Government Relations

Government Relations Legislative Update

Government Relations Legislative Update

Updates on state and federal issues relating to the UW System.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Federal Update for April 16

When the Senate reconvenes today (April 19), the chamber will begin consideration of executive nominations. The House is expected to consider legislation to give the District of Columbia a voting representative in the House.


A subcommittee of the House Science and Technology Committee on April 14 approved a reauthorization bill for the National Science Foundation (NSF) that would authorize $47.5 billion for the agency over five years. The measure , reported out by the Research and Science Education Subcommittee, is expected to be marked up by the full committee in the next two weeks. It is one of three bills that the full committee will fold into its reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act, which expires at the end of 2010.

The NSF Reauthorization Act of 2010 includes several overarching themes: increasing Foundation support for high-risk, high-reward research; fostering research partnerships between academia and industry; and broadening opportunities for women and underrepresented groups in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.

The reauthorization bill directs NSF to use at least five percent of its research budget to fund basic high-risk, high-reward research, and it encourages increased support for manufacturing research. The measure also seeks to foster innovative research by expanding partnerships between academic institutions—research universities, minority-serving institutions, undergraduate institutions, and community colleges—and the private sector.

Other notable provisions include: sense-of-Congress language that encourages NSF to devote 24-to-27 percent of its budget to research infrastructure; a provision that directs the National Science Board to conduct a study and report back to Congress on mid-scale research instrumentation; and creation of a pilot program to award cash prizes for innovative research.

The bill also contains several notable STEM education provisions, including authorization for postdoctoral fellowships in STEM education research and a reduction from 50 percent to 30 percent in the institutional cost-sharing requirement in the Robert Noyce Fellowship Program. The bill also would require that at least 50 percent of NSF funding for the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeships program and the Graduate Research Fellowships (GRF) program come from the Research and Related Activities Directorate. Currently, the NSF Education and Human Resources Directorate provides most of the funding for the GRF program.

The most recent Federal Update included information about a listening session in Chicago that was held by the House Science and Technolopgy Subcommittee Chairman Lipinski. The listening session was attended by Terry Millar, Associate Dean of the UW-Madison Graduate School, Lynne Thomson, UWM Vice Chancellor for Research & Economic Development, Vijendra Agarwal, UW-La Crosse Associate Vice Chancellor ( and Professor of Physics, and Kris Andrews, Assistant Vice President for Federal Relations.


Sen. Russ Feingold is circulating an appropriations Dear Colleague letter in support of the Pell Grant program. While the letter does not seek a specific amount for the maximum grant, it calls on appropriators to support "a fiscally responsible increase" for the program. Sen. Herb Kohl has signed the letter.

The letter is an attempt to prevent the appropriated maximum Pell Grant award from falling below the current level of $4,860. The provisions in the recently enacted reconciliation legislation that would increase the maximum grant at the same rate as the Consumer Price Index (CPI) beginning in FY2013 were crafted based on the calculations that the maximum appropriated amount for the award would $4,860 or above for the foreseeable future.


Senator Tom Harkin, Chairman of both the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee and the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, introduced legislation on April 14 that would provide $23 billion for preserving education jobs. These funds would be distributed to states through the same formula used for education funds in last year's stimulus bill and would support preserving jobs in both elementary and secondary education and public higher education.
The measure requires a governor to allocate federal funds among K-12 and higher education systems in proportion to the overall level of state budget cuts sustained by both sectors. However, the governor may adjust the allocation to K-12 and higher education by increasing or decreasing such amounts up to 10% of the larger of the two allocations. The impact of this provision will vary from state to state. In addition, the measure includes a maintenance of effort (MOE) provision requiring a state to maintain the fiscal year 2006 funding level or the same overall fiscal year 2006 percentage of funding for each sector - higher education and elementary and secondary education - in the overall fiscal year 2010. In order to use funds in fiscal year 2011, the state must maintain the same, separate percentage for each sector - higher education and  elementary and secondary education - as provided in fiscal year 2010.
Senator Harkin did not provide an offset for the new spending, thus the legislation will need 60 votes to pass the Senate on its own. Another option would be to include this proposal on future spending legislation. The House passed a jobs bill in December 2009 and subsequent measures have been introduced that also provide $23 billion for education.


President Reilly and all the Chancellors of the UW System signed a letter in support of the University Sustainability Program. The program was authorized during deliberations of the Higher Education Opportunity Act. The letter seeks programmatic appropriations in Fiscal Year 2011 (

(This report was written with AAU,APLU, AASCU, and UW System Office of Federal Relations contributing.)