Government Relations

Government Relations Legislative Update

Government Relations Legislative Update

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

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Federal Update for February 9, 2011

The U.S. House Appropriations Committee released this morning (February 9) an initial list of 70 programs that would be targeted for cuts in the next continuing resolution (CR) that expires March 4.  The total cuts would be more than $74 billion below the President's budget request for FY2011.  The press release from the committee notes that the list is not complete.

The list includes a number of agencies and programs of great interest to higher education such as:
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH):  $1 billion below request (virtually level-funded when compared to FY2010)
  • National Science Foundation (NSF):  $139 million below request (an increase of approximately $360 million over FY2010)
  • Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science:  $1.1 billion below request (approximately $900 million below FY2010)
  • DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy:  $899 million below request
  • DOE Nuclear Energy:  $169 million below request
  • DOE Fossil Energy Research:  $31 million below request
  • Agricultural research:  $246 million below request ("agricultural research" is not defined by the committee in the list)
  • NASA:  $379 million below request
  • National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Humanities (NEH):  $6 million below request each (NEH figure is $14 million below FY2010)
  • NOAA:  $336 million below request (an increase of $481 million above FY2010)
  • U.S. Geological Service (USGS):  $27 million below request (virtually level funded when compared to FY2010)
The current list of 70 programs targeted is available  It appears that the total amount of the proposed cuts on this initial list is approximately $25 billion (approximately $25 billion below the Administration budget request for FY2011).   House leaders expect to begin floor consideration of the FY11 funding bill the week of February 14;  President Obama's FY12 budget will be released on Monday, February 14.  Further, "Politico" reports that even as the House moves forward with its FY11 budget plan, a bipartisan group of Senators is working on a 10-year deficit reduction plan that would include not only discretionary spending cuts but also tax and entitlement reform.  

The Senate on February 2 voted down a Republican effort to repeal the health care law.  The party-line vote on repeal was 47 to 51.  The vote came during consideration of the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act (S. 223) and followed the January 9 House vote to repeal the law.  The Senate did agree, by a vote of 81 to 17, to repeal the health care law's new 1099 tax reporting requirement, which has been widely opposed by businesses—and organizations like universities—as unduly burdensome.  "Politico" reports that the House seems unlikely to "move on the legislation immediately," though the Ways and Means Committee plans to consider its own 1099 repeal "soon."
Proposed rules issued by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on January 6 to implement provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Pub.L. 111-203) could affect some university employees and board members.  Individuals covered by the proposed rules would be subject to significant disclosure requirements, including making public financial and employment information.  An analysis by the National Association of College and University Business Officers notes that the proposed rules would establish a process for individuals and firms that act as "municipal advisors" to register with the SEC and the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board if they provide "advice" to the municipal entity on:  the issuance of municipal securities, entering into swap transactions, or investment strategies relating to state or municipal funds.  The proposed rules, however, do not define what constitutes "advice."  
Moreover, the proposed rules raise the specter that appointed board members of a municipal bond issuer or other municipal entity that invests governmental funds—such as a public college or university—may be required to register as municipal advisors.  Although not specifically discussed, the proposed rules also could be interpreted to require that trustees and certain employees of conduit borrowers of municipal bond proceeds (including independent colleges and universities) register if they provide "advice" to such borrowers relating to the issuance of the municipal security or a related swap transaction, or investment strategy relating to the municipal bond proceeds.  Individuals covered by the new definition of "municipal advisor" would be subject to new disclosure requirements, including financial and employment disclosures.  The information gathered would be publicly available.  The UW System is analyzing the proposed rule for comments, which are due on February 22.  
The U.S. Department of Education has launched a web site providing access to key national and state education data, highlighting the progress being made at every level of the education system.  This first version of the U.S. Education Dashboard ( contains a set of 16 indicators, ranging from student participation in early learning through completion of postsecondary education, as well as indicators on teachers and leaders and equity.  This version also includes a section which supplies data on whether subgroups are performing sufficiently.  

Recently, President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Dr. Jill Biden announced nearly 50 commitments by federal agencies responding to the President's new directive to establish a coordinated and comprehensive federal approach to supporting military families.  "Strengthening Our Military Families: Meeting America's Commitment" ( details these commitments, grouped under four strategic priorities: (1) enhancing the well-being and psychological health of the military family; (2) ensuring excellence in military children's education and development, (3) developing career and educational opportunities for military spouses, and (4) increasing child care availability and quality throughout the Armed Forces.  The Department of Education will make supporting military families one of its supplemental priorities for discretionary grant programs.  This priority, when applied, will favor grant applications that meet the unique needs of military-connected students.

(AAU, APLU, U.S. Department of Education and the UW System Office of Federal Relations contributed to this report.)