Government Relations

Government Relations Legislative Update

Government Relations Legislative Update

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

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Federal Update for October 5

Continuing Resolution

Since none of the 12 FY 2011 appropriations bills has been passed and the new fiscal year began October 1, Congress approved a Continuing Resolution (CR) (H.R. 3081) that sustains federal funding through Friday, December 3.
According to the Senate Appropriations Committee press release, "Under the CR, funding will continue at FY 2010 enacted levels for most programs."  The CR does not include the $5.5 billion needed to address the Pell Grant program shortfall and prevent reductions in student awards next year.

NASA Reauthorization

On September 29, the House of Representatives approved the Senate-passed version of the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 (S. 3729), sending the bill to the President for signature.

Among other elements, S. 3729 authorizes $58 billion in federal funding for the space agency for Fiscal Years 2011-2013.  It also paves the way for the development of a new heavy-lift launch vehicle, adds one extra shuttle flight, provides continued support for the International Space Station until 2020, and provides federal funding for the development of the commercial spacecraft industry.  The bill also underscores the importance of Earth science and observation missions, support for space science research, and robust support for aeronautics and space technology development.
"Gathering Storm" Follow-up Report

The House Science and Technology Committee held a hearing on September 29 on the new report from the National Research Council (NRC), "Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited:  Rapidly Approaching Category 5."  The new report found that in the five years since publication of the original report, "Rising Above the Gathering Storm," the outlook for Americans' ability to compete globally for quality jobs has further deteriorated.   Among other recommendations, the new report urged Congress to reauthorize the America COMPETES Act, which expires at the end of this year.
A focus of discussion during the hearing was how to keep jobs in the United States.  "Gathering Storm" committee chairman Norman Augustine told the panel that failure to reauthorize the America COMPETES Act will be a signal to the business community that the U.S. is not willing to address the problems in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.  This could prompt businesses to send more jobs overseas.


The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has extended the stay of the preliminary injunction which briefly halted federal funding of human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research, allowing NIH to continue funding the research for now.
The continuation was in response to an emergency motion filed by the Justice Department and remains in place pending the government's appeal of the injunction itself, which is still being considered by the Court of Appeals.  The ruling came after oral arguments held on September 27, in which the three-judge panel grilled attorneys representing both the Justice Department and the plaintiffs on the nuances of the relevant law and science.  The judges also called for the appeal of the injunction to be expedited.

Meanwhile, the underlying case continues in the district court, where the plaintiffs, two adult stem cell researchers, have filed a motion for a summary judgment by Judge Royce Lamberth, without further trial.  Last week, the government filed a brief in opposition to that motion and cross-filed a motion for summary judgment in its favor.  By filing motions for summary judgment, both sides are claiming that no facts are in dispute and that the case should be decided purely on the basis of existing law.  The government's filing was accompanied by a declaration from Story Landis, director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, that countered the point that funding hESC research was providing an incentive for destroying embryos.  The declaration pointed out that 73 of the 75 approved lines were "derived from embryos prior to the issuance of the Guidelines."

The plaintiffs' response to the government is due on October 7, and the lower court in expected to rule sometime in mid-to-late October.

CUR Proposal Submitted

UW System submitted a full proposal to the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) for a workshop program on institutionalizing undergraduate research at the UW System. The proposal was submitted electronically on Wednesday, September 29.  All four-year campuses of the UW system are participants, and special thanks are extended to Jeremy Miner, Director of Grants and Contracts in the UW-Eau Claire Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, for his guidance and step-by-step approach to developing a persuasive and, hopefully, successful grant proposal. It is anticipated that final notification and selection will be announced by October 25, 2010.

Student Aid Rules

The Department of Education is on schedule to implement new regulations regarding federal student aid programs.  The regulations will be released in phases.  Final program integrity regulations are scheduled for publication on or around November 1, 2010, and will go into effect on July 1, 2011.  These regulations will address sections of the agency's gainful employment proposal for the for-profit education sector, as well as 13 other issues.  Final regulations on the remaining portions of the gainful employment proposal, dealing with a program's eligibility to receive federal student aid, are scheduled for publication in early 2011.  These regulations were originally scheduled to be published on or around November 1, 2010, but the Department is taking additional time to consider the comments received and to host several meetings and public hearings in the coming weeks, for interested parties to clarify the comments they have submitted and respond to questions from Department officials, while permitting the regulations to go into effect on or around July 1, 2012.
Congressional Briefings

The Coalition for National Security Research (CNSR) is hosting a series of Congressional briefings related to Department of Defense (DoD) research. The next, which will focus on energy and sustainability research at DoD, will be held on Wednesday, October 13 from 2-3 pm in Capitol Visitor's Center SVC 201.  View the full invitation here.

 The Energy Sciences Coalition in conjunction with the House Research and Development Caucus will host a Congressional luncheon briefing, Basic Research with a Purpose: How DOE Science Helps U.S. Industry on Thursday, October 7, 2010 from 12 – 1:30 pm in 2168 Rayburn. View the invitation here.

(AAU, U.S. Department of Education "Ed Review," and UWSA Office of Federal Relations contributed to this report.)