would “require the Appropriations Committee to maintain the current funding of $29.9 billion for NIH, above which appropriations will rise up to $46.2 billion at the end of the seven year period from Fiscal Year 2015 to 2021.” (Source: AAU)

House Committee Holds Roundtable On Personalized Medicine

The House Energy and Commerce Committee held its third roundtable discussion in the 21st Century Cures initiative on July 23rd. Chairman Fred Upton and Rep. Diana DeGette led the discussion on personalized medicine with participants from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Ovarian Cancer Society, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, MD Anderson, Duke University Health System, Genentech, Mayo Clinic, American College of Cardiology, Abbott Molecular, the Personalized Medicine Coalition, and Apple Tree Partners.

Participants discussed how advances in areas such as genomic sequencing and diagnostic testing can accelerate the pace of cures. The roundtable experts praised personalized medicine for its potential in addressing cancer and other diseases, but worried that the regulation of medicine has not kept up with advances. They also noted that mechanisms must be found to lower the currently very high costs of such personal treatments. The topic of data sharing once again came up, as it has throughout the 21st Century Cures series. The full witness list and video can be found here. (Sources: MIT, House Energy and Commerce Committee)

Manufacturing Universities Act Introduced in the Senate 

On July 31st, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) introduced the Manufacturing Universities Act of 2014. This legislation would incentivize engineering programs to continue to focus on preparing engineers for careers in innovation and advanced manufacturing. If enacted, this bill would authorize the Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to establish a program to designate 25 institutions as “Manufacturing Universities.” The designated universities would be awarded $5 million each year, for four years to accomplish the goals of this legislation. Attached is a summary and copy of the bill. (Source: APLU)

Manufacturing Bill Passes House Committee

Last week, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee passed their bipartisan manufacturing hubs bill, the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act (RAMI). This bill would authorize a National Network of Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) and create thousands of high-paying, high-tech manufacturing jobs while enhancing the United States’ role as the world’s leader in advanced manufacturing. In April, the Senate Commerce Committee also passed RAMI.

RAMI would bring together industry, universities and community colleges, federal agencies, and all levels of government, to accelerate manufacturing innovation in technologies with commercial applications. These public-private institutes would leverage resources to bridge the gap between basic research and product development. Using this model, the Administration recently announced two new advanced manufacturing innovation institutes, including the Digital Manufacturing and Design Institute (DDMI), led by the University of Illinois with support from University of Colorado Boulder and the State of Colorado. (Source: CU, APLU)

USDA Creates Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research

On July 23rd, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the creation of the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research to facilitate the support of agriculture research through both public and private funding. FFAR, authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill, will be funded at $200 million and must receive matching funds from non-federal sources when making awards for research. The foundation includes a Board of Directors representing academia, industry, non-profit organizations, and former USDA Secretary Dan Glickman. (Source: AAAS)

 

TAX

House Approves Black-Davis Higher Education Tax Credit Bill 

The House has approved the Student Family Tax Simplification Act (H.R. 3393), legislation introduced by Reps. Diane Black (R-TN) and Danny Davis (D-IL) that consolidates and simplifies four existing education tax credits into a single permanent tax credit. The four credits are the Hope Credit, the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), the Lifetime Learning Credit, and the tuition deduction. 

A group of higher education associations wrote to all Members of the House expressing appreciation for the bill’s consolidation of higher education tax credits and its better coordination with the Pell Grant, but detailing concerns about some of its provisions. Specifically, the associations said that certain changes in the bill would harm many low- and middle-income students who benefit from current law, as well as graduate students and lifetime learners who use the current tax deduction or the Lifetime Learning Credit. They said they could not support the bill as currently written and asked that the bill be further modified to ensure that students currently eligible for a federal tax benefit remain eligible for some benefit.   

The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy that supports making the AOTC permanent, but opposes the bill on the basis that it provides no funding offsets for its estimated 10-year cost of $16 billion.  (Source: AAU)

 

VETERANS

House Passes Veterans' Affairs Conference Agreement Including In-State Tuition Provision 

Last week, the Congressional conference committee for HR 3230, the Veterans' Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014, announced they reached an agreement, Conference report to accompany H.R. 3230. While the legislation primarily deals with medical care for veterans, it also includes an in-state tuition provision. Institutions must comply with the in-state provisions in order to remain eligible for participation in GI tuition assistance programs. The House adopted the conference report to accompany H.R. 3230  by a vote of 420 to 5.(Source: APLU)

 

CU at DC

CU-Boulder Participates in AAU STEM Conference in Washington, DC

The Association of American Universities hosted a two-day conference last month, as part of the AAU undergraduate STEM education initiative. More than 100 individuals, representing 41 AAU institutions, attended the meeting. The conference began with a poster session and networking reception that showcased institutional efforts to reform undergraduate STEM teaching and learning. During the main conference program, participants engaged in interactive workshop sessions and roundtable discussions, which allowed those with similar roles on campus to meet colleagues from other campuses and facilitate collaborations.

CU-Boulder Professors Noah Finkelstein and Stan Deetz, along with Joel Corbo (Research Associate) participated in the AAU conference. Senator Udall's lead education staffers also attended the reception on Monday night to learn more about CU's efforts in STEM.  (Source: CU)

July 23, 2014

Both chambers are in session this week.

APPOINTMENTS

NSF Deputy Director to Resign

Cora B. Marrett announced that she will resign her position as Deputy Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) effective Aug. 24th. Marrett was confirmed as NSF Deputy Director in 2011. She has also served as NSF's acting director and acting deputy director. Marrett served as the first assistant director for the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences directorate, and as assistant director for the Education and Human Resources directorate. (Source: NSF)

 

BUDGET/APPROPRIATIONS

Continuing Resolution Inevitable as Congress Winds Down

With the FY15 appropriations process stalled indefinitely, both chambers are considering what a continuing resolution (CR) might look like to keep the government running beyond the October 1st beginning of FY 2015. It is possible a CR would stretch until after the elections and potentially into December, given that Congress is in session for only few days in November. House Republican leaders could face a challenge in getting backing from their more conservative members who favor deeper spending cuts over continuing current spending levels. And in the Senate, the CR could face the opposite challenge from Democrats, who would prefer adding funding anomalies to permit some increased spending.

Appropriators, and mainly their staffs, are likely to begin behind-the-scenes negotiations over the contours of an omnibus spending package for FY 2015 that could move in a lame-duck session. It would be likely to contain some fresh appropriations for fiscal 2015, as well as continued spending at current levels for other agencies. The starting point in those talks will be the seven bills that have passed the House that will be compared to the versions that have moved through committee in the Senate, which has not passed any spending bills. Moving a CR would be an all-too-familiar end to an appropriations season that was greeted with considerable optimism after a Congress cleared a consensus budget deal in December that set a $1.014 trillion top line for fiscal 2015 discretionary spending. Appropriations leaders in both chambers had high hopes early on for clearing some of the fiscal 2015 spending bills as individual measures. (Source: CQ, CU)

House Appropriations Committee Rescinds NEH FY15 Budget Cut 

Last week, the House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment to the FY 2015 Interior and Related Agencies appropriations bill that restored an $8 million cut in the budget for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) made at the subcommittee level. The rescission of the cut was made as part of Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert’s (R-CA) manager’s amendment. The FY 2015 funding level for NEH in the bill—and for its companion agency, the National Endowment of the Arts—is now set at its current FY14 funding level of $146 million. (Source: AAU)

Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Increases Basic Research Funding 

Last week, the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee approved its FY 2015 funding bill with what it said was a five-percent increase in funding over FY14 for basic research programs in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The Committee press release says the funding increase is $257 million, but does not specify how the additional funding would be allocated. Another $789 million would be added to the DOD medical research programs, including those that are congressionally-directed. (Source: AAU)

White House Releases Budget Guidance for FY 2016

Last week the White House released a quartet of memos dealing with the FY 2016 budget request, including the annual science and technology priorities memo from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Even as Congress is tackling FY 2015 appropriations, agencies have been at work for months formulating the FY 2016 budget request, which is in theory due in February of next year. The joint OMB/OSTP memo, typically released in mid-summer, identifies areas for particular emphasis in agency budgets. Priorities that reappear this year, similar to previous years, include:

  • Advanced manufacturing and "industries of the future" (for reference: the National Strategic Plan for Advanced Manufacturing);
  • Clean energy, including renewables, efficiency, and transportation;
  • Climate research (for reference: the U.S. Global Change Research Program Strategic Plan)
  • Information technology (this year high-performance computing receives a specific mention);
  • Biological innovation, including in neuroscience (for reference: the National Bioeconomy Blueprint; National Strategy for Biosurveillance);
  • National security;
  • and R&D for informed policy-making.
  • Plus, a new priority in this year's memo is Earth observation data (for reference: recently released National Strategy for Civil Earth Observations). (Source: AAAS, CU)

 

RESEARCH

House Approves Five Science Committee Bills

The House on July 14th approved three science-related authorization bills with bipartisan support. Two of the measures are noncontroversial portions of Committee Chairman Lamar Smith’s (R-TX) larger bill, the FIRST Act (H.R. 4186), which the panel approved on May 28th on a party-line vote over the strong objections of many in the university research community.

The two bills from the FIRST Act support international science and technology collaboration (H.R. 5029), and add computer science to the federal definition of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education (H.R. 5031). The third bill, the Research and Development Efficiency Act (H.R. 5056), was introduced by Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-IN). It calls for the National Science and Technology Council to conduct a comprehensive review of the regulatory burden of federally sponsored research. A fourth Committee bill (H.R. 1786) approved by the House reauthorizes research on storm damage mitigation. 

On July 22nd,  the House also passed a bill representing a third piece of the FIRST Act, to reauthorize the National Institute of Standards and Technology (H.R. 5035), and the Department of Energy Laboratory Modernization and Technology Transfer Act of 2014 (H.R. 5120 ), which aims to improve management of the DOE Natioanl Lab, enhance technology transfer, and facilitate public-private partnerships. (Source: AAU/APLU)

Senate Releases Draft America COMPETES Bill

The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee last week released proposed America COMPETES Act legislation, calling on Congress to increase NSF’s budget by nearly 40%, to $9.9 billion, by 2019. It also endorses NSF’s current policies for reviewing grant proposals and—in sharp contrast to the House's FIRST Act—emphasizes the importance of the social sciences as part of a balanced research portfolio.

The Senate language strikes a much more supportive tone than the FIRST Act, passed in May by the science committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. That bill questions how NSF manages its research grants and takes an especially dim view of the social and behavioral sciences. The broader FIRST Act, has been denounced by the U.S. academic community and leading scientific organizations.

Given the short and crowded legislative calendar in both bodies, few observers expect the Senate or House to complete action on their reauthorization bills before the November election. That means it won’t be until a lame-duck session, or next year, before the two bodies have a chance to reconcile their conflicting visions for NSF. Read more here. (Source: Science)

AAAS Solicits Nominations for Early Career Awards for Public Engagement with Science 

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has issued a call for nominations for its AAAS Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science. 

The recipient of the award will win a prize of $5,000, a commemorative plaque, and complimentary registration and travel to the AAAS annual meeting in San Jose, California. Nominations are due October 15. Information about the award, including eligibility and nomination requirements, is available here. (Source: AAAS)

The White House Announces Action to Prepare Communities for the Impacts of Climate Change

Last week, President Obama released a series of initiatives to help communities prepare for climate change. These actions are drawn from recommendations put forth by the State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, and include a National Disaster Resilience Competition and a new U.S. Geological Survey $13.1 million 3-D Elevation Program partnership, designed to bring Federal agencies, academia, corporate entities, states, tribes, and communities together to develop advanced 3-dimensional mapping data of the United States. (Source: White House)

July 14, 2014

Both Chambers are in session this week.

APPOINTMENTS

William “Bro” Adams Confirmed as Chairman of the NEH

The Senate voted on July 9th to confirm William D. “Bro” Adams as the 10th chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Adams is expected to begin as Chairman in the coming days.Adams, president of Colby College in Waterville, Maine from 2000 until his retirement on June 30, 2014, is a committed advocate for liberal arts education and brings to the Endowment a long record of leadership in higher education and the humanities. (Source: NEH)

Donovan Wins Bipartisan Support to Head OMB

The Senate also gave broad backing last week to Shaun Donovan, the outgoing secretary of Housing and Urban Development, to head the Office of Management and Budget. Donovan won confirmation to the post, 75-22, with only Republicans opposing his nomination.  (Source: CQ)

Obama Nominates Deputy Secretary of Energy

With Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman set to leave this fall, President Obama has nominated one of his special advisers on weapons and defense policy to fill the post, the White House announced on July 8th. If confirmed by the Senate, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall would become Secretary of Energy Ernie Moniz’s second in command. (Source: E&E News)

 

APPROPRIATIONS

House Approves FY 15 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill 

The House on July 10 approved the FY15 Energy and Water appropriations bill (H.R. 4932), the sixth of 12 FY15 funding bills that the chamber has passed. Although the measure would level-fund the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science at its FY14 level of $5.071 billion, it raises and lowers funding for specific programs within that total (See AAU Weekly Wrap-up, June 20, 2014 for details). The bill also would level-fund ARPA-E at the FY14 level of $280 million.  The Obama Administration has threatened to veto the bill for a variety of reasons, including that the bill  would significantly cut funding for the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy—at about $1.8 billion, a cut of nearly $113 million from the FY14 level—and contains environmental policy riders that it opposes.  

The other FY15 appropriations bills approved so far in the House are:  Commerce-Justice-Science, Defense, Homeland Security, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction-Veterans. The Senate so far has passed no FY15 funding bills. (Source: AAU)

House Subpanel Approves FY 15 Funding Bill With Large Cut to NEH

Last week, the House Interior-Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee approved its FY 15 funding bill. Included in this legislation is $138 million for the National Endowment for the Humanities, which is $8 million below the FY 14 funding level and also the President’s FY 15 budget request. Also included is $717 million for the Office of Science and Technology at the Environmental Protection Agency, which is $42 million below the FY 14 funding level and $46 million below the President’s FY15 budget request. Finally, The bill includes $1 billion for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), a $4 million increase above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level. (Source: APLU, CU)

 

EDUCATION

Amicus Brief Filed in Northwestern University Athletics Class

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), with several other organizations, has joined the American Council on Education (ACE) in filing an amicus brief in the appeal on the Northwestern University athletics case.  The other organizations are the Association of Governing Boards, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU), and College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR).  The appeal is to the full NLRB from the NLRB Chicago Regional ruling in April 2014. The regional office ruled that the Northwestern scholarship football players are employees of the institution and may be allowed to unionize and collectively bargain. 

While this case technically only covers private universities and colleges, many believe that the outcome of the case could influence future state labor board decisions on public universities.  Some intercollegiate athletic reform and change is needed and some reforms are now under consideration, but the APLU and other associations believe that changes should not involve the determination that student athletes are employees with the many implications to that decision. (Source: APLU)

Associations Weigh in on House HEA Reauthorization Bills

A group of higher education associations, including the Association of American Universities (AAU), ACE, and APLU, sent a letter last week to the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee providing their initial observations about a package of three committee bills that would reauthorize portions of the Higher Education Act (HEA).  

The first bill, Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act (H.R. 3136) – co-sponsored by Rep. Polis – was agreed to and reported to the House with the Amendment in the nature of a substitute (HR 3136).  A student loan refinancing amendment offered by Rep. John Tierney (D-MA) failed along party lines. The next bill, Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act (H.R. 4983) was agreed to and reported to the House with the Amendment in the nature of a substitute (HR 4983). An amendment to include repayment rates on the College Dashboard, was offered by Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA), but it also failed along party lines.  Lastly, the Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act (H.R. 4984) was agreed to and reported to the House with the Amendment in the nature of a substitute (HR 4984). An amendment, offered by Susan Davis (D-CA) and Mark Takano (D-CA), to include veteran tuition assistance and GI bill benefits within the federal funds definition for the 90-10 revenue rule for proprietary institutions also failed.

The letter to Chairman John Kline (R-MN) says that the three bills—the Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act (H.R. 4983), the Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act (H.R. 3136), and the Empowering Students through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act (H.R. 4984)—are a “welcome step toward reauthorization.” (Source: AAU/APLU)

Senator McCaskill Releases Results of Campus Sexual Assault Survey

Last week Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) released the results of her survey on how colleges and universities are addressing the issues of reporting, investigating, and adjudicating sexual violence on campus. CU-Boulder was one of almost 400 schools which received and completed the survey.  The executive summary of the report says, “The survey results showed that many institutions are failing to comply with the law and best practices in how they handle sexual violence among students. These problems affect nearly every stage of the institutions’ responses to sexual violence.” (Source: AAU)

 

PATENT/IP

House Subcommittee Approves Patent Demand Legislation

On July 9th, APLU, AAU, ACE, and the Council on Governmental Relations (COGR) sent a letter to Chairman Lee Terry (R-NE) and Ranking Member Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade. The letter expresses support for the July 7 draft of the Targeting Rogue and Opaque Letters (TROL) Act of 2014.

On July 10th, the Subcommittee approved the TROL Act by a vote of 13 to 6, with 11 Republicans and 2 Democrats voting for the bill, and 6 Democrats voting against it. During the markup, Chairman Terry withdrew an amendment to the affirmative defense section and indicated his commitment to working with the Ranking Member to reach an agreement on this amendment. Ranking Member Shakowsky, who voted against the bill, said she hopes to be able to support the bill at the full Committee markup after the Committee continues to work on an agreement. A full Committee markup will be scheduled after these discussions.  (Source: APLU)

APLU Joins Higher Education and Library Groups in Releasing Net Neutrality Principles 

A group of higher education and library organizations, including AAU and APLU, on July 10th released a set of Net Neutrality Principles, which they said should form the basis of an upcoming Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decision to protect the openness of the Internet. The groups said in a statement accompanying release of the principles that network neutrality protections are essential to protecting freedom of speech, educational achievement, and economic growth. As further described in the statement:

“…Institutions of higher education and libraries do not object to paying for the high-capacity Internet connections that they need to support their students, faculty, administrators, and library patrons; but once connected, they should not have to pay additional fees to receive prioritized transmission of their content, services, or applications. (Source: APLU/AAU)

 

RESEARCH

  Associations Express Views on House DOE Research Bill

The AAU and APLU sent a letter to leaders of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee on July 8th offering their views on the Committee’s bill to reauthorize basic and applied research programs in the Department of Energy (DOE) (H.R. 4869).

The letter expresses the associations’ appreciation for the proposed five-percent increase in authorized funding for the DOE Office of Science in FY15, as well as for a provision that would exempt universities and nonprofit organizations from the statutory 20-percent matching requirement for conducting DOE applied research and development.

The letter expresses strong concern, however, about the proposed 18-percent cut in authorized funding for the Biological and Environment Research program in the Office of Science, as well as a 14-percent cut in authorized funding for ARPA-E and a 29-percent cut in Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The associations also express concern about a provision that would require researchers to demonstrate they have tried unsuccessfully to obtain private funding for their work before applying to ARPA-E for funding, and opposition to a provision that would remove the ARPA-E goal of developing energy technologies to reduce energy-related emissions.  (Source: AAU)

House Science Committee Members Introduce Pieces of the FIRST Act

Last week, four separate research-related bills were introduced that are drawn from sections of the controversial Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology (FIRST) Act of 2014. Of note, each of these bills is sponsored by both Democrats and Republicans, and none include the NSF reauthorization portion of the FIRST Act which has caused controversy in the scientific community for its attempt to defund certain areas of science and potential impacts on the the peer review process at NSF.

The International Science and Technology Cooperation Act, HR 5029, calls for the establishment of a body under the National Science and Technology Council aimed at identifying and coordinating international science and technology cooperation. To do this, the body would be responsible for identifying opportunities for new partnerships with international science and technology research, soliciting input and recommendations from non-Federal science and technology stakeholders, and reporting to Congress annually on their findings, among other responsibilities.

The Research and Development Efficiency Act, HR 5056, aims to establish a working group under the authority of the National Science and Technology Council to review Federal regulations affecting research and research universities and look for ways to streamline and eliminate duplicative Federal regulations.

The STEM Education Act of 2014, H.R.5031, defines STEM education to include computer science as a discipline. The STEM Education Act also includes a section on Informal STEM Education, which gives authority to the National Science Foundation (NSF) Director to award grants to entities that research and develop innovative out-of-school STEM learning. This legislation also includes a section which would amend the NSF Noyce Master Teaching Fellowship Program to allow students with a bachelor’s degree working towards a Master’s degree the opportunity to participate.

Finally, A bill to reauthorize the National Institute of Standards and Technology, H.R. 5305, would authorize funding and programs for that agency. (Source: House Science Committee, CU)

 

TAX REFORM

Community Submits Tax Credit Testimony to Finance Committee

Under the leadership of the American Council on Education, a group of nine higher education associations last week submitted testimony for the record of the Senate Finance Committee’s June 24th hearing on higher education and the federal tax code. The testimony notes the associations’ longstanding support for consolidating and simplifying tax incentives for higher education, and urges that any reforms “address the needs and circumstances of the broad range of students in higher education.” It expresses strong support for the American Opportunity Tax Credit Permanence and Consolidation Act of 2013 (S. 835), introduced by Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), and urges retention of Section 127 Employer-provided Educational Assistance and Section 117(d) Qualified Tuition Reduction. 

The statement also includes data to refute a number of misperceptions about college costs; reviews the cost to higher education institutions of maintaining technological infrastructure to support research and education; and describes the heavy financial impact of increasing federal, state, and local government regulations on colleges and universities. (Source: AAU)

June 30, 2014

Both Chambers are in recess this week for the Fourth of July holiday.

APPOINTMENTS

New House Majority Leader And Whip Selected

House Republicans elected Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as their new majority leader on June 19th, elevating the 49-year-old Californian to the No. 2 position in GOP leadership. McCarthy defeated Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) in the race to replace Eric Cantor, whose shocking primary loss set the stage for the special election. Shortly after McCarthy's victory, Republicans elected Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), who chairs the conservative Republic Study Committee, to replace him as whip on the first ballot. McCarthy and Scalise will not officially assume their new roles until July 31st, when Cantor steps down. (Source: National Journal)

President Obama Announces New Appointees to National Science Board

Last week, President Obama announced his intent to appoint six new members to the National Science Board, the policymaking body of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and advisor to Congress and the President on science and engineering policy. The nominees include:

John L. Anderson (Illinois Institute of Technology) is a professor of chemical engineering and is currently serving as the eighth president of the Illinois Institute of Technology.
Roger N. Beachy (University of California, Davis) is the founding executive director of the World Food Center at UC Davis.  
Vicki L. Chandler (Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation) is a distinguished plant biologist and former director of the BIO5 Institute at the University of Arizona.  
 Robert M. Groves (Georgetown University) is a sociologist and expert in survey methodology. He was the 23rd director of the United States Census Bureau and is currently the provost and Gerard Campbell SJ Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Georgetown University. James S. Jackson (University of Michigan) directs the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research where his work focuses on racial and ethnic influences on life course development among African Americans.  Sethuraman Panchanathan (Arizona State University) is the senior vice president for knowledge enterprise development at Arizona State University. 

Appointments to the two remaining Board vacancies are anticipated in the coming months. Learn more about the nominees here. (Source: NSF)

NIST Director Gallagher Departs; Dr. Willie May to lead Agency

NIST staff, past and present, bid a fond farewell to Dr. Pat Gallagher at a reception on June 12th. After twenty one years at NIST, Gallagher will begin his tenure as the Chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh in September. Effective Monday June 16th, Willie May will officially be designated Acting Under Secretary for Standards and Technology and Acting Director of NIST.  (Source: NIST)

 

BUDGET/APPROPRIATIONS

FY15 Appropriations Process Stalls in Senate 

The Senate began work on a package of three FY15 appropriations bills (H.R. 4660) — Commerce-Justice-Science (C-J-S), Agriculture, and Transportation-HUD—but the so-called “minibus” was scuttled when Democrats and Republicans failed to reach agreement on the amendment process. It is unclear how the impasse might be resolved and what impact it may have on the overall FY15 appropriations process. The C-J-S bill funds NSF, NOAA, NIST, and NASA. With both chambers in recess this week and few legislative days left before the end of the fiscal year, there is much uncertainty about whether or not any funding bills will be passed before September 30th, or if we will be facing a continuting resolution (CR) until after the mid-term elections in November.  (Source: AAU, CU)

House Finishes Work on FY15 Defense Appropriations Bill     

Following three days of work, the House approved the FY15 Defense appropriations bill (H.R. 4870). The vote was 293 to 123. The measure would cut defense basic research (6.1) programs by 6.4 percent and applied research (6.2) programs by 2.4 percent. Basic research funding in all four branches and Defense–wide would receive less than their FY14 levels. Only the Defense-wide program would receive more than the Administration’s FY15 request, an additional $10 million. (Source: AAU)

House and Senate Panels Approve FY15 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill

The House Appropriations Committee and a Senate subcommittee have approved their versions of the FY15 Energy and Water funding bill. Although details are not yet available for the Senate bill, approved in subcommittee on June 17th, both House and Senate bills would fund the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science at about $5.1 billion (the House at $5.071 billion, the Senate at $5.086 billion). Both bills would level fund the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy at the FY14 amount of $280 million.  The House bill would fund the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy at $1.789 billion, which is $527.7 million below the President’s request and $112.7 million below the FY14 level. The full Senate Appropriations Committee had been scheduled to consider the subcommittee-passed bill, but that markup was postponed when appropriations legislation reached an impasse on the Senate floor.  (Source: AAU, CU)

 

EDUCATION

House and Senate Education Committee Chairs Offer Plans for HEA Reauthorization 

Both the House and Senate Education Committees have begun to release details outlining the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) released his 785-page Higher Education Affordability Act (HEAA) last week. Chairman Harkin’s proposal includes a number of provisions that aim to target reducing costs, student over-borrowing, school accountability, and availability of information. The bill also includes year-round Pell eligibility, allowing the use of prior-prior year income tax data on the FAFSA, an incentive grant program to encourage state support of higher education, among others. Further comments from Harkin are available in last week’s press release, found here. Directs links to the summary released by the HELP Committee can be found here, and the text of the bill is available here. 

Just before Harkin's release, Committee Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Committee member Michael Bennet (D-CO), introduced bipartisan legislation to simplify the process of applying for and receiving federal student financial aid. In addition to simplifying the financial aid application process, the legislation would allow families to use income data from two years prior and receive information earlier than is possible under the current system. The measure also would authorize year-round Pell Grants; consolidate the six federal loan programs into three: one each for undergraduates, graduate students, and parents; simplify repayment options to one income-based plan and one standard 10-year plan; and limit borrowing. 

On the House side, House Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-VA), released a statement and white paper outlining the House Republican priorities for the HEA reauthorization. The plan aims to improve access to information, simplify student aid, promote innovation, access, and completion, and improve accountability, while limiting the federal government’s role in higher education.  Similar to the Senate bill, the House mentions their support of the “Flex Pell” model allowing continuous year-round use of Pell grants and use of prior-prior year income tax data for FAFSA.  The House principles also make many mentions of their efforts to reduce regulatory burden on institutions of higher education.

The House Committee is expected to move a series of bills versus one large bill, and hopes to get them to the House floor by the August recess. The bills will focus on improving data, increasing financial literacy, simplifying the FAFSA, encouraging innovation in education delivery, reducing regulatory burden, and reducing reporting burden. Last week, the Committee announced the introduced of the first three of these HEA related bills:

The bipartisan Simplifying the Application for Student Aid Act, which allows the use of income data from two years prior to the date of the FAFSA application (prior-prior year data), which is co-sponsored by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO)
The Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act, which aims to have the Department develop a consumer tested College Dashboard while streamlining and eliminating some current transparency requirements
The Empowering Students through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act, which recommends more frequent financial counseling of students with grants and loans. (Source: APLU, AAU, CU)

ED Releases Proposed Changes to Clery Act

The Department of Education has published a set of proposed rules to implement changes in the Clery Act under the Violence against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013. The new proposed rules, published in the Federal Register on June 19th, are based on the consensus reached by a negotiated rulemaking panel in April that included Jessica Ladd-Webert of CU-Boulder’s Office of Victim Assistance as an alternate negotiator.

Among other changes, the proposed rules would require colleges to compile statistics about incidents of dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking, in addition to the currently compiled statistics for sexual assaults and certain other crimes. The rules also would add gender identity and national origin as categories of bias under the Clery Act’s definition of hate crimes, and adopt the FBI’s revised, more inclusive definition of rape. Institutions also would be required to:

Ensure that their disciplinary proceedings in alleged incidents of dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking are prompt, fair, and impartial; Strengthen protections for victim confidentiality, while helping victims to access the support, services, and disciplinary and legal options available to them; and Specify requirements for programs to prevent dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking, including prevention and awareness programs and campaigns.

Comments on the proposed rule are due by July 21st, with publication of the final regulation expected by November 1st. The new rule would go into effect on July 1, 2015. (Source: AAU, CU)

ED Delays Implementation of State Authorization Proposed Rule

In a Federal Register notice released last week, the Department of Education announced the delayed implementation of the state authorization regulations for the second time. The implementation date is now delayed to July 1, 2015. Additionally, ED Under Secretary Ted Mitchell announced that the department would pause action on the proposed state authorization rule regarding online programs for the time being. Given the complexity of issue, Mr. Mitchell said, the department hopes a timeout will allow the government and stakeholders to get the regulations right. Under a draft rule, on which stakeholders and the department failed to reach agreement during negotiations this year, colleges’ online programs would have to obtain approval to operate in each state where they enrolled students. (Source: ED, AAU)

 

RESEARCH

NIH and NSF Announce New Collaboration on I-Corps

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced a new collaboration between the two agencies to empower entrepreneurial scientists and advance the Lab-to-Market priorities set forth in the President’s Management Agenda. Some academic researchers and entrepreneurs who receive Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) or Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) funding from NIH will now be eligible to participate in a pilot of the NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps™) program that is specially tailored for biomedical technologies. First launched in 2011, the NSF I-Corps program is based on the “Lean Launchpad” curriculum developed by entrepreneurship expert Steve Blank to improve how tech start-ups bring their products into the marketplace. This intensive, mentor-driven experience is changing the way that NSF-funded researchers think about the commercialization process, and now it will be available for NIH-funded researchers as well. Learn more here. (Source: NIH)

President Obama Announces New Actions To Spur Innovation And Entrepreneurship To Revitalize American Manufacturing

Last week, President Obama outlined new actions to accelerate an emerging trend in U.S. manufacturing: new technologies and entrepreneurship in manufacturing that are providing advantages for the United States. A new report prepared by the National Economic Council, Making in America: U.S. Manufacturing Entrepreneurship and Innovation, asserts new game-changing technologies are reducing the cost, increasing the speed, and making it easier for entrepreneurs and manufacturers to translate new ideas into products made in America.  These new technologies are already having an impact, with the growth rate in manufacturing entrepreneurship at its fastest pace in over 20 years.  

On Wednesday June 18th, the President hosted the first-ever White House Maker Faire, where he announced new actions by Federal agencies and new public-private commitments to spur local entrepreneurship and inspire young people to pursue careers in manufacturing and engineering, including an expansion of the $150 million Materials Genome Initiative. CU-Boulder was one of 150 universities cosigning a letter announcing support for the Maker Faire and maker programs. The White House Press release may be seen in its entirety here.  (Source: White House, CU)

House Science Committee Approves “Secret Science” Bill

The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee on June 24th approved the “Secret Science Reform Act of 2014” (H.R. 4012), legislation that would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from proposing or issuing regulations unless the scientific information on which they are based is “specifically identified and publicly available in a manner that is sufficient for independent analysis and substantial reproduction of research results.” The bill was approved on a party-line vote of 17 to 13. Chairman Smith’s (R-TX) opening statement can be viewed here. Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson’s (D-TX) opening statement can be viewed here. (Source: AAU)

Senators Introduce Transfer Act To Strengthen Research Commercialization     

On June 26th, Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Daniel Coats (R-IN) introduced the TRANSFER Act (S. 2551), a bill that would establish the “Innovative Approaches to Technology Transfer Grant Program” to improve or accelerate the commercialization of federally funded research being conducted at universities, federal laboratories, and other non-profit research organizations. Under the legislation, federal funds could be used to support proof of concept work, technology maturation activities, technical validation, technical assistance to licensees, outreach to small business, and other efforts to facilitate translation of early-stage technology to market viability.

 

The bill would allow institutions of higher education, technology transfer organizations, federal laboratories, public or private non-profit entities, or consortia of any of these types of organizations to apply for grants. The program would be funded through a small set-aside (.05 percent in 2015, .1 percent in 2016 and 2017) of federal agency extramural research or R&D budgets, to be drawn from the STTR expenditure requirements for each agency.

Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Chris Collins (R-NY) originally introduced the TRANSFER Act in the House (H.R. 2981), in August 2013. AAU, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and other organizations sent a letter of support for the Kilmer-Collins bill. The House-passed National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4435), which passed the House on May 22, includes the TRANSFER Act language. (Source: AAU)

 

TAXES

House Ways and Means Committee Passes Higher Education Tax Benefit Consolidation Bill

The House Ways and Means Committee passed on a party-line vote, H.R. 3393, the Student and Family Tax Simplification Act, sponsored by Representative Diane Black (R-TN).  The bill consolidates the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), Lifetime Learning Credit, Hope Credit, and deduction for tuition and fees into a new, permanent, and inflation-indexed AOTC.  The bill simplifies higher tax education benefits at the expense of graduate students and non-traditional students who take longer to graduate as the AOTC would only be available for four years. The APLU and AAU noted that the repeal of tax relief that benefits graduate students would be in addition to recent changes in graduate student aid policy that have negatively impacted graduate students, such as higher interest rates on graduate student loans and elimination of in-school interest subsidies.  Democrats on the committee focused most of their opposition based on the lack of an offset for the bill.  However, a few members did express concerns about the impact on graduate and non-traditional students.  The future prospects of the bill are not clear at this time. (Source: APLU)

 

CU at DC

CU-Boulder Representative Participates in DC Roundtable on Sexual Assault

On June 24th, Jessica Ladd-Webert, of CU-Boulder’s Office of Victim Assistance, participated in a Capitol Hill roundtable in Washington, DC on June 24th hosted by Senator McCaskill (D-MO) to discuss sexual assault on campuses. During the roundtable, Senator McCaskill asked experts from campuses, advocacy groups, and prosecutors to share insights and recommendations on how the federal governemtn can help universities better prevent and respond to sexual assaults on campus. You can read more here(subscription may be required). (Source: CU)

CU-Boulder Professor Visits Capitol Hill to Discuss Space Exploration and Science

On June 27th, CU-Boulder Professor Jack Burns visited Washington, DC last week to discuss space exploration issues, a recent report on the future of human spaceflight,  and collaboration between science and exploration. While in DC, Professor Burns visited with Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, and staff from the offices of Colorado Senators Bennet and Udall, and Reps. Gardner and Perlmutter. (Source: CU)

June 17, 2014

Both the House and Senate are in session this week.

APPOINTMENTS

Eric Cantor, Defeated In Primary, Steps Down As House Majority Leader

In a stunning political upset that surprised Washington, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) was defeated by Tea Party opponent David Brat in the Virginia Republican primary on June 10th. A largely unknown candidate, Brat is a professor in economics at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, VA. Cantor announced this week that he will step down as majority leader, the number two majority position in the House, at the end of July.  Cantor endorsed California Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to succeed him as majority leader. With potential opponents Pete Sessions (R-TX) and Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) dropping out of the race on June 12th, McCarthy’s lone declared rival for the leadership position, is Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID), representing the hard right corner of the Republican conference. The election will be held June 19th, and Cantor plans to leave his post by the end of July. He’ll stay in the House until December. Canter has played an active role on R&D policy issues, championing medical research in particular while seeking to limit federal spending on social and behavioral sciences Cantor has been a central figure in rallying his caucus and other supporters in favor of the FIRST Act.  (Source: CU, COSSA, CQ)

 

BUDGET/APPROPRIATIONS

House Energy and Water Subcommittee Approves FY15 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill 

On June 10th the House Appropriations Energy and Water Subcommittee approved the FY15 Energy & Water Appropriations bill by voice vote, with total funding of $34 billion. The bill provides $5.071 billion for the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, an increase over the FY14 level of $5.066 billion. The bill included $280 million for the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy  (U.S. Department of Energy) (ARPA-E), consistent with FY14 funding and below the President’s request of $325 million. In other energy programs, the bill would cut spending on renewable energy R&D in order to boost spending on nuclear and fossil fuel development. DOE’s fossil fuel programs would get $593 million, $30.9 million above current spending, while nuclear energy research would rise by $9.8 million to $899 million. In contrast, renewable energy programs would drop $113 million from current levels to $1.8 billion. For more information or to read a copy of the bill, please visit the Subcommittee website here. (Source: AAU APLU, CQ, Science)

 

Senate Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee Increases FY15 Funding for NIH 

The FY15 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill marked up last week in the Senate L-HHS-Ed Subcommittee would provide $30.5 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an increase of $606 million above the FY14 level. Within that total, the bill would provide $100 million for the second year of the multi-agency Brain Research through Application of Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative, an increase of $60 million. 

The measure also would maintain the discretionary portion of the maximum Pell grant award at $4,860 for the 2015-2016 school year. When combined with mandatory funding, this would raise the maximum award by an estimated $100, to $5,830. The bill also would increase funding for several campus-based student aid programs. For the campus-based aid programs, the Senate bill would:

--Raise funding for Federal Work Study by $35 million;

--Raise funding for TRIO by $8.4 million;

--Raise Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants by $15 million; and

--Raise funding for GearUP by $3 million. 

In addition, the bill would fund Title VI International Education programs at $81.2 million, an increase of $9 million. Some $5 million of the increase is for study abroad. The bill also includes $75 million for the President’s First in the World initiative, with $20 million set aside for minority-serving institutions. For the Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) program, the bill would provide $31 million, an increase of $1.7 million. The full committee markup of the bill originally scheduled for June 12th has been postponed. At this time it is not known when the markup will occur. (Source: AAU)

House Appropriations Committee Approves FY15 Defense Appropriations Bill

On June 10th, the House Appropriations Committee approved the FY15 Defense Appropriations bill by voice vote. This legislation includes $11.936 billion for Science and Technology (6.1-6.3) programs at the Department of Defense, a decrease from the FY14 level of $12.185 billion. This legislation includes $2.028 billion for basic research (6.1) at the Department of Defense, a decrease below the current funding level of $2.167 billion. Basic research funding in all four branches and Defense–wide would receive less than their FY14 levels.  Only the Defense-wide program would receive more than the Administration’s FY15 request, an added $10 million above that level.  AAU issued a statement on June 10th criticizing the reduced FY15 funding level for Defense basic research in the House bill, saying that it was “only a modest improvement” over the President’s proposed cut of 6.9 percent. (Source: AAU)

Business for Federal Research Funding Holds Washington Fly-In 

A delegation of business representatives from around the country, led by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, came to Washington, DC on June 9th to meet with legislators about the importance of strong, sustained support for federally funded research. The Chamber’s press release is available here. Members of the Business for Federal Research coalition urged Washington lawmakers to support a strong innovation economy by providing steady growth above inflation for federal research programs across the government, beginning with the FY15 appropriations process. They cited such agencies as the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Energy, and Homeland Security.   

The Business for Federal Research Funding is a national coalition of 57 chambers of commerce and business groups (including the Boulder, Denver, and South Denver Metro Chambers) that was formed earlier this year through the leadership of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. The delegation that participated in the Washington, DC fly-in included participants from the CEO Council for Growth (PA, NJ, DE), the Dayton Development Coalition (OH), and the Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and Centre County (PA) chambers, in addition to Greater Boston. (Source: AAU, CU)

 

EDUCATION

Senate Fails to Invoke Cloture on Student Aid Refinancing Bill 

Last week, the Senate took up the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act (S. 2432), a bill led by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and co-sponsored by 44 other Senators including both Senators Bennet and Udall.  Supporters of the bill could not, however, secure the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture. The vote was 56 to 38 in favor of cloture. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, issued a statement saying that reauthorization of the Higher Education Act would present another opportunity to help borrowers with existing student debt. 

On June 9th, a group of 12 higher education associations, including ACE, AAU, and APLU, sent a letter to Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), the primary sponsor of S. 2432, expressing support for the bill.  The letter notes that the bill makes several important reforms to the federal student loan programs, and it offers some suggestions for improvement. The letter adds, “A greater commitment to students upfront, in the form of increased grant aid and reduced rates on new loans, would lower their costs and limit debt burden even more efficiently than refinancing existing debt.” (Source: AAU)

Congressional Opposition To College Rating System Grows

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Michael E. Capuano (D-MA) introduced a resolution on June 10th that opposes the Department of Education’s controversial plan to design a ratings system for colleges and universities.  And on June 12th, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said that he plans to attach an amendment to the labor, health, and education appropriations bill that would stop the Obama administration from moving ahead with a ratings system. Goodlatte and Capuano also issued a joint statement calling the department’s proposal, which much of academe has greeted with skepticism, “misguided.”

Under the plan, which the Obama administration has said is needed to provide better consumer information and hold colleges more accountable for their use of taxpayer money, an institution’s federal financial aid would be tied to its rating. The rating would be based on several factors, including affordability and student outcomes. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has said that, even if the agency doesn’t receive the $10 million from Congress that it requested to fund the project, it will still move forward with the plan. President Obama mentioned the ratings system on Tuesday during a Tumblr Q&A about student-loan debt, saying the proposed system would help push colleges to be more affordable. (Sources: Inside Higher Education, The Chronicle Of Higher Education)

 

RESEARCH

House Science Subcommittee Fails To Mark Up Energy Research Authorization Bill  

The energy subcommittee of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee met June 1th1 to mark up a bill to reauthorize DOE basic and applied research programs, but was unable to conduct substantive business. Following a difference of opinion between Republicans and Democrats over committee procedures and availability of the bill in advance of the markup, Subcommittee Chairman Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) ended the session. The bill is now expected to bypass the subcommittee and go straight to full committee. Chairman Lummis’s follow-up statement is available here.

The measure, which covers just FY15, incorporates the EINSTEIN Act (which would reauthorize the DOE Office of Science) and reauthorization of R&D programs in the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE), Nuclear Energy, Fossil Energy, Energy Delivery & Energy Reliability, and ARPA-E. It would cut authorized funding by $232 million in FY15. The bill would increase authorized funding for the DOE Office of Science by five percent to $5.3 billion, but would significantly cut authorized funding for ARPA-E and eliminate references to “climate” from that agency’s goals. The bill also would significantly cut authorized funding for biological and environmental research and for energy efficiency and renewable energy. (Source: AAU, CU)

House Science Subcommittees Hold Hearing On Administrative Burden On Research  

Two subcommittees of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a hearing on June 12th to examine the administrative workload for those conducting federally funded research. Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Paul Broun (R-GA) and Research and Technology Chairman Larry Bucshon (R-IN) both expressed support for efforts to eliminate red tape and harmonize and streamline requirements, while still preserving research accountability. Rep. Dan Maffei (D-NY) noted that with an 80-percent rejection rate for federal research grants, scientists can spend significant time reapplying for grant funding. Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) added that both grant-writing and too-frequent progress reports delay progress in science, but he said it was important to ensure that researchers are not wasting the public’s money and are taking appropriate safeguards in their research, such as in protecting human subjects. 

Witnesses for the hearing were Arthur Bienenstock, chair of the National Science Board’s task force on administrative burden; Susan Wyatt Sedwick, chair of the Federal Demonstration Partnership; Gina Lee-Glauser, Vice President for Research at Syracuse University; and Allison Lerner, Inspector General of the National Science Foundation. Read more about the hearing here.   (Source: AAU, AIP)

House Passes 1- Year NASA Reauthorization, While Senate Continues Work On Multiyear Bill

On June 9th, the House passed a bill to reauthorize the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) programs by a 401-2 vote. Authorities in the House bill include $3 billion for the International Space Station and $658 million for the James Webb Space Telescope. But the measure, which would authorize a total fo $17.6 billion for space exploration, space operations, education and technology efforts, only covers the current fiscal year. House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said the measure would boost U.S. space exploration efforts. "This bill provides the necessary funds to push us into the Cosmos and beyond," Smith said. Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) said during floor debate that she wished the committee had been able to agree on a multi-year bill. The Senate, which approved a three-year bill last year on a party line vote, is working to update that bill, retaining the multiyear timeline. But no timetable for Senate action is set.

The authorizing committees in each chamber--the Senate Commerce Committee and the House Science, Space and Technology Committee-- approved a bill last year on party line votes and they did not progress past the committees. Intense disagreements between Republicans and Democrats over top-level funding caps were an obstacle to further progress, but the Ryan-Murray budget agreement for FY2014 and FY2015 has opened the door to compromise as evidenced by the House bill. The Senate committee similarly may now be able to reach bipartisan agreement on budget matters, but policy differences remain. One key issue is whether the goal is for a two-year Senate bill or if the committee pushes for maintaining the three-year time horizon, which would take the bill beyond the Ryan-Murray framework. (Source: The Hill, Space Policy Online)

 

VETERANS

Senate Passes VA Medical Bill With In-State Tuition Provision

Last week, the Senate passed a veterans’ medical bill, S. 2450, Veterans' Access to Care through Choice, Accountability and Transparency Act, which was introduced by Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (D-VA) as well as Committee Ranking Member Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), and several other Senators. While this bill primarily covers Veterans’ Affairs medical issues, is also includes a section requiring public institutions to charge in-state tuition for veterans, for a period of three years post-discharge, and for certain eligible dependents in order for that institution to remain eligible for Post-9/11 GI and Montgomery GI bill benefits. (Source: APLU, CU)

June 10, 2014

Both Chambers are in session this week. 

APPOINTMENTS

Burwell Confirmed as Secretary of HHS

On June 5th, the Senate confirmed Sylvia Mathews Burwell as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in a 78-17 vote. She will replace Kathleen Sebelius, the previous Secretary and former Kansas governor. Ms. Burwell, a 48-year-old West Virginia native, was sworn in yesterday. She leaves her post as director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to take this position. She previously held high-level positions in the Clinton White House, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Walmart Foundation, but has never held elected office.(Source: Wall Street Journal)

Veterans Affairs Secretary Resigns

On June 6th, Eric K. Shinseki resigned as Secretary of Veterans Affairs, apologizing for a scandal in which employees throughout the VA’s massive hospital system conspired to hide months-long wait times that veterans faced when seeking care. President Obama has named Sloan D. Gibson, the deputy secretary of Veterans Affairs, to take over the VA until a new secretary is named. (Source: Washington Post)

 

NASA Names Schmidt Director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies

NASA has named Gavin A. Schmidt to head the agency’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York, a leading Earth climate research laboratory. Currently deputy director of the institute, Schmidt steps into the position left vacant after the retirement of long-time director James E. Hansen and becomes only the third person to hold the post. Read more here. (Source: NASA)

 

BUDGET/APPROPRIATIONS

Senate Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee Approves FY15 Funding Bill

The Senate Appropriations Committee on June 5th approved its FY15 Commerce-Justice-Science (C-J-S) funding bill. At $51.2 billion, the bill reflects a reduction of $398 million from the FY14 level and equals the House-passed level. 

NSF: The bill provides $7.2 billion for National Science Foundation (NSF), which is $83 million above the FY14 funding level, equal to the President’s FY15 request, and $200 million below the House-passed FY15 level.  The measure would allocate $5.8 billion for Research and Related Activities; the House-approved level is $5.9 billion. Education and Human Resources would be funded at $889.7 million, which is $13.7 million above the House level. Both House and Senate bills would fund the Major Research and Equipment and Facilities Construction Directorate at $200.7 million, which is $100,000 less than the Administration’s request of $200.8 million. The bill also expresses continued concerns about a proposal to consolidate STEM programs across government agencies and directs NSF and OSTP to continue to work together on this issue. 

NASA:  The Senate bill provides $17.9 billion for NASA, which is $254 million above the FY14 level, $439 million above the President’s FY15 request, and the same as the House-approved level. Within that total, the bill includes $5.2 billion for the Science Mission Directorate, which is $7 million above the House level; $580.2 million for Space Technology, which is $39.8 million below the House level of $620 million; and $551 million for Aeronautics, which is $115 million below the House level of $666 million. The Senate bill would fund Space Grant at $40 million, which is $10 million more than the House level of $30 million.

NOAA: Within the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the bill funds Oceanic and Atmospheric Research programs at $430 million, in line with the President’s budget request. Within OAR, the committee recommended $40 m for NOAA's Regional Climate Data and Information line, a slight increase over the FY2014 funding level of $37 m and $17 m more than the House mark. The Regional Climate Data and Information line funds the Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA) program and the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS). The bill does not provide funding for the SIDAR program, which would fund the Total Solar Irradiance Sensor (TSIS) built by LASP, but directs NASA and NOAA to work together to ensure progress forward on this program. 

NIST: The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is funded at $900 million, which is $50 million above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level and the same as the request. This funding enables a set of initiatives that will catalyze innovations, develop measurements, and provide technical resources to promote the global competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers and aspiring start-ups. 

During the Senate markup, the committee also adopted 22-8 an amendment to the C-J-S bill to allow for industrial hemp research by blocking the Justice Department from spending money in contravention of research provisions in the 2014 farm bill. Those provisions let academic institutions or state agriculture departments grow hemp for research purposes, as long as it is legal under the relevant state law.  Last week, House appropriators added language to their C-J-S measure to block federal law enforcement authorities from interfering with growers and state agencies. Federal agents recently seized seeds intended for Kentucky’s agriculture department, prompting congressional concern. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, is a co-sponsor of Merkley’s proposal. 

It is not yet clear when the C-J-S bill will be considered by the full Senate. (Source: AAU, Ocean Leadership, CU, CQ )

 

EDUCATION

President Announces Measures to Curb Student Debt

Yesterday, President Obama delivered remarks at the White House announcing new executive actions to further lift the burden of crushing student loan debt, including a Presidential Memorandum that will allow an additional 5 million borrowers with federal student loans to cap their monthly loan payment at 10% of their income.  The Presidential Memorandum also outlines a series of new executive actions aimed to support federal student loan borrowers, especially for vulnerable borrowers who may be at greater risk of defaulting on their loans. You can read more about this announcement by reading the White House Fact Sheet here.

In other education related news, Dr. Jill Biden and Secretary Arne Duncan discussed college affordability and student loans with more than a dozen recent graduates at a White House roundtable event last week. Read about it here. (Source: White House, ED)

Task Force on Higher Education Regulatory Burden Meets in Washington

The Task Force on Government Regulation of Higher Education held its second meeting in Washington DC on June 6th. CU President Bruce Benson, who serves on the Task Force, attended. The panel, created last fall by a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators including Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO), has been charged with conducting a comprehensive review of the Department of Education regulations that affect colleges and universities, particularly those stemming from the Higher Education Act.  The Task Force is being staffed by the American Council on Education, and hopes to produce a set of recommendations for action next year.  

The major topics under discussion include student financial aid, institutional finances, campus crime and campus security, the Americans with Disabilities Act, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data Systems (IPEDS), inconsistent definitions across Department of Education data systems, state authorization of institutions and of distance education programs, disclosure and reporting requirements, accreditation-related regulations, and discretion for Department of Education enforcement actions. (Source: CU, AAU)

Senator Mccaskill Plans Legislation To Improve Response To Campus Sexual Violence

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) used a roundtable discussion of sexual violence on campuses June 2nd to announce that she planned to propose legislation to improve colleges’ response to the issue, which has drawn attention in recent months from the White House, the Education and Justice Departments, and student victims and their advocates across the country. The roundtable, the second of three held by Sen. McCaskill, was attended by advocates for survivors, college administrators, two other U.S. senators, and the official in charge of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. The discussion focused on institutional enforcement of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which protects students from discrimination based on sex in education programs that receive federal aid. 

A third roundtable will be held on June 23rd in Washington, DC. (Source: Chronicle of Higher Education)

 

RESEARCH

NIH Embraces Bold, 12-year Scientific Vision for BRAIN Initiative

Last week, the long-term scientific vision of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative was presented to National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. 

The report drafted by the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) BRAIN Working Group maps out a sustained commitment of $4.5 billion in new federal funding over 10 years beginning in fiscal year 2016 to achieve seven primary goals. NIH already announced an investment of $40 million in fiscal year 2014 and President Obama has made a request for $100 million for NIH’s component of the initiative in his fiscal year 2015 budget.

The NIH efforts on the BRAIN Initiative will seek to map the circuits of the brain, measure the fluctuating patterns of electrical and chemical activity flowing within those circuits, and understand how their interplay creates our unique cognitive and behavioral capabilities. The report identifies a series of scientific goals that are viewed as a high priority, and that will be achieved through a core set of seven principles, which you can read more about here.

The Working Group outlined an investment ramping up to $400 million a year for fiscal years 2016-2020 to focus on technology development and validation. They called for $500 million a year for years 2020-2025 to increasingly focus on the application of those technologies in an integrated fashion to make fundamental new discoveries about the brain. The working group emphasized that its cost estimates assume that the budget for the BRAIN Initiative will supplement — not supplant — NIH’s existing investment in the broader spectrum of basic, translational, and clinical neuroscience research.

The BRAIN Initiative is jointly led by NIH, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the U.S. Department of Defense, National Science Foundation, and Food and Drug Administration. Private organizations are also committed to ensuring success through investment in the initiative.   (Source: NIH)

Group Publishes Report on Personnel Issues in Biosecurity

A group of FBI and association representatives that have been working together on biosecurity issues has published the report from the last of its five workshops, this one on personnel issues in biosecurity.  Previous reports dealt with security risks of biological research in academia (2010), dual use review and oversight (2012), implementing select agent and toxin regulations (2013), andinternational science and security (2013).

The project, “Bridging Science and Security for Biological Research,” was initiated four years ago by the FBI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate (WMD). Working with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), in collaboration with AAU and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), the WMD Directorate held a series of five workshops with the research, policy, and security communities to discuss outreach and policy issues in biosecurity.  The goal was to share and summarize in a series of reports the lessons learned, challenges faced, and areas for improvement in local and national biosecurity initiatives.  (Source: AAU)

House Science Committee To Consider Energy Research Bill

Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), the Chairwoman of the House Science Subcommittee on Energy, has plans to introduce the Energy Research and Development Act of 2014 for markup later this month. This legislation would reauthorize Department of Energy (DOE) programs within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, including basic research supported by the Office of Science and the applied research and development programs supported by other DOE offices.

The bill incorporates two pieces of legislation previously circulated in draft form—the Enabling lnnovation for Science, Technology, and Energy in America Act of 2014 (EINSTEIN), and the Our Nation's Energy Future Act of 2014 (ONE Future). Provisions from EINSTEIN would set appropriations authority for the DOE Office of Science at $5,325 billion, exceeding the $5,111 billion request in the President’s Budget and the $5.066 billion appropriated for FY14 by 5% and 4% respectively. But provisions from ONE Future would drastically cut R&D programs in DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). EERE would be reduced $489M, or 29%, vs. current level of  $1.683 billion. The President requested an increase to $2.317 billion. The bill would also decrease authorization for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) by $40 Million, or 14%, and "removes climate goals and inserts safeguards to protect taxpayer funds" within the ARPA-E program. (Source: House Science Subcommittee on Energy)

House Passes NASA Authorization Act

The House passed the 2014 NASA Authorization Act, H.R. 4412 yesterday under a legislative procedure called suspension of the rules.  No amendments are allowed under that procedure, which is used for bills expected to be non-controversial.  The bill passed by a vote of 401-2. The chairmen and ranking members of the full House Science, Space and Technology (SS&T) Committee and its Space Subcommittee were the main speakers:  Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Rep. Steve Palazzo (R-MS), and Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD).    

Bipartisanship prevailed, although several Democrats noted how far the two sides had come since last year when sharp political divisions on an earlier version of the bill resulted in tense party-line votes in committee.   Much of the rancor was because Republicans were working under strict budget limits adopted by the House for FY2014 while Democrats rejected those limits. In December, the Ryan-Murray budget agreement for FY2014 and FY2015 eased those limits, which has enabled significantly greater cooperation between the two parties on many issues this year, including authorization and appropriations legislation. Read more here. (Source: SpacePolicyOnline)

NASA Should Maintain Long-Term Focus on Mars as “Horizon Goal” for Human

A 
new congressionally mandated report from the National Research Council concludes that the expense of human spaceflight and the dangers to the astronauts involved can be justified only by the goal of putting humans on other worlds.  The report recommends that the nation pursue a disciplined “pathway” approach that encompasses executing a specific sequence of intermediate accomplishments and destinations leading to the “horizon goal” of putting humans on Mars.  The success of this approach would require a steadfast commitment to a consensus goal, international collaboration, and a budget that increases by more than the rate of inflation. The study was sponsored by NASA. Read more here. (Source: National Academies)

Decadal Survey Members Argue For More Funding For NASA Researcher Workforce

In a June 3rd commentary for Space News, Daniel N. Baker, director of CU-Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP); Lennard A. Fisk, Thomas M. Donahue Distinguished Professor of Space Science at the University of Michigan; and Harlan E. Spence, director of the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans and Space at the University of New Hampshire, wrote that “decreasing space research budgets” over the past two years, coinciding with “NASA’s continued emphasis on large flight missions,” has resulted in a dearth of “money needed for support of individual space scientists, their students and the university research infrastructure.”

The article says that “younger scientific researchers” have borne the brunt of this “crisis,” even as they “daily are pushing back the frontiers of solar science, space physics and planetary exploration.” The authors, who were members of the US National Academies’ 2012 decadal survey in solar and space physics, say that they “argued strenuously that NASA and other space agencies needed first and foremost to have a healthy, vibrant and productive scientific workforce.” (Source: Space News)

 

TAX

Wyden, Hatch Outline Path Forward On Comprehensive Tax Reform

On June 5th, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) reinforced their commitment to overhauling the nation’s tax code through comprehensive reform, announcing the first in a series of committee hearings this summer to examine several issue areas that are essential to a modern, effective tax code. Scheduled hearings include: Education tax incentives (June); ID theft and taxpayer privacy protection and modernizing corporate taxation (July).

“This summer, the Senate Finance Committee will forge ahead with hearings that examine reforming the broken, dysfunctional tax code in areas ranging from taxpayer privacy protection to education to corporate taxation,” Wyden and Hatch said. “When it comes to tax policy, comprehensive tax reform is our ultimate objective, and we are committed to using these hearings as the building blocks to that goal. (Source: U.S. Senate Committee on Finance)

June 3, 2014

 

The House is in recess this week. The Senate is in session.

 

BUDGET/APPROPRIATIONS

House Approves FY15 Commerce-Justice-Science Funding Bill 

Last week, the House approved the FY15 Commerce-Justice-Science (C-J-S) appropriations bill (H.R. 4660), which funds the National Science Foundation (NSF) and NASA. The vote was 321-87. Despite reduced overall funding in the bill, the House Appropriations Committee approved a three-percent increase for NSF and a one-percent increase for NASA. The House sustained the committee-approved funding levels for both agencies, but Members voted to move $7 million in NASA funding from Space Operations to Space Technology. 

During floor action, House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) offered an amendment that they said would take $15.3 million out of the NSF Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) Directorate and reallocate it to other research directorates. The amendment passed by a vote of 208-201.  However, since this legislation does not include explicit funding levels for each Directorate, the Smith amendment is more of a messaging piece, albeit a harmful one, and would have no actual impact on the funding levels for the various directorates.

Speaking on the House floor in support of NSF social sciences research were Science Committee Ranking Member Chaka Fattah (D-PA) and Reps. David Price (D-NC) and Rush Holt (D-NJ), all of whom discussed examples of social, political, and economics research that have made important contributions to the economy and public life. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) discussed the importance of NSF’s activities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.   

The legislation also greatly reduces the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) funding for climate research. Representative Polis (D-CO) spoke on the floor about the importance of funding for climate research (and CU-Boulder’s expertise in this area) in response to an amendment offered by Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) to restore that funding. The amendment was ultimately not adopted. You can watch Rep. Polis’ remarks here. The House also provided zero funding for NOAA's new Solar Irradiance, Data, and Rescue (SIDAR) initiative, which would provide support for the Total Solar Irradiance Sensor (TSIS) built by LASP.  We anticipate the Senate will provided funding for TSIS in its version of the FY15 bill, which the Senate Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee will begin marking up today. (Source: AAU, APLU, CU)

House Defense Appropriations Committee Releases FY15 Bill

The House Appropriations Committee released the subcommittee draft of the fiscal year 2015 (FY15) Defense Appropriations bill last week. The subcommittee began to markup the draft in a closed session the following day. As described by the Appropriations Committee, the legislation funds critical national security needs, military operations abroad, and health and quality-of-life programs for the men and women of the Armed Forces and their families.

In total, the bill provides $491 billion in discretionary defense funding, an increase of $4.1 billion above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level and $200 million above the President’s request. The bill contains $63.4 billion – $368 million above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level but $171 million below the President’s request – for research, development, testing, and evaluation (RDT&E) of new defense technologies. (Source: Coalition for National Security Research)

 

HIGHER EDUCATION

AAU Submits Comments on Accreditation Policy to NACIQI

On May 22, the Association of American Universities (AAU) submitted comments to the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) in response to the panel’s request for comments on accreditation policy reform. NACIQI is drafting its second report to the Secretary of Education on accreditation for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). AAU was actively involved in drafting the firstreport, providing four sets of written comments and oral testimony at that time.

AAU’s latest comments express support for retaining the link between accreditation and eligibility for federal Title IV student aid funds. The comments also highlight several current problems with accreditation, including the disparity between the costs and benefits of the accreditation process, the regulatory burden, and the use of inappropriate assessment measures. The association argues that many of these problems could be addressed by an amendment to the HEA that gives accreditors the authority to create expedited review for institutions with longstanding records of strong performance. (Source: AAU)

Associations Comment on Department of Education’s Proposed Gainful Employment Rule 

A group of 20 higher education associations, including the AAU,  the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), and the American Council on Education (ACE) submitted comments to the Department of Education on May 27th regarding the Department’s proposed rule on gainful employment. 

The comments makes it clear that the associations strongly support gainful employment regulations that would exclude from Title IV federal financial aid eligibility those programs that fail to serve their students well. But the letter expresses concern that instead of risk-based regulations focused on areas of potential abuse, the proposed regulations include metrics too weak to be effective against underperforming schools while adding excessive layers of reporting and disclosure requirements for all institutions with gainful employment programs. (Source: AAU, APLU)

 

RESEARCH

House Science Committee Approves FIRST Act 

Last week, the House Science, Space, and Technology (SST) Committee approved the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology Act (FIRST Act), legislation to reauthorize programs in the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST), as well as STEM education programs. The bill (H.R. 4186), authored by Committee Chairman Smith, was approved on a party-line vote of 20-16. The research university community continues to have strong concerns with this bill.

The bill would cap overall funding for NSF below the level of inflation, impose new grant conditions on the agency’s peer review system, and target the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences and the Geosciences directorates for significant cuts in authorized funding. During committee consideration, the panel approved an additional $50 million cut in authorized funding for SBE, on top of the $56 million cut in the underlying bill.    

The committee made an important improvement in the bill regarding public access. Members approved by voice vote an amendment offered by Reps. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) to lower the embargo period for public access to the results of federally funded research from the basic embargo period of 24 months to 12 months.  It is not clear if or when this bill will advance to the House floor. (Source: AAU, CU)

Secretary Pritzker Designates Twelve Manufacturing Communities

Last week, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker announced the first 12 communities that will be designated Manufacturing Communities as part of the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) initiative. The U.S. Commerce Department-led program is designed to accelerate the resurgence of manufacturing in communities nationwide by supporting the development of long-term economic development strategies that help communities attract and expand private investment in the manufacturing sector and increase international trade and exports.

In order to earn the designation, communities had to demonstrate the significance of manufacturing already present in their region and develop strategies to make investments in workforce and training, advanced research, infrastructure and site development, supply chain support, trade and international investment, operational improvement and capital access.

Seventy communities across the country applied – including the Denver metro region, through the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT), with support from CU-Boulder – and twelve were selected by an interagency panel. The Colorado application was not selected. The Administration plans to launch a second IMCP competition later this year, as well as convene the 70 communities that applied for designation to share best practices in economic development planning. (Source: U.S. EDA)

 

TAX

House Ways and Means Committee Approves IRA Charitable Deduction Extension 

Last week, the House Ways and Means Committee approved legislation that would extend permanently the Individial Retirement Account (IRA) charitable deduction. The committee voted to approve the Permanent IRA Charitable Contribution Act of 2014 (H.R. 4619) by a vote of 23-14. (Source: AAU)

 

CU at DC

CU-Boulder Professor Visit Washington to Discuss Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Assistant Professor Eric Frew, Director of CU-Boulder’s Center Research and Engineering Center for Unmanned Vehicles (RECUV), visited Washington DC last week to participate in discussions with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on an upcoming Center of Excellence Opportunity. While in DC, Professor Frew visited with staff in Senator Udall and Bennet’s office, and Congressman Lamborn’s office, to discuss their support for CU’s UAV research.

CIRES Senior Scientist Testifies Before House Science Committee on IPCC

Dr. Roger Pielke Sr., Senior Research Scientist at CIRES and Emeritus Professor at Colorado State University (CSU), testified last week before the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee during their hearing on Examining the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Process. (Source: CU)

 

DC at CU

CU-Boulder Representatives Participate in White House Energy Roundtable

Last week, Dr. Kristen Averyt, CIRES Associate Director for Science and Kevin Doran, Assistant Research Professor at RASEI, participated in a White House Business Council luncheon and briefing with Alice Madden, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Intergovernmental & External Affairs at the Department of Energy, to discuss the clean energy economy and the President's Climate Action Plan. (Source: CU)