Government Relations

Government Relations Legislative Update

Government Relations Legislative Update

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

Friday, June 8, 2012

Federal Update for June 8

The U. S. Senate is proceeding with consideration of S. 3240, the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Pat Roberts (R-KS) are currently working on an agreement on amendments to the bill and will continue to do so over the weekend. Votes are not expected to begin this week, and the Senate hopes to complete the $969 billion Farm bill by the end of next week.  The White House put out a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) in support of S. 3240 and included language on the Administration "working with the Congress to structure … the proposed Research Foundation in ways that will maximize and facilitate agricultural research."  The Chairman's bill includes a provision to reauthorize the capacity-building grant program for Non-Land Grant College of Agriculture, advocated for by the UW System.

By a vote of 255-165 yesterday afternoon, the House passed a $32.1 billion FY2013 Energy and Water Development appropriations measure, HR 5325.  A few amendments were offered that made across-the-board spending cuts, but they were rejected. View a list of amendments adopted by the House.

Also yesterday, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) introduced S. 3267, the American Opportunity Tax Credit Permanence and Consolidation Act of 2012, legislation intended to make a number of improvements to a host of higher education tax vehicles.  Among others, the bill includes a provision that would combine the current American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) and Lifetime Learning Credit into one permanent AOTC up to $3,000 per year.  The legislation would also expand the list of eligible expenses for AOTC, increase the income phase-out levels, and replace the current cap on the number of years of eligibility.  In addition, the bill would maintain the current partial refundability of the credit and better coordinate the interaction between the AOTC and the Pell Grant program.

Reps. Kevin Yoder (R-KS), Michael Grimm (R-NY), Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), Robert Dold (R-IL), Jared Polis (D-CO), Russ Carnahan (D-MO), and Devin Nunes (R-CA) introduced the Startup Act 2.0, H.R. 5893, in the House. It is the companion bill to the Senate bill, "Startup 2.0" (S. 3217), which fused the small business Startup Act legislation, S. 1965, introduced earlier by Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Jerry Moran (R-KS), with the business-tax and immigration bill, S. 1866, introduced by Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Marco Rubio (R-FL).  Startup Act 2.0 is aimed at reforming high-skilled visa policies, create opportunities for startup businesses with tax incentives, and accelerating the commercialization of university research.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued a ruling on the appeal filed by the Department of Education (ED) in response to a lower court's decision on several parts of its "Program Integrity" regulations issued in 2010.  The original lawsuit was filed by the association representing the for-profit higher education sector.  As part of its decision, the appellate court ruled that ED did not follow the correct procedures in issuing the rules with respect to its regulations on state authorization and distance education programs.  View a copy of the ruling.  Although the court may have ruled on ED's state authorization regulation, it has no bearing on the rules and efforts at the state level.  State governments continue to enforce and develop their own policies with respect to the offering of education program across state lines.

The National Research Council (NRC) will publicly release their study, Research Universities and the Future of America: Ten Breakthrough Actions Vital to Our Prosperity and Security on June 14, 2012, at 11:00 am ET. The release event will be held in the Lecture Room of the National Academy of Sciences building at 2101 Constitution Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20418.  This is the report, requested by Congress in June 2009, aimed at examining "the health and competitiveness of our nation's research universities and their strong partnership with government and industry that is critical to the nation's prosperity and national goals." The request asked for "the top ten actions that Congress, the federal government, state governments, research universities, and others could take to assure the ability of the American research university to maintain the excellence in research and doctoral education needed to help the United States compete, prosper, and achieve national goals for health, energy, the environment, and security in the global community of the 21st century."

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a report last month on The Budget Control Act of 2011: The Effects on Spending and Budget Deficit When the Automatic Spending Cuts are Implemented. Please note that the various sequester analyses being published from organizations and think tanks may have varying baselines and budget assumptions.

(APLU and the UW System Office of Federal Relations contributed to this update.)