Congress passed the Continuing Appropriations and Surface Transportation Extensions Act, 2011 (H.R.3082) on December 21, just hours before the third continuing resolution (CR) of the FY 2011 appropriations cycle was set to expire. This short-term extension of federal funding at FY 2010 levels through March 4, 2011 sets up a potential battle in the new Congress between the newly-elected House Republican majority that is pushing for $100 billion in discretionary spending cuts and the Democratic-led Senate. Meanwhile, it has been reported that the release of the Administration's FY 2012 budget request is likely to be postponed until February 14, rather than being released on the traditional first Monday in February, in order to allow OMB director Jacob Lew, whose Senate confirmation was delayed, more time to complete his review of the massive document.
Congress also extended the R&D tax credit through December 31, 2011, as part of the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 (H.R.4853), which was signed into law on December 17. H.R. 4853 also contains several renewable energy credits; it extends an ethanol blenders' tax credit, an import tariff on ethanol, the biodiesel tax credit, and the 1603 Treasury grant program, which subsidizes commercial renewable energy projects through December 31, 2011.
Visit the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program Website
to stay up-to-date on congressional action on the FY 2011 budget.
Other Congressional News
Possible Changes to Senate Filibuster Rules? Every returning Democratic Senator has signed on to a letter urging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to reform Senate filibuster rules, although the letter stops short of outlining any specific course of action. One proposal for reform championed by a number of Democratic Senators is to prohibit filibusters before a bill reaches the floor for a vote, unless there are 40 votes in favor of a filibuster in advance; in order to sustain the filibuster, there would need to be continuous debate. Another proposal recommends shortening the time (currently 30 hours) between calling a vote to break the filibuster and the actual vote, in order to force Senators to remain in the chamber for debate and final vote. The Senate could consider such reform proposals as early as January 5, as the Senate rules and order of business are traditionally the first items for consideration at the beginning of a new session.
SBIR Reauthorization Remains on Temporary Extension. As the 111th Congress drew to a close, the Senate passed a reauthorization of the Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) program (S. 4053). However, the House failed to take up the measure on the floor before the closing session, leaving the program authorized through a temporary extension through January 31, 2011. One point of contention between the Senate and House versions is that the Senate bill would increase the SBIR/STTR funding allocation from a federal agency's R&D budget from 2.5% to 3.5% over 10 years.
Comment on this at the Policy Alert Discussion Space .
You must be a registered user to post comments.
Join or sign in.
PCAST Meeting This Week. The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) will meet on January 7 to receive reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on its R&D activities, National Science Foundation director Subra Suresh, and the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues on its recent report on synthetic biology.
EPA Moves Ahead on Greenhouse Gas Regulation. Two EPA regulations became effective at the start of 2011: 2012 model vehicles must follow tighter CAFE standards; and power plants, refineries, and large factories will need to obtain a permit for their emissions when they expand or build new facilities. EPA also provided a timeline for additional greenhouse gas regulations. EPA will propose "performance standards" for power plants in July 2011 and for refineries in December 2011, and will finalize standards for those sectors in May 2012 and November 2012, respectively. Several incoming House committee chairs have announced their intention to examine these regulations.
Interior "Wild Lands" Order Draws Opposition. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signed an order December 22 directing the Bureau of Land Management to designate as "wild lands" appropriate areas under its jurisdiction with wilderness characteristics. Such lands would be shielded from activities that disrupt habitat or impinge on the solitude of the wild. The order has drawn opposition from energy companies and ranchers, and according to The Wall Street Journal, House Republicans plan to hold hearings on the new policy. The BLM manages 245 million acres in the United States, with 8.6 million of those acres currently part of designated wilderness areas. The order does not change the management of congressionally designated units of the National Wilderness Preservation System or of existing Wilderness St udy Area s pending before Congress.
Global S&T Initiative Launched. The Global Initiative on Science and Technology (GIST), being managed by CRDF Global, was launched December 14 to advance scientific, academic, and technological collaboration between the U.S. and the Muslim world. GIST is one of the primary science and technology initiatives to be implemented following the speech by President Obama in Cairo in June 2009. The initiative will have three main areas of activity: (1) developing specific recommendations for science, technology, and innovation capacity-building, particularly in agriculture, energy, health, and information technology, through a consultative process with regional experts and leaders (the results of which will be used to guide the creation of pilot projects); (2) establishing a digital science library for the Maghreb countries of North Africa; and (3) developing training and mentoring programs for scientists in selected countries. Initial funding for two years is being provided by the Department of State.
AAAS Joins Amicus Brief On Case Involving Bayh-Dole Act. AAAS is one of more than 50 organizations that have joined in an amicus curiae (i.e., "friend of the court") brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in a case commonly referred to as Stanford v. Roche. The brief is in support of Stanford's position and is not yet available online. The case focuses on the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, which grants universities the right to retain title to intellectual property developed with funding from the U.S. government. That right is being challenged on the basis of a contract entered into between a Stanford researcher and a company eventually acquired by Roche, an international pharmaceutical company. The question is whether such a contract contravenes the intent of Congress that a researcher's institution, and not the researcher, has first rights to any discovery.
University of California Changes Retirement Rules. In a move intended to help close a vast $21 billion gap in the University of California's pension and health obligations, the UC Regents voted to delay retirement from age 60 to 65 for employees hired after July 1, 2013, and to delay early retirement from age 50 to 55. Meanwhile, an NSF analysis of the retirement patterns of academic doctoral scientists and engineers finds that research university faculty have lower retirement rates than their counterparts at other types of post-secondary institutions. The report also finds that women scientists are delaying retirement longer than men.
State Efforts to Address Climate Change Advance. On December 16 California's Air Resources Board voted to approve regulations that will establish a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The program is scheduled to launch in 2012 as part of California's efforts to reduce its emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, as required by the 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act. In related news, Massachusetts released a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 25% below 1990 levels. The plan will primarily utilize already-existing mechanisms, like renewable energy mandates and energy efficiency standards, to reduce emissions. Additionally, because one-third of Massachusetts emissions come from the transportation industry, the state will implement a pilot program linking car insurance costs to miles driven.
Belief in Strict Creationism Declines Slightly. A December 2010 Gallup poll found a 4% decline, since 2008, in the proportion of Americans who agreed with the statement, "God created humans in present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so." The poll also found a small increase in the number of respondents who agreed with the statement, "Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process."
UN to Create Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystems. The General Assembly of the United Nations has approved the creation of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The IPBES is intended to serve a role for biodiversity and ecosystem policy-making similar to that of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for climate issues. It is envisioned as a global system for gathering, synthesizing, and analyzing scientific information on biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Rare Earth Element Exports Cut. China, which controls roughly 97% of global rare earth element production, has announced that it will cut exports of the elements for the first half of 2011. Rare earth elements are used in a variety of sectors ranging from automotive to clean energy to national security. While many outsiders see the cut in exports as a way to increase the market strength of Chinese firms, China has cited environmental concerns associated with mining the exports as a reason for the cut.
New Law Likely to Hinder Scientific Research in Venezuela . A new law, taking effect January 1, could hinder Venezuelan science. An amendment to the Organic Law on Science, Technology, and Innovation (LOCTI) mandates that private companies pay the current R&D tax to the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Intermediate Industries, removing the option to directly fund external university or national laboratories, or internal research projects. According to the Venezuelan government, under the previous law, which went into effect in 2005 and allowed for all funding options, science spending increased dramatically, from 0.39% of the GDP to 2.69%.
Archived issues of AAAS Policy Alert can be found at http://www.aaas.org/spp/policyalert.
Publisher: Alan I. Leshner
Editor: Steve Nelson
Contributors: : Kavita Berger, Joanne Carney, Phillip Chalker, Patrick Clemins, Ed Derrick, Mark Frankel, Barbara Jasny, Earl Lane, Shirley Malcom, Stephanie Pals, Gretchen Seiler, Al Teich, Ric Weibl, Kasey White
NOTE: The AAAS Policy Alert is a newsletter provided to AAAS Members to inform them of developments in science and technology policy that may be of interest. Information in the Policy Alert is gathered from published news reports, unpublished documents, and personal communications. Although the information contained in this newsletter is regarded as reliable, it is provided only for the convenience and private use of our members. Comments and suggestions regarding the Policy Alert are welcome. Please write to email@example.com.