Welcome to Federal Policy Week, a blog that covers federal policy developments in education, research, science, agriculture, immigration, energy, environment, natural resources, and intellectual property.
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The Senate and House are back from recess and have a lot on their plates.
IN THIS ISSUE:
Capitol News: The President’s Budget
Congressional, Administrative, Courts
CONGRESS: Climate Change & Biblical Floods; Carbon Tax, Energy Storage, LWCF; Immigration; Congressional Hearings.
Administration & independent agencies: Nominations and Confirmations; Carbon Emissions; Patents
Noteworthy News: State of Faculty; Nobel Letter on Research; What Business Wants from Graduates; Chinese Students; Student Loan Debt; Keystone XL – Canada’s Push; Science Education K-12.
In the Know: A Preview of Upcoming Events in DC.
Capitol News. See Federal Policy Week posting The President’s Budget Request, some additional articles from The Chronicle evaluating the budget (Pell Grants & Student Aid, Scientific Research, Humanities and Arts, International Education, and the charitable deduction) may be of interest.
Noah & Climate Change. Former House Energy Committee Chairman Barton (R-TX), cited the “Great Flood” from the Bible as evidence of climate change as natural, not caused by mankind, as reported by Yahoo. Barton delivered his remarks during a Committee hearing legislation calling for approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Carbon Tax. Coal country Congressman from both parties are interested in preventing a carbon tax plan. Rep. Rahall (D-WV) introduced legislation to prevent a carbon tax by the Administration without Congressional consent.
Energy Storage. Congressmen Gibson (R-NY) and Thompson (D-CA) introduced legislation (available soon) to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide for an energy investment credit for energy storage property connected to the grid, and for other purposes.
LWCF. The President’s budget proposes providing full, mandatory funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. As reported by E&E News, Congressman Simpson (R-ID), chairman of the relevant appropriations subcommittee, said he could conditionally support the proposal.
Immigration. The House and Senate are moving forward with immigration legislation. I will keep you posted once legislation is available.
Senate: The “Group of Eight” plans to introduce its immigration legislation this week. It is likely to be the blue print for any successful legislation. Notably, children (“Dreamers”) brought to the country illegally by their parents would qualify for a faster track to citizenship. As reported in The New York Times, the legislation includes a new merit-based program for foreigners (both high-skilled and blue collar workers) to become permanent legal residents based on their work skills.
House Democrats: Several House Democrats introduced a blueprint for immigration. As reported in The New York Times, the legislation has four basic principles, namely: changing the immigration system in the context of the global economy; securing the border; mandating an e-verify system; and immigrants already in the US illegally with “the opportunity to work toward permanent residency with a path to earned citizenship.” Like the anticipated Senate bill, their bill would include an expedited path to citizenship for “Dreamers.”
Upcoming Congressional Hearings (APRIL)
- College Affordability, April 16, 2013
- Comprehensive Immigration Reform, April 17, 2013
Senate Appropriations: Multiple Hearings.
- Defense: DOD Budget, April 17, 2013
- LHHS: ED Budget, April 17, 2013
- Energy: NNSA Budget, April 17, 2013
- Ag: FDA Budget, April 18, 2013
- State: State Budget, April 18, 2013
- Wind Energy Incentives, April 16, 2013
- Science Budget, April 17, 2013
- NSF Budget, April 17, 2013
- NIST Budget, April 18, 2013
- Keeping College Within Reach: Student Loan Program, April 16, 2013
House Energy & Commerce
- Northern Route Approval Act, Vote, April 16, 2013 (Keystone XL Pipeline)
- Global Investment in American Jobs Act, April 18, 2013
- HHS Budget (includes NIH), April 18, 2013
- Defense: DOD Budget, April 16, 2013
- Ag: USDA Budget, April 16, 2013
- Ag: USDA Research, Education, and Economics, April 17, 2013
- State: State Budget, April 17, 2013
- Interior: US F&W Service, April 18, 2013
Administration & Independent Agencies:
Nominations and Confirmations.
- Secretary of the Interior. The Senate confirmed Secretary Jewell as Interior Secretary by a vote of 87-11. She was sworn-in last week by former Supreme Court Justice O’Conner in a private ceremony, reports Politico. Senate Energy Committee Chairman Wyden released a positive statement on Jewell’s confirmation.
- Secretary of Energy. The Senate Energy Committee held a confirmation hearing for Ernie Moniz. The lengthy hearing, which covered Members’ parochial issues, natural gas exploration and export, nuclear waste storage and clean up, especially at Hanford, research and renewables, among many topics was mostly positive. The Committee is expected to vote Dr. Moniz’s nomination out of Committee positively, and well received by the full Senate. Chairman Wyden and Ranking Member Murkowski released statements on the hearing.
- EPA Administrator. The Senate EPW Committee held a confirmation hearing for EPA nominee Gina McCarthy, the current Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation. As reported by The New York Times and Politico, Republicans on the Committee focused on a dispute “over e-mail accounts used by top officials at the agency, whether the department had made public all the research data used in writing past regulations and whether it had pursued a litigation strategy that bypassed state environmental officials.”(quote from NYT). As expected, and reported by The Washington Post, framing of questions was based on party affiliation, with Republicans generally attacking EPA and Democrats characterizing the agency as acting in the public’s interest based on solid science. Unlike Moniz, McCarthy’s nomination still faces major hurdles.
Carbon Emissions. The EPA announced that is will delay issuing a rule limiting emissions from new power plants. As reported by The New York Times, EPA delayed the year-old rule, which would have been the first to have limits on greenhouse gas emission, as it was scheduled to go into affect because of industry objections. The new rule would realistically prevent new coal-fired plants since they could not meet the emissions limitations. No timetable has been set, but the final rule could be included in a deal to confirm McCarthy for EPA Administrator.
Patents For Humanity. The Commerce Department released the first ever “Patents for Humanity.” The pilot program is designed to encourage patent holders to take on global humanitarian challenges in health and standards of living. The competition allows applicants to enter in the four categories: medical technology, food and nutrition, clean technology, and information technology.
Myriad. The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the Myriad patent case. The case involves the patenting of isolated genes and pits the biotechnology industry, which contends patents are necessary for future research in this area to continue (from revenues) versus the ACLU, some medical researchers, and cancer patient groups which contend these patents are “acts of nature” and not patentable. See the Federal Policy Week postings So Much to Do, Congress Left, and Florida, Courts and More for more information.
Faculty Pay Gap & State Appropriations. The Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2012-13, a report by the American Association of University Professors finds that “much of the tuition price increase in public higher education over the last several years has been a direct consequence of reductions in state appropriations. The report also identified a gap in salaries, showing that the gap between salaries for tenured professors and private and public research universities has widened. Further, the report also found that “after three years of increases in average salary levels that lagged behind the rate of inflation, the overall increase this year matched the increase in consumer prices— but only just barely.”
Nobel Letter on Research. A group of over 50 Nobel Laureates, through the Federation of American Scientists, wrote a letter to Congress encouraging Members to support funding for scientific research as the means of keeping the scientific pipeline strong.
What Business Wants. A recent report, It Takes More Than a Major: Employer Priorities for College Learning and Student Success, by the Association of American Colleges and Universities of business executives found that “74 percent of business and nonprofit leaders say they would recommend a twenty-first century liberal education to a young person they know in order to prepare for long-term professional success in today’s global economy.” Some other conclusions are that the vast majority of those surveyed believe that college students need a broad education – what comes from liberal arts and sciences and that a student’s major is less important than “a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems.” These findings are important in the context of federal policy, which continues to focus on STEM exclusively and more Members of Congress questioning the value on non-STEM majors.
Chinese Students. As Congress begins the debate on immigration, there is wide support for providing more access to highly educated and skilled foreigners, especially those educated in the United States. News that graduate school applications from Chinese citizens dropped five percent, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, may spur action on this aspect of immigration reform. As The WSJ reports, other nations, notably Canada and Australia are competitors for these students – and these countries have less restrictive immigration policies.
Student Loan Debt. As student debt continues to capture the attention of policy makers in DC, the National Center for Education Statistics released a report showing that for students who do not graduate within six years face significant debt. The debt per credit earned is highest among those who attend for-profit institutions, but did not complete their degree. At the same time, as The Chronicle reports, there is an increased movement to change the way how interest rates are set for student loans – moving away from Congress set rates to market rates or the three-year Treasury note. In fact, the President’s budget calls pegging the interest rate calculation for federal student loans to the government’s cost of borrowing, which is a variable benchmark, reports The Washington Post in a detailed article on the different programs.
Keystone XL – Canada’s Push. While many members of Congress are pushing for approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline (see Federal Policy Week posting Congress Finishes Recess for more on the Pipeline), Canadian officials are also using their influence to persuade the Obama Administration, reports The New York Times. Specifically, the premier of Alberta province just concluded her fourth trip in 18 months to DC to lobby for the pipeline, arguing the oil will be taken out of the ground no matter what trying to blunt critics contention that without the US route the costs of export are too high.
Science Education. Next Generation Science Standards, a net set of guidelines for a broad-based K-12 science curriculum based on NRC standards outlined in Framework for K-12 Science Education were released by Next Generation Science Standards. “The emphasis of the NGSS is a focused and coherent progression of knowledge from grade band to grade band, allowing for a dynamic process of building knowledge throughout a student’s entire K-12 scientific education.”
IN THE KNOW: EVENTS TO CONSIDER
Upcoming Events (listed by date):
- Wilson Center, Brookings, Climate Policy Across the Globe: Lessons Learned and Key Challenges, April 15, 2013
- ITIF, Is Technology Responsible for American Job Loss? June 13, 2013