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Washington Update: House Passes A Flurry of Measures Before Summer Recess

House Passes the Global Food Security Act
In a vote of 369 to 53 in early July, the House passed S. 1252, the Global Food Security Act. The bipartisan measure requires the President to address global food security with a comprehensive strategy, and includes the important role U.S. universities play conducting international agricultural research and capacity building in partnership with developing nation institutions of higher education. APLU was actively engaged with key congressional offices and the Administration to develop the language specific to higher education.

The legislation was previously approved in the Senate and President Obama signed the measure into law on July 20, 2016.

APLU President Peter McPherson praised the measure’s passage, saying, “The Global Food Security Act is vitally important, which is why APLU has worked diligently to advocate for its passage. U.S. public universities represent the greatest concentration of intellectual capacity in the world, and this bill will help ensure institutions of higher education play their part in tackling world hunger, poverty and malnutrition.”

Read the full statement here.

House Approves Interior-Environment FY2017 Appropriations Bill
Last week, the House approved its FY2017 Interior and Environment appropriations bill by a vote of 231-196. This is the first time since 2009 that the Interior spending measure has cleared the full House. The bill would provide $150 million for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), a $2 million (1.4%) increase from FY2016. It would also fund the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Science and Technology at $720 million, a $15 million (-2%) cut from FY2016. The bill would level-fund the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Water Resources Research Institutes and Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units at $6.5 million and $17.4 million, respectively.

House Appropriations Committee Approves State-Foreign Operations FY2017 Appropriations Bill
The House Appropriations Committee approved its FY2017 State-Foreign Operations (SFOPs) appropriations bill last week. The bill would fund “new” partnerships between U.S. and developing nation institutions of higher education at $35 million, which is consistent with APLU’s request.

The bill would fund the Feed the Future Innovation Labs at $60 million, consistent with APLU’s request and $10 million more (20%) than FY2016 enacted.

The Committee report specifically indicates funding for the Higher Education Solutions Network (HESN) at $27.4 million, which is consistent with APLU’s request, and an increase of $7.9 million (40%) over what USAID allocated for FY2016. This is the first year APLU has requested funding for HESN in the SFOPs appropriations process and the first year it has appeared in an appropriations measure.

House Appropriations Committee Approves L-HHS-ED FY2017 Appropriations Bill
Additionally, the House Appropriations Committee approved its FY2017 Labor-Health and Human Services-Education (L-HHS-ED) appropriations bill last week. During the mark-up, the Committee passed five amendments including four by voice vote, and one on a vote of 29-21 by Representative Andy Harris (R-MD) which specifies that any federal funding to provide in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments would be allowed only if such treatments do not result in the destruction of viable human embryos before embryo transfer.

The bill would fund the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at $33.334 billion, a $1.25 billion (3.9%) increase from FY2016 enacted levels. Within the NIH, the bill would provide $300 million for the Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI), a $100 million (50%) increase; $1.26 billion for the Alzheimer’s disease research initiative, a $350 million (28%) increase; and $195 million for the Brain Research through Application of Innovative Neuro-technologies (BRAIN) initiative, a $45 million (23%) increase.

Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) Title VII and Title VIII would be funded at $524 million, a $32 million (6.5%) increase from FY2016.

The bill would also set the maximum Pell Grant at $5,935 (an increase of $120 over FY2016 and the same as the President’s Request and the Senate action), but the bill would cut $1.31 billion from the Pell base budget. Per the report, “The Pell Grant program costs have come in below estimates for the past few years, resulting in a surplus of funding for the program. Because of this, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the budget authority provided in this bill is sufficient…” to achieve a maximum Pell level of $5,935 in the 2017-18 academic year.

The bill would zero-out funding for the Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) program. This program was funded at $29.3 million in FY2016. The report indicates that “This program duplicates the efforts of other Federally funded programs that support fellowships in these disciplines within the Department and other agencies.”

The bill flat funds both the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG) at $733 million and Federal Work Study at $990 million. TRIO would receive $960 million, $60 million (6.7%) more than FY2016 enacted. GEARUP programs would be funded at $345 million, a $22 million (6.8%) increase.

International Education would be funded at $72 million, the same as FY2016 enacted. And the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) would be funded at $536 million, an $82 million (-13.3%) decrease from FY2016 enacted. Under IES, Research, Development and Dissemination would be reduced by $40.5 million.

The bill does not provide funding for the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) First in the World program, which was not funded in FY2016.

The bill would prohibit the enforcement of the recently finalized “overtime” rule. Additionally, the bill would prohibit the Department of Education (ED) from moving forward with regulations regarding teacher preparation, defining gainful employment and credit hour and also how states license universities.

The FY2017 report includes language regarding “free speech zones” at public colleges and universities: “The Committee notes that the outdoor areas of campuses of public IHEs are traditional public forums. The Committee therefore believes that public IHEs may maintain and enforce reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions in service of a significant institutional interest only when such restrictions employ clear, published, content- and viewpoint neutral criteria and provide for ample alternative means of expression. Any such restrictions must allow for members of the university community to spontaneously and contemporaneously distribute literature and assemble.”

Of additional possible interest, the report also includes language encouraging ED to “…offer guidance to academic institutions that they should allow religious organizations to choose leadership based on faith.”

  • Council on Governmental Affairs

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