Government Relations

Government Relations Legislative Update

Government Relations Legislative Update

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

Monday, June 13, 2011

Federal Update for June 13

Both chambers meet today, Monday, June 13.  The House will consider the FY12 Military Construction-Veterans Affairs appropriations bill.  The Senate will resume consideration of the Economic Development Act reauthorization (S. 782).  

In light of worsening economic news, the bipartisan group of lawmakers convened by Vice President Joe Biden to develop a short-term deficit reduction plan has agreed to intensify its negotiations.  Until this week, it had seemed likely that a deal would not be struck much before the August 2 deadline set by the Treasury Department for raising the debt ceiling.  But the Washington Post reports that lawmakers in both parties now see a quick resolution of the talks "as the best medicine for a shaky economy."  Negotiators have agreed "to pick up the pace of the talks, with three sessions scheduled for next week, in hopes of presenting the framework of an agreement to President Obama and congressional leaders by the end of the month."  Among potential areas for compromise, the Administration has offered "a plan to limit the value of itemized deductions for the wealthiest households."

National Journal Daily reports that the group of five Senators working on a longer term deficit reduction package continues to meet and discuss budget options.  Senators Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Mark Warner (D-VA) said the group is shooting to cut the deficit by $4.7 trillion over 10 years through a combination of spending cuts, entitlement program changes, and tax revenue growth.  This would exceed the $4 trillion in savings proposed by the President's fiscal commission, on whose report the Senators' discussions are based.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) said this week that his panel might be close to marking up a FY12 budget resolution.  He postponed consideration of a package in mid-May after committee Democrats—including Independent Bernard Sanders of Vermont—could not agree on a plan.  Republican members have not been involved in the latest negotiations. reports that Senator Conrad's re-crafted proposal would still aim to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years, but with fewer spending cuts and more tax increases than his earlier draft.

Meanwhile, since the House passed its own FY12 budget resolution on April 15, the House Appropriations Committee continues marking up its FY12 funding bills based on that blueprint.  The panel plans to hold full committee markups of the Defense appropriations bill on June 14, and the Energy and Water bill on June 15.  

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-VA), chair of the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, has introduced legislation (H.R. 2117) to repeal state authorization and credit hour provisions of the program integrity rules published by the Department of Education.  The rules are scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2011.  The bill also would prohibit the Secretary of Education from promulgating or enforcing any regulation or rule that defines the term "credit hour" for any purpose under the Higher Education Act.

The two provisions have been strongly opposed by a majority of the higher education community, including the Wisconsin Technical College System, the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and the UW System, as an unwarranted expansion of federal authority.  The state authorization provision is viewed as a significant intrusion into prerogatives properly reserved to the states.  The credit hour provision would establish a federal definition of credit hour, which institutions believe could open the door to federal interference in core academic decisions related to the curriculum.    

The full House Education and the Workforce Committee will mark up H.R. 2117 Wednesday, June 15.  

The Supreme Court on June 6 issued its opinion in the Stanford v. Roche technology transfer case, deciding against Stanford University on a 7 to 2 vote.  The opinion was written by Chief Justice John Roberts; Justice Stephen Breyer wrote a dissenting opinion, joined by Justice Ruth Ginsberg.  This was an important case concerning the interpretation of the Bayh-Dole Act.  
(AAU and the UW System Office of Federal Relations contributed to this report.)