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Washington Update: Innovation & Patent Acts; Global Food Security; and More

APLU is continuing to advocate to protect university technology transfer on both the Innovation Act in the House and the Patent Act in the Senate. APLU also joined several associations in support of the Global Food Security Act. The House of Representatives passed the Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations bill and America COMPETES Reauthorization. Finally, the Veteran’s Administration will allow states more time to comply with the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act.

Innovation Act Markup & Patent Act

Before the House Judiciary Committee marks up H.R. 9, the Innovation Act, the Committee released a manager’s amendment, which unfortunately does not address APLU’s concerns on mandatory, presumptive fee-shifting, or involuntary joinder. APLU, the Association of American Universities (AAU), and other higher education associations released a statement expressing continued concerns with the legislation.

The Senate Judiciary Committee last week marked up the PATENT Act, S. 1137. In advance of the mark up, APLU and AAU issued a statement praising the sponsors’ inclusive process and improvements made in the legislation. Of note, a manager’s amendment clarified that the fee shifting provision places the burden on the prevailing party. The manager’s amendment also included language providing that a judge may consider undue economic hardship to an institution of higher education as a consideration for not awarding attorney fees to the prevailing party. University research foundations are not explicitly mentioned. Additionally, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) offered an amendment that would extend micro-entity status (discounted USPTO fees) to university research foundations and clarify how universities are eligible.

APLU Joins Others in Expressing Support for the Senate Global Food Security Act

APLU joined 64 other organizations engaged in efforts to end global hunger, malnutrition, and extreme poverty in signing a statement of support of the Global Food Security Act of 2015. This legislation, introduced by Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Bob Casey (D-PA), would authorize appropriations through 2021 to carry out international development assistance programs aimed at addressing global food insecurity and hunger.

House Approves FY2016 CJS Appropriations Bill

On June 3, The House of Representatives passed the FY2016 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations bill (H.R.2578) on a mostly party-line vote of 242 to 183. This legislation would provide $7.4 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF), $50 million above the FY2015 level. The $50 million increase would be solely directed to Research and Related Activities (R&RA). The report to accompany this legislation would direct NSF to “ensure that Mathematical and Physical Sciences; Computer and Information Science and Engineering; Engineering; and Biological Sciences comprise no less than 70 percent of the funding within R&RA.” This would exclude the Geosciences and Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences directorates. By some estimates this would be a cut of $250 million, or 16 percent, for these two directorates.

Further information on funding levels in the bill can be found in APLU’s appropriations chart.

The White House issued a statement of administrative policy strongly opposing the legislation, which they write “drastically underfunds critical investments in research and development.”

House Passes America COMPETES Reauthorization

The House of Representatives passed the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R.1806), a two-year reauthorization of the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), some Department of Energy (DOE) offices and programs, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

This legislation would provide an increased authorization for NSF over FY2015 levels by about 4 percent, largely at the expense of the DoE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), which would face large cuts to its authorization levels. Within NSF, the legislation would authorize funding at the directorate level, which APLU opposed, because it would promote the politicization of research priorities. The bill would cut the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) directorate by about 45 percent below the FY2015 enacted levels, and would cut the Geosciences Directorate by about 8 percent below FY2015 enacted levels. Funding levels in the bill would be same for FY2016 and FY2017.

Within the Department of Energy title, this legislation would authorize ARPA-E at $140 million for FY2016 and FY2017, a cut of $140 million from the FY2015 enacted level of $280 million, and $185 million below the President’s FY2016 request of $325 million. The Office of Science would receive an increase, and would be authorized at $5.3 billion, consistent with the President’s FY2016 request, and above the FY2015 enacted level of $5.1 billion.

The House failed to adopt a substitute amendment offered by House Science Committee Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) that would have been a five-year authorization and would have included a five percent increase each year for NSF, NIST, and the DOE Office of Science and ARPA-E.

The Obama administration issued a Statement of Administration Policy opposing the legislation.

VA Announces Waiver to Give States More Time to Comply with Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act

On May 15, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced a waiver of Section 702 of the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act to allow more states to come into compliance. The waiver will give states an additional six months to come into compliance while still allowing students to receive their GI Bill benefits. The VA is also requesting that states submit their plans to become compliant to the VA by June 15, 2015.

  • Council on Governmental Affairs

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