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AAU WEEKLY WRAP-UP

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July 18, 2014

CONTENTS
BUDGET, APPROPRIATIONS, AND TAX ISSUES
Senate Appropriations Committee Increases Basic Research Funding UPDATED     
House Appropriations Committee Rescinds NEH FY15 Budget Cut
House Approves Package of Five Charitable Giving Tax Provisions UPDATED
Higher Education Community Expresses Concerns about Black-Davis Tax Credit Bill NEW
OTHER CONGRESSIONAL ISSUES
Senate Commerce Committee Holds Hearing on Value of Federally Funded Research NEW
Senate Passes Seven-Year Extension of Terrorism Act Insurance NEW
EXECUTIVE BRANCH
Associations Submit Comments on Net Neutrality NEW
OTHER
New Golden Goose Awardees’ Game Theory Research Made FCC Spectrum Auctions Possible NEW

BUDGET, APPROPRIATIONS, AND TAX ISSUES

SENATE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE INCREASES BASIC RESEARCH FUNDING UPDATED

The Senate Appropriations Committee on July 17 approved the FY15 Defense appropriations bill, providing strong support for basic research accounts that would be significantly cut in the House-approved bill and the Administration’s budget. (See AAU DOD budget chart for details.) Although the Senate bill would cut funding for other Defense research and development programs, the measure would increase the budget for basic research (6.1) programs by $108 million, or five percent, to $2.27 billion.

Compared to FY14 funding, the Senate bill would cut overall appropriations for Defense research, development, testing & evaluation by $428 million, to $62.6 billion; Defense science and technology (S&T) would be cut by $146 million, or 1.2 percent, to $12 billion. Within that total, applied research (6.2) would be cut by $50.5 million, or 1.1 percent, to $4.59 billion, and advanced technology development (6.3) would be reduced by $203 million, or 3.8 percent, to $5.17 billion.

HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE RESCINDS NEH FY15 BUDGET CUT

The House Appropriations Committee on July 15 approved an amendment to the FY15 Interior and Related Agencies appropriations bill that restored an $8 million cut in the budget for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) made at the subcommittee level. The rescission of the cut was made as part of Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert’s (R-CA) manager’s amendment. The FY15 funding level for NEH in the bill—and for its companion agency, the National Endowment of the Arts—is now set at its current FY14 funding level of $146 million.

In advance of the full committee markup, AAU issued a statement in opposition to the NEH funding reduction. Following full committee action, AAU tweeted a thank-you to Chairman Calvert and other members of the panel.

HOUSE APPROVES PACKAGE OF FIVE CHARITABLE GIVING TAX PROVISIONS UPDATED

The House on July 17 approved the America Gives More Act of 2014 (H.R. 4719), a package of five charitable giving tax provisions, which includes a permanent extension of the IRA Charitable Rollover. The IRA Rollover extension is supported strongly by the higher education community; a group of higher education associations, including AAU, sent a letter to all Members of the House on July 17 explaining the provision and urging them to extend it permanently.

The floor statement on H.R. 4719 by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) is available here. The Obama Administration has issued a Statement of Administration Policy opposing the bill because it includes no funding offsets for its estimated 10-year cost of $16 billion.

HIGHER EDUCATION COMMUNITY EXPRESSES CONCERNS ABOUT BLACK-DAVIS TAX CREDIT BILL NEW

A group of higher education associations, including AAU, has written to all Members of the House expressing concerns about the Student and Family Tax Simplification Act (H.R. 3393), which is expected to be considered on the House floor next week.

The letter notes that the legislation, introduced by Reps. Diane Black (R-TN) and Danny Davis (D-IL), contains a welcome consolidation and simplification of current higher education tax credits, as well as better coordination with the Pell Grant. The letter adds, however, that other proposed changes would harm many low- and middle-income students who benefit from current law, as well as graduate students and lifetime learners who use the current tax deduction or the Lifetime Learning Credit. As a result, it adds, “we cannot support the bill as currently written,” even with the improvements made during markup. The associations urge that the bill be further modified to ensure that students currently eligible for a federal tax benefit remain eligible for some benefit.

OTHER CONGRESSIONAL ISSUES

SENATE COMMERCE COMMITTEE HOLDS HEARING ON VALUE OF FEDERALLY FUNDED RESEARCH NEW

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation held a hearing on July 17 to review the federal government’s role in research and development (R&D) and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) said the hearing would help inform development of the committee’s reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act.

In his written opening statement, Chairman Rockefeller said his COMPETES bill “would make it clear that the United States is committed to leading the world in science and engineering. That means getting kids excited about STEM, funding a wide-range of research, and making sure that the best research results make it to the marketplace.”

The session—which was webcast—featured Vinton Cerf, co-founder of the Internet, Scientific American Editor-in-Chief Mariette DiChristina, former NSF Director Neal Lane, and Carnegie Mellon University Professor Stephen Fienberg. Their statements and others are on the Committee website.

HOUSE APPROVES FOUR SCIENCE COMMITTEE BILLS

The House on July 14 approved four science-related authorization bills with bipartisan support. Two of the measures are noncontroversial portions of Committee Chairman Lamar Smith’s (R-TX) larger bill, the FIRST Act (H.R. 4186), which the panel approved on May 28 on a party-line vote over the strong objections of many in the university research community, including AAU.

The two bills from the FIRST Act support international science and technology collaboration (H.R. 5029), and add computer science to the federal definition of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education (H.R. 5031). The third bill, the Research and Development Efficiency Act (H.R. 5056), was introduced by Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-IN). It calls for the National Science and Technology Council to conduct a comprehensive review of the regulatory burden of federally sponsored research. AAU issued a statement in support of Rep. Bucshon’s bill. A fourth Committee bill (H.R. 1786) approved by the House reauthorizes research on storm damage mitigation.

Another bill representing a third piece of the FIRST Act, to reauthorize the National Institute of Standards and Technology (H.R. 5035), was delayed and may be considered next week.

AAU remains opposed to the broader FIRST Act because we believe it lacks a vision for enhancing U.S. competitiveness through science and innovation; would significantly cut authorized funding for the social, behavioral, and economic sciences at NSF; and would add unnecessary new grant conditions that would circumvent peer review.

SENATE PASSES SEVEN-YEAR EXTENSION OF TERRORISM ACT INSURANCE NEW

The Senate on July 17 approved legislation (S. 2244) to renew for seven years the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA), which is set to expire this year. A group of higher education associations, including AAU, sent a letter to every Senator in advance of floor consideration urging them to approve the measure.

Earlier this year, the associations sent a similar letter to the House and Senate committees of jurisdiction detailing why reauthorization of TRIA is important to colleges and universities. They noted that more than a decade after the tragic events of September 11, American colleges and universities remain potential “soft targets” for terrorism. Through TRIA, they have been able to obtain adequate, reasonably priced insurance covering such potential events. Without TRIA, many colleges and universities would face the difficult choice of either forgoing terrorism insurance or purchasing more limited coverage at higher cost.

EXECUTIVE BRANCH

ASSOCIATIONS SUBMIT COMMENTS ON NET NEUTRALITY NEW

A group of 11 higher education and library groups, including AAU, today submitted detailed comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on the agency’s proposed rule on protecting and promoting the open Internet. On July 10, the organizations released a set of net neutrality principles which they said should form the basis of the FCC’s policy.

In today’s submission, the associations express concern that the proposed FCC rules “fall short of what is necessary to ensure that libraries, institutions of higher education and the public at large will have access to an open Internet.” They offer several suggestions for strengthening the rules, including the following:

 

  • the proposed open Internet rules should explicitly apply to public broadband Internet access service provided to libraries, institutions of higher education, and other public interest organizations;

 

  • the rules should prohibit “paid prioritization;”

 

  • the proposed rules should be technology-neutral and should apply equally to fixed and mobile services;

 

  • the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should adopt a re-defined “no-blocking” rule that bars public broadband Internet access providers from interfering with the consumer’s choice of content, applications, or services;

 

  • the FCC should strengthen the disclosure rules; and

 

  • the proposed ombudsman should be charged with protecting the interests of libraries and higher education institutions and other public interest organizations, in addition to consumers and small businesses.

 

OTHER

New Golden Goose Awardees’ Game Theory Research Made FCC Spectrum Auctions Possible NEW

Three economists, whose federally funded basic research on game theory and auctions enabled the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to begin auctioning spectrum licenses in 1994, are the latest recipients of the 2014 Golden Goose Award.

Robert Wilson, Paul Milgrom, and Preston McAfee will receive their awards on September 18 at the third annual Golden Goose Awards ceremony in Washington, DC, along with other 2014 awardees. The ceremony will be held at the Library of Congress, with science correspondent Miles O’Brien serving as master of ceremonies. Universities and the general public can follow the Award on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/GoldGooseAward.

The Golden Goose Award honors researchers whose federally funded research may not have seemed to have significant practical applications at the time it was conducted but has resulted in major economic or other benefits to society. The award was created in 2012 by a coalition of business, university, and scientific organizations—including AAU—who were responding to a proposal by Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) to create an honor to counter the false impression that odd-sounding research is not useful. Award recipients are selected by a panel of respected scientists and university research leaders.

Over the past 20 years, the FCC has held 87 auctions of portions of the electromagnetic spectrum that have earned the U.S. Treasury more than $60 billion and enabled the proliferation of wireless technologies. The basic auction process that the scientists developed has been used around the world not only for other nations’ spectrum auctions, but also for airport slots, telephone numbers, fishing quotas, emissions permits, and electricity and natural gas contracts.

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