July 23, 2014—There has been action in both the House and Senate on bills importance to APLU and its members.
Congress is continuing work on several issues before their expected August recess. The Senate has released a draft of the America COMPETES Reauthorization and has continued some work on appropriations bills. The House has voted to extend the IRA Charitable Rollover; passed appropriations bills and noncontroversial portions of the FIRST Act. In addition, the Senate confirmed Dr. Bro Adams as chair of the National Endowment of Humanities.
The Senate released a discussion draft of their version for reauthorizing the America COMPETES Act for five years. APLU is reviewing the bill and will send comments to the Senate Commerce Committee this week. The Senate Commerce Committee staff will review comments received by July 25, and plans to introduce legislation thereafter.
The House passed a package of tax related bills this month including, H.R. 4619, the Permanent IRA Charitable Contribution Act. The legislation would permanently extend the IRA charitable rollover, which expired at the end of 2013. Senate action is uncertain as Democrats object to the lack of an offset. The IRA charitable rollover allows taxpayers older than 70 ½ to donate up to $100,000 from IRAs to charitable organizations, including universities, without the withdrawals being considered taxable income.
In advance of the House of Representatives’ consideration of H.R. 3393, the Student and Family Tax Simplification Act, APLU and other higher education associations sent a letter to the full House expressing concerns with the bill’s impact on graduate and nontraditional students while also noting positive aspects of the legislation. The associations indicate we “cannot support the bill as currently written.”
On July 17, 2014, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the FY15 Department of Defense (DoD) Appropriations bill by voice vote. Of note, DoD Science and Technology, Basic Research (6.1) received a 5 percent increase over FY14 levels, and about $258 million above the President’s FY15 Budget Request.
The House Appropriations Committee approved the FY15 Interior and Environment spending bill by a vote of 29 to 19. During the markup, the full Committee approved an amendment that rescinded the $8 million funding cut for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) that the Subcommittee had included, and restored funding to the FY14 level of $146 million. An updated list of APLU FY15 funding priorities is available here.
The House of Representatives passed legislation, taken from noncontroversial portions of the FIRST Act. The House passed the STEM Education Act (H.R.5031) and the Research and Development Efficiency Act (H.R.5056). In addition, they passed the International Science and Technology Cooperation Act (H.R.5029). The STEM Education Act defines STEM Education to include computer science as a discipline.
This legislation also includes a section on Informal STEM Education, which gives authority to the National Science Foundation (NSF) Director to award grants to entities that research and develop innovative out-of-school STEM learning. This legislation also includes a section which would amend the NSF Noyce Master Teaching Fellowship Program to allow students with a bachelor’s degree working towards a Master’s degree the opportunity to participate.
The Research and Development Efficiency Act establishes a working group under the authority of the National Science and Technology Council to review federal regulations affecting research and research universities and look for ways to streamline and eliminate duplicative federal regulations.
The International Science and Technology Cooperation Act calls for the establishment of a body under the National Science and Technology Council aimed at identifying and coordinating international science and technology cooperation. To do this, the body would be responsible for identifying opportunities for new partnerships with international science and technology research, soliciting input and recommendations from non-Federal science and technology stakeholders, and reporting to Congress annually on their findings, among other responsibilities.
Dr. William “Bro” Adams, President of Colby College, was confirmed by the Senate to be the next Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The Chairman appointment is for a four-year term. Dr. Adams has been President of Colby College since 2000.