OFFICE OF GOVERNMENT RELATIONS
Legislation and Policy Report
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congress returned to Washington during the week of June 7 following a week long Memorial Day recess. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has indicated that he hopes to take a comprehensive energy bill to the Senate floor in July and has asked committee chairs to provide legislative language relating to the Gulf of Mexico oil leak for inclusion in the measure.
The Senate also is expected to take up its version of the America COMPETES Act reauthorization. It is expected that in order to secure Republican support, the measure is likely to be a streamlined version without the additional provisions in the House bill, HR 5116, which was passed at the end of May. The House bill retains the full funding authorization levels for five years for the National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Energy Office of Science (DOE OS), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
Also on the to-do list in June was financial institutions' reform legislation. The President's Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues is scheduled to meet in Washington, DC on July 8-9. A copy of the agenda can be found here.
1. Appropriations and Budget:FY2011—During the week of June 21 House leaders announced their intention to include a "deeming resolution" setting the FY2011 spending cap as part of the war supplemental spending bill being considered by the House. It is reported that the cap will be $7 billion lower than the president's budget request and $3 billion lower than the budget proposal approved by the Senate Budget Committee earlier this year. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) has indicated that the Senate also will set the spending cap through a deeming resolution. However, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI) has indicated that the Senate cap will match the Senate Budget Committee's proposed funding level, and not the House's.
Meanwhile, the House Homeland Security subcommittee approved by voice vote its spending bill, the first of 12 annual spending bills to be considered by either chamber. It was reported that the measure provides $43.9 billion in discretionary spending for the Department, which is a $1.1 billion increase over FY2010 and $300 million above the President's request. It also was reported that some of the twelve FY2011 funding bills could be considered on the House floor during July, but, few, if any, will be considered by the full Senate prior to the start of the new fiscal year on October 1.
Rep. John Spratt (D-SC) introduced H.R. 5454, which would give the President 45 days to examine spending bills after they are signed into law and submit to Congress a list of proposed rescissions (deletions of funding for specific programs), which would then be voted on as package by Congress with amendment. The "expedited rescission" bills would be fast-tracked through Congress and would require only a majority vote in both chambers to pass. Although chances of both houses passing the Spratt bill are problematic, similar proposals have arisen in five different bills between the two houses, and if passed, such legislation could have significant implications for earmarks or particular R&D programs.
FY2012—It was reported that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued two memos this week emphasizing fiscal discipline as agencies prepare FY2012 budget proposals. The budget guidance document from OMB Director Peter Orszag directs agencies to submit a budget request that is five percent below the discretionary total for the agency in the president's FY2011 budget. The memo instructs agencies to "restructure their operations strategically," as opposed to proposing an across-the-board cut.
The second memo is signed by Mr. Orszag and Rahm Emanual, White House Chief of Staff. It directs agencies to identify "programs and subprograms that have the lowest impact on your agency's mission and constitute at least five percent of your agency's discretionary budget." The list should be included with the agency's budget submission for FY2012, "but is a separate exercise from the budget reductions necessary to meet the target for your agency's FY2012 discretionary budget request."
2. NASA: James Webb Space Telescope - Following an April mission-critical design requirements' review of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), project officials indicated that additional testing would be needed prior to the JWST's launch, slated for summer 2014. Led by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, JWST is an infrared telescope with a 6.5 meter foldable mirror and a deployable sunshield the size of a tennis court. An Ariane 5 rocket provided by the European Space Agency is expected to launch the telescope to a gravitationally stable spot 1.5 million kilometers from Earth. Project officials have stated that the Mission Critical Design review conducted by an independent review board confirmed JWST's design meets all science and engineering requirements for its mission, though its large size makes testing a challenge. Should additional testing be required, NASA will need additional funding for the project.
Report on NASA's science labs - The National Research Council (NRC) released a report indicating that the agency's laboratory capabilities at its six research centers have declined during the past five years, due in large part to inadequate funding for equipment, maintenance and facilities upgrades. The report attributes the decline to budget reductions for fundamental research initiatives over the past several years that have led to inadequate equipment and support, while scientists defer research and spend the majority of their time writing grants in search of funding to maintain laboratory equipment and facilities, rather than engaged in scientific inquiry. Although NASA categorizes the overall condition of its facilities, including its research centers, as "fairly good," the report found that deferred maintenance over the past five years has grown substantially from $1.77 billion to $2.46 billion from 2004 through 2009, "presenting a staggering repair and maintenance bill for the future."
Constellation - NASA Administrator Charles Bolden notified Congress that the agency is facing a $991 million shortfall for FY2010 after taking contract termination liability costs into account, and NASA will stop funding the Ares 1 first stage and reduce funding of other Constellation programs. While this action directly contradicts a provision in the FY2010 omnibus appropriations bill, which prohibits NASA from terminating any element of the Constellation program, the agency has justified the cuts using the Anti-Deficiency Act, interpreting it to require contractors to withhold funds to cover contract termination costs. A bill (S. 3180) introduced by Senator George Lemieux (R-FL) in March would specifically bar the use of the Anti-Deficiency Act as a basis for terminating Constellation contracts, but it has been stalled in the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.
3. National Institutes of Health: Budget concerns -The $8 billion in National Institutes of Health (NIH) research grants directed to extramural researchers through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) is scheduled to run out in 2011 and when that occurs, it could cause a nasty shock. The result could be the lowest grant funding rates in NIH history and the academic job market will be distressed. NIH is projecting to fund approximately 35,202 grants in 2011, a drop of 4,377, but the exact size of the drop will depend on several factors. The first is NIH's final FY2011 budget, which usually is larger than the president's request. Various groups are pushing for more than President Obama's proposed $32 billion for the agency, including Research!America, which is pushing for a 13.5 percent increase to $35 billion. Another factor to consider will be the number of research grant applications submitted to the agency, which had seen a leveling off after a peak of 47,500 in 2007.
4. National Science Foundation: The National Science Foundation (NSF) has released preliminary results of its first Business R&D and innovation Survey (BRDIS), developed in collaboration with the Census Bureau. Unlike previous NSF surveys of industrial R&D, BRDIS includes separate data on domestic and foreign operations. The survey covered companies located in the US, both US-owned and US-affiliates of foreign firms that have R&D activities. The agency is reporting that these firms performed $330 billion in worldwide R&D, of which $292 billion or 88 percent was for company-performed R&D. Of that, $234 billion was performed in the US and $58 billion at facilities outside the US. The sector that performed the largest amount of R&D outside the US was pharmaceuticals and medicines. For additional information, visit the website
5. Patents: The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is seeking public comment on a proposed "Three-Track" examination initiative that would provide applicants greater control over the speed with which their applications are examined. An applicant may request prioritized examination, traditional examination under current procedures, or controlled delay for up to 30 months prior to docketing for examination. A public meeting will be held on July 20 at 1:30 p.m. at the USPTO's Madison Building in Alexandria, VA. Those interested in attending must register by July 16. Written comments must be submitted by August 20, 2010. Additional details are available here and the Federal Register notice is available online.
6. Research: Stem cell guidelines- The National Academies have released their final Guidelines for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research, an update designed to take into account the Obama Administration's stem cell policy. To access the guidelines, visit the website.
The International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) has launched a website to provide information to individuals to help them evaluate stem cell treatments and the facilities that offer them world-wide. Visit the website
Administration's program to measure R&D impact- The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced a new multi-agency initiative for measuring the impact of federal research and development (R&D) investments on jobs and the economy. The initiative, "Science and Technology for America's Reinvestment: Measuring the Effect on Research and Innovation Competitiveness and Science" (STAR-METRICS), will be managed in two phases. The first phase will calculate employment generated from stimulus funds using university records, and the second phase will measure economic growth, workforce outcomes, scientific knowledge, and social outcomes, using a broader set of records. In the future, OSTP would like to the system to cover the full range of federal R&D funding, not just stimulus investments. For additional information, visit the website.
7. Odds and Ends: Energy R&D- A small group of top business leaders including Bill Gates of Microsoft, Jeff Immelt of General Electric, and Norm Augustine, former CEO of Lockheed Martin, have called on the federal government to more than triple its investment on energy R&D. Noting that the U.S. cannot reach current emission reduction goals with present technology or today's political environment, Mr. Gates stated that the nation needs "an immense breakthrough" in energy technology, and that the only way to attain such a breakthrough is to invest much more money in the problem. The report, which compares the $5 billion federal annual investment in R&D with NIH's $30 billion budget and the $80 billion invested in military R&D, is supported by an appendix with detailed recommendations on where to focus the increased spending. Key recommendations:
Cybersecurity- Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME), Chairman and Ranking Member respectively, of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, introduce S. 3480, Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010. The bill's goal is to strengthen and improve cybersecurity responses in both the federal government and private sector. It would create an Office of Cyberspace Policy in the White House led by a Senate confirmed director, who would be charged with developing national cybersecurity policy and strategy. The bill also would create a National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications (NCCC) within the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate and lead federal programs and activities to implement the national cybersecurity strategy to protect public and private computer and communication networks against cyber attacks.
America COMPETES Bill- It is reported that the Senate Commerce Committee will mark up its version of the America COMPETES reauthorization bill on July 15. The Senate measure is expected to be a three-year reauthorization bill that includes few, if any, new programs. It appears that the bill, which reauthorizes spending for basic research programs at the National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Energy Office of Science (DOE OS), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will sustain the budget doubling trajectory at the three agencies, but possibly over 11 years rather than the 10 years in the House-passed bill.
The version of the bill, H.R. 5116, approved by the House in May is a five-year, $84 billion package that authorizes significant funding increases for the three agencies, including the DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. The measure also increases support for undergraduate and graduate education programs in science, technology, energy and mathematics.
The original America COMPETES Act, which expires at the end of FY2010, was approved with bipartisan support and signed into law in 2007.
8. Comings and Goings: Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) passed away on June 28th. The longest serving member of Congress in history, Mr. Byrd was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1952 and to the Senate in 1958.
Dennis Blair, U. S. Director of National Intelligence, has resigned. President Obama has nominated Lt. General James Clapper, Jr. as his successor.
Cora B. Marrett is serving as the Acting Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) until Subra Suresh, Dean of Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is confirmed by the Senate as the new Director. Former Director Arden Bement departed the agency on June 1.
George Whitesides, who stepped down as chief of staff to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, will become the first CEO of Virgin Galactic, a commercial space venture in New Mexico.
Peter Orszag, director of the White House Office of Budget and Management, has announced his intention to step down; however, he has not provided an exact date.
The General Assembly wrapped up business for the summer on June 4. Members are not expected to return until after Labor Day.
1. Legislation: HB 519, Casino Gambling- In the early morning hours of June 4 the General Assembly completed work on HB 519, implementing language contained in the constitutional amendment authorizing casino gambling in Ohio that was passed in November 2009. The bill included language allowing a phased opening of the Cleveland casino utilizing the Higbee Building; an income tax offset for gambling losses starting in tax year 2013; and provisions on charity bingo, including increased games per week, increased prize limits, and increased number of organizations that can use the same facility.
SB 181, Budget Corrections - The bill includes non-General Revenue Fund appropriations for the Casino Control Commission and appropriates $100 million from the casino licensure funds for the workforce programs as directed in the constitutional amendment allowing establishment of the four gambling casinos. $50 million will be directed to the existing co-op/internship program at the Board of Regents (OBR). The remaining $50 million also will be directed to OBR with $25 million for public higher education, career tech and Joint Vocational School (JVS) workforce development programs in urban areas and $25 million for public higher education, career tech and JVS workforce development programs in rural areas.
HJR15/SJR5, Legislative Redistricting Reform - This issue remains unfinished. Earlier in the year each chamber introduced resolutions to amend the Ohio Constitution to revise the redistricting process for General Assembly districts. Negotiations between the House and Senate stalled, but state Senator Jon Husted (R-Ketttering), sponsor of the Senate Resolution, has stepped up to take the lead on negotiations. Some progress has been made and there appears to be agreement on the following:
Senate President Bill Harris commented that he may call the Senate back over the summer if a final compromise can be reached.
2. Budget Planning and Management Commission: The bipartisan, bicameral Budget Commission met on June 29 to begin the lengthy task of preparing recommendations to the next General Assembly and Governor. Created in the FY2010-11 Biennial Operating Budget Bill, the Commission is charged with completing a study and making recommendations to provide relief to state budget pressures, including the looming projected $6-$8 billion revenue shortfall.
The hearing featured Legislative Services Commission (LSC) staff members and covered the status of state revenues and expenditures. LSC will be crunching numbers for the Commission as its work moves forward. Legislators at the first hearing indicated that nothing is off the table when considering balancing the next budget. The Commission members emphasized that their work is not intended to write or debate the next budget, but to create a "menu of options" for the governor and budget committees in the House and Senate.
The Commission is chaired by House Finance Committee Chairman Vernon Sykes (D-Akron) with Senator Shannon Jones (R-Springboro) serving as vice-chair. Other members include Representatives Ron Amstutz (R-Wooster) and Jay Goyal (D-Mansfield) and Senators Dale Miller (D-Cleveland) and Chris Widener (R-Springfield). The Commission is scheduled to meet again on July 7 and is expected to submit its report to state leadership by November 30.
3. State Ballot Initiative: LetOhioVote.org, an organization that had supported a statewide referendum opposing installing slot machines at Ohio's seven racetracks has pulled it from the November ballot. Organizers cited last November's approval of casino gambling by Ohio voters and the Governor's plan to ask the courts to address the plan (giving the Ohio Lottery authority to authorize slot machines at racetracks) as the reasons to withdraw the referendum.
4. Other States: Animal research- A Wisconsin County Circuit Court judge has appointed a special prosecutor to determine whether nine scientists have violated a state law that prohibits killing animals by decompression, a technique formerly used in euthanasia. The scientists have been conducting decompression sickness research for the Office of Naval Research utilizing sheep, but believed that the state law exempted scientific research. If found guilty, the scientists could be charged criminally, fined or sentenced to jail. The research has been suspended. For additional information visit the website.
Anti-evolution legislation- As the South Carolina legislature adjourned earlier this month, two anti-evolution bills officially failed to pass the committee stage. Both were sponsored in the state Senate by perennial evolution challenger Republican Senator Michael Fair. S. 875 was a typical "academic freedom" style bill and S. 873 would have required the state to maintain religious neutrality in curricula with respect to the "origins of mankind." Additional information on both pieces of legislation is available online.
LOCALLY... The Cuyahoga County Democratic Party elected attorney Stuart Garson as chairman. Mr. Garson succeeds Interim Chair Patricia Britt, who stepped in last July when then Chairman Jimmy DiMora resigned. The Party also endorsed Lakewood Mayor Ed Fitzgerald as its preferred candidate for Cuyahoga County Executive in the September primary election.
Victor Voinovich, Sr. announced that he is a candidate for Cuyahoga County Executive, joining former state Representative Matt Dolan in the Republican primary race. This will be Mr. Voinovich's first run at political office. Mr. Dolan was endorsed by the Cuyahoga Republican Party as its preferred candidate for Cuyahoga County Executive in the September primary election.