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Washington Update

Fiscal Year 2020 Appropriations Update
Currently operating on a continuing resolution, federal funding is set to expire on November 21. With that deadline looming, Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) said he expects Congress to advance another stopgap funding bill that would keep the government open until February or March.

On October 24, APLU sent letters to House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Chairs and Ranking Members, urging Congress complete the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 appropriations process. The letters also elevate the association’s priorities as House and Senate appropriators discuss reconciling differences.

Last week, the Senate began consideration of H.R. 3055, a minibus appropriations package containing bipartisan Commerce-Justice-Science, Agriculture, Interior-Environment, and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development funding bills. A final vote on the minibus could be reached this week.

Yet there has been little progress on the remaining Senate appropriations bills as Republicans and Democrats continue to dispute spending allocations, border wall funding, and policy riders. The Senate Appropriations Committee has passed 8 of its 12 bills, many with strong bipartisan support. But the full Senate has not yet approved any of the bill. The next intended package, which contains the Labor-HHS-Education and Defense Appropriations measures, faces hurdles to passage with Democrats warning that they will block it without an agreement on spending allocations and resolving disagreement over border wall funding.

APLU Files Amicus Brief Supporting UMN Sovereign Immunity Case
APLU filed an amicus brief in support of University of Minnesota’s petition to the U.S. Supreme Court to review its case relative to state sovereign immunity and inter partes review (IPR) at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). At stake is the ability of public universities to maintain sovereign immunity from IPR, an administrative proceeding at USPTO that has become notorious for overturning patents at a much higher rate than federal courts. APLU’s brief supports the University of Minnesota’s request for the Supreme Court to take up the case and overturn the Federal Circuit Court. The APLU brief argues that the lower court’s decision threatens public university technology transfer, which Congress sought to foster through the Bayh-Dole Act.

Senators Alexander & Jones Introduce FAFSA Simplification Act
Last week, Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) introduced the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Simplification Act. The text is nearly identical to language included in sections of Chairman Alexander’s Student Aid Improvement Act introduced earlier this month.

The FAFSA Simplification Act would: reduce the number of questions on the FAFSA form from 108 to 18-30 demographic, educational, and identification questions; provide Pell Grants to 250,000 new low-income students; and reduce the need for burdensome verification processes that stop students from receiving their aid by aligning and connecting the Department of Education with the Internal Revenue Service. A section-by-section summary of the bill is available here and a one-page summary can be found here.

Bill to Boost Ag Research Funding Introduced
Representatives Cheri Bustos (D-IL), Kim Schrier (D-WA) and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) introduced the America Grows Act, House companion legislation to the bill introduced by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) last month. The bill would authorize a five percent annual increase over the next five years for USDA’s Agriculture Research Service, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, National Agriculture Statistics Service, and the Economic Research Service. APLU endorsed the bill.

President Trump Announces Council of Advisors on S&T
On October 22, President Trump launched the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). PCAST is a presidential-level advisory council of the nation’s science and technology (S&T) leaders from the academic community and private sector. Members of PCAST will provide advice on S&T and innovation issues paramount to our economy, security, and welfare of the American people. The Council will also propose policy recommendations on “strengthening American leadership in science and technology, building the workforce of the future, and supporting foundational research and development across the country.”

White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Director Kelvin Droegemeier will serve as chair of the Council, with Edward McGinnis serving as the PCAST Executive Director.

  • Council on Governmental Affairs

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