AAAS Policy Alert -- November 28, 2012
IN THIS ISSUE
More Signals of Flexibility on Fiscal Cliff Negotiations. During the Thanksgiving recess, Republican legislators continued to sound notes of compromise on the all-important tax
negotiations surrounding the impending fiscal cliff. In the past week, Sens.
Lindsey Graham (SC), Bob Corker (TN) and Saxby
Chambliss (GA), and Rep. Peter King (NY), have spoken though various
media outlets to state they would be willing to raise taxes in some form, thus breaking away from an anti-tax pledge sponsored by Americans for Tax Reform. The pledge has become common among Republican
electoral circles, and breaking it is viewed as coming with some political risk. Republicans remain insistent that any deficit package must also include entitlement reform, leaving labor groups on
the left concerned over potential cuts.
The details on what
aspects of tax reform are open to negotiations remain unclear, and the Administration continues to warn against raising taxes for the middle class. On Monday, the White House
released a new report (PDF) outlining the potential impacts of a middle-class tax increase next year. The
report argues that middle-class tax bills could increase by $2,200 next year if existing taxes were to expire, resulting in reduced consumer spending and slower GDP growth. Time is running short
as taxes on all earners are expected to increase next year due to the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts, unless a deal can be reached to avert the fiscal cliff.
For updates on the federal research and
development budget for FY 2013 and the recently released AAAS sequestration report, please visit the AAAS R&D Budget and
OTHER CONGRESSIONAL NEWS
Update on Lame-Duck Session: Week 2. Congress returns from the Thanksgiving recess for the second week of the 16-day lame-duck session. The House of Representatives
is scheduled to take up a series of bills related to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that have been placed on the suspension calendar. Of
interest to the biosecurity community is a bill (H.R. 5997 (PDF)) that would give states and local governments greater authority
to utilize DHS grants for medical preparedness; for example, to establish pharmaceutical stockpiles. The suspension calendar is generally reserved for noncontroversial bills and the floor procedure
limits debate but requires a two-thirds majority to pass.
House to Consider STEM Visa Bill Again. Also scheduled for the House floor this week is the STEM Jobs Act of 2012
6429 (PDF)), a bill that would eliminate a visa lottery program and establish a new visa targeted specifically to foreign nationals who graduate within the U.S. with an advanced degree in science, technology,
engineering or mathematics. The bill, introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), failed to pass that chamber when it came to the floor in September. There is currently no companion bill in the
Congressional Hearings of Interest. On November 28, the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics will conduct a hearing on National Priorities for Solar and Space Physics Research and
Application for Space Weather Predictions. On November 30, the House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment will hold a hearing on energy R&D. For details go to: http://science.house.gov/
Representatives Praise National Labs. Reps. Randy Hultgren (R-IL) and Chaka Fattah (D-PA) introduced H.R.
815, which declares 2013 the "Year of the Federal Lab," and highlights the accomplishments of national energy laboratories and over 100 other labs that function as federal research centers.
Fatah stated, "[W]e must invest in [federal laboratories]. We cannot maintain world leadership on the cheap."
Lofgren Crowdsources Legislation Online. On November 19, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) asked users
of a social news website for feedback on draft legislation on domain name seizures for copyright infringement. Lofgren's use of crowdsourcing was inspired by the internet
outcry over the Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R. 3261).
CBO Estimates Cost of Implementing Great Ape Bill. On November 12, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released an analysis of the cost to implement the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings
Act (S. 810). The legislation would prohibit invasive research on great apes; would require permanent retirement for those animals that are currently being utilized in research; and expand an existing
sanctuary to house them in retirement. According to the CBO, it would cost the federal government $56 million over a four-year period (report summary here;
full report here.
NSABB Meeting on H5N1. The National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) will hold a meeting on November 27 at NIH to discuss dual-research of concern, including
a proposed framework for future funding of research utilizing the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus. The meeting will be webcast. To view
a copy of the agenda and other related materials, go here.
PCAST to Release Report on Future of the Research Enterprise. On November 30, the President's
Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST)
will hold a meeting to discuss IT R&D, STEM Education, and Online Courses (see agenda (PDF)). In
addition, it will release a new report entitled Transformation and Opportunity: The Future of the U.S. Research Enterprise. The report will address "specific opportunities for the Federal
Government, universities, and industry to strengthen the U.S. research enterprise."
Bioethics Commission Report on Guatemala Research Misconduct. Last September, the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues released the results
of its investigation (PDF) into the involvement of U.S. scientists in research that intentionally spread sexually-transmitted diseases to experimental subjects in Guatemala. The research drew international
condemnation and a public apology from the U.S. to the government and people of Guatemala. The Commission has now released a companion Study
Guide to "Ethically Impossible" STD Research in Guatemala from 1946 to 1948 (PDF). The 51-page Guide is the first produced by the Commission exclusively for educational purposes, and
includes primary resource materials uncovered by the Commission in its original investigation.
FDA Seeks Comments on Human Subject Research Rules. On November 20th, the FDA issued a draft Guidance for Institutional Review Boards related to clinical research in the Federal
Register. The draft Guidance "is intended to assist institutional review boards (IRBs), clinical investigators, and sponsors involved in clinical investigations of FDA-regulated products
in fulfilling responsibilities related to reviewing the qualifications of investigators, adequacy of research sites, and the determination of whether an investigational new drug (IND) application or investigational
device exemption (IDE) is needed." Public comments are due January 22, 2013, and a copy of the draft, along with a link to submit comments electronically, can be accessed here.
Comment on the above item. Policy Alert blog entries are located on AAAS's MemberCentral. Once you
are logged in, click on "Blogs" and look for "Capitol Connection" in the drop-down list.
NASA Creates New Committee. On November 26, NASA announced the
creation of the Applied Sciences Advisory Committee (ASAC), in response to the 2005 NASA Authorization Act which requires the agency to establish "a program of grants for competitively awarded pilot projects to explore the integrated use
of sources of remote sensing and other geospatial information to address state, local, regional, and tribal agency needs" and a committee to monitor the program. ASAC will replace the Applied
Sciences Analysis Group (established in 2008).
CIA Transfers Climate Change Center. The Central Intelligence Agency has closed its Center of Climate Change and National Security, which opened
in 2009. The agency has transferred its work
on the national security implications of climate change to "a new office that looks at economic and energy matters affecting America's national security. The mission and the resources
devoted to it remain essentially unchanged," according to a spokesman quoted in The Hill newspaper.
UNEP Releases 2012 Emissions Gap Report. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) released its annual Emissions Gap Report, which provides an update on global greenhouse gas
emissions; an estimate of the level of global emissions consistent with the two degree target (set by Copenhagen pledges) for 2020, 2030 and 2050; and an update of the assessment of the "emissions
gap" for 2020. Research has estimated global emissions must be reduced to 44 gigatons by 2020 to keep global average temperatures from increasing more than 2° Celsius. According to
the UNEP report we are set to exceed this goal by 8 GT. For a copy of the full UNEP report go here (PDF) and to access the Executive Summary go here (PDF).
Launches Cap and Trade Emissions Program. On November 14, California became the first state to launch a carbon
emissions auction for a state-wide cap and trade program created by the state's 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act. Though the emissions allowances sold at a lower price than expected ($10.09
per metric ton of emissions), over 600 facilities participated in the auction and generated over $233 million in revenue from emissions allowance sales for 2013. The 2013 proceeds will be returned to utility
companies to protect customers from cost inflation and to increase energy efficiency.
California Introduces Algae-Based Biodiesel to Commercial Market. Propel Fuels and Solazyme Inc. collaborated to introduce the first
algae-based fuel to commercial markets in the San Francisco Bay Area. Stations in Redwood City, San Jose, Berkeley, and Oakland will carry an algae-derived biodiesel sold at prices competitive
with petroleum-based fuels and surveys will be distributed to determine consumer perspectives on advanced biofuels. County and state fleet vehicles will participate in the month-long pilot as part
of "California's Greenest Fleets" initiative.
Archived issues of AAAS Policy Alert can be found at http://www.aaas.org/spp/policyalert.
Publisher: Alan I. Leshner
Editor: Joanne Carney
Contributors: Kavita Berger, Ed Derrick, Mark Frankel, Laci Gerhart, Matt Hourihan, Deborah Runkle, Gretchen Seiler, Sara Spizzirri, Brad Wible, Katherine Zambon
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