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AAU WEEKLY WRAP-UP

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May 23, 2014

CONTENTS
CONGRESSIONAL SCHEDULE NEW
BUDGET, APPROPRIATIONS, AND TAX ISSUES
Senate Appropriations Committee Approves FY15 Subcommittee Allocations, Two Bills NEW
OTHER CONGRESSIONAL ISSUES
House Science Committee Begins Markup of FIRST Act UPDATED
Op-Eds Express Concerns about FIRST Act
Senator Leahy Removes Patent Reform from Judiciary Committee’s Agenda
University Associations and Innovation Alliance Applaud Leahy Action on Patent Bill
EXECUTIVE BRANCH
COGR and AAU Submit Comments to NIH on Use of Animals in Research


CONGRESSIONAL SCHEDULE NEW

The House and Senate met today in pro forma session, with no votes. The House will return to session on Wednesday, May 28. The Senate will be in recess next week, returning to regular session on Monday, June 2.

The House is scheduled to take up the FY15 Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill (H.R. 4660) next Wednesday, May 28, under an open rule. When the Senate returns to session on June 2, it will take up executive branch appointments, including that of Sylvia Mathews Burwell to be Secretary of Health and Human Services.


BUDGET, APPROPRIATIONS, AND TAX ISSUES

SENATE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE APPROVES FY15 SUBCOMMITTEE ALLOCATIONS, TWO BILLS NEW

The Senate Appropriations Committee on May 22 approved the FY15 funding allocations for its 12 subcommittees—the so-called 503(b)s—as well as the FY15 Military Construction-Veterans Affairs and Agriculture appropriations bills.

The panel’s Commerce-Justice-Science Subcommittee will mark up its FY15 funding bill on Wednesday, June 5; the Transportation-HUD Subcommittee will mark up its bill the same day.

The funding allocations were approved on a party line vote, with Republican members voting against the plan, reports CQ.com.


OTHER CONGRESSIONAL ISSUES

HOUSE SCIENCE COMMITTEE BEGINS MARKUP OF FIRST ACT UPDATED

The House Science, Space, and Technology (SST) Committee on May 21 began markup of the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology Act (FIRST Act), but will not complete work on the bill until next week.

During consideration of H.R. 4186, the committee debated 28 amendments. Roll call votes on 15 of those amendments have been postponed until next week, possibly Wednesday or Thursday.

One of the amendments approved by voice vote during the session modifies public access language that was a major concern of the research university community. The amendment, offered by Reps. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), significantly revises language in the original bill that would have extended to two years or beyond the period between the publication of the results of federally funded research and their being made available freely to the public. The Sensenbrenner-Lofgren amendment would reduce the embargo period to 12 months, with a mechanism for extending the embargo up to six months.

OP-EDS EXPRESS CONCERNS ABOUT FIRST ACT

University leaders expressed deep concerns about the FIRST Act in two op-eds that appeared on May 21 in the Washington Post and in the on-line version of Scientific American.

In the Washington Post, Cornell University President David Skorton argued that the FIRST Act contains two flaws that could “limit its effectiveness in producing future discoveries and the understanding to make use of them.” One is a substantial reduction in funding for social science research, the other is the addition of a “potentially devastating layer of review to ensure any research is ‘worthy of federal funding’ and ‘in the national interest.’”

In Scientific American, AAU President Hunter Rawlings and Association of Public and Land-grant University (APLU) President Peter McPherson said that the FIRST Act fails to live up to the vision of the America COMPETES Act, which it partially reauthorizes, and could widen the nation’s innovation deficit, the difference between what the U.S. is investing in research and higher education and what it needs to invest to remain the world’s innovation leader.

The op-ed is paired with an op-ed by SST Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX). The Chairman wrote that the FIRST Act appropriately refocuses limited NSF funds on engineering, biology, mathematics, and computer science and that it is the role of Congress “to set priorities for research that are in the national interest.”

SENATOR LEAHY REMOVES PATENT REFORM FROM JUDICIARY COMMITTEE’S AGENDA

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) on May 21 announced that the committee would not hold a markup of patent litigation legislation (S. 1720) the next day, and that he was removing the measure from the committee’s agenda.

Senator Leahy said in his announcement:

“…Unfortunately, there has been no agreement on how to combat the scourge of patent trolls on our economy without burdening the companies and universities who rely on the patent system every day to protect their inventions. We have heard repeated concerns that the House-passed bill went beyond the scope of addressing patent trolls, and would have severe unintended consequences on legitimate patent holders who employ thousands of Americans.”

He added:

“If the stakeholders are able to reach a more targeted agreement that focuses on the problem of patent trolls, there will be a path for passage this year and I will bring it immediately to the Committee.”

UNIVERSITY ASSOCIATIONS AND INNOVATION ALLIANCE APPLAUD LEAHY ACTION ON PATENT BILL

The group of six higher education associations that have been working together on patent reform, including AAU, and the Innovation Alliance, on May 21 released a statement applauding Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) for delaying markup of the patent legislation. The organizations had been concerned that the latest language, shared in advance of the potential markup, would have overly burdened the legitimate enforcement of patents.

 

EXECUTIVE BRANCH

COGR AND AAU SUBMIT COMMENTS TO NIH ON USE OF ANIMALS IN RESEARCH

AAU and the Council on Governmental Relations (COGR) on May 15 submitted comments to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on proposed guidance on the meaning of “significant changes” in the use of animals in research.

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