AAAS Policy Alert -- December 19, 2012
IN THIS ISSUE
Fiscal Cliff Negotiations Show Progress. Following a period of apparent stalemate, President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) appear to have moved closer together
during negotiations to avoid the fiscal cliff. In the past week, Boehner has offered
to include a debt ceiling increase as part of an overall deal, and proposed an increase in tax rates for
the wealthiest Americans. And, according to reports, President Obama has offered to raise the threshold level for increases in taxes for the wealthiest from $250,000 to $400,000. Some Republicans
were hoping to use the debt limit as leverage in negotiations, and many conservatives see tax increases on high-income earners as anathema - as was clear in conservative
criticism of Boehner on Dec. 17. For the President's part, he appeared to lower
his demands for new tax revenues from $1.6 trillion to $1.4 trillion last week. Negotiations continued between the two leaders on Dec. 18.
DOD Hoping For Flexibility in Budget Cuts. According to an article in DefenseNews,
defense officials are apparently hoping they will be able to use some degree of discretion in allocating the $55 billion in expected cuts in FY 2013, should sequestration move forward. However, if
this flexibility were to be given by OMB, it is less likely to apply to R&D accounts than to others, according to a former OMB official with defense budget responsibilities quoted in the article. Meanwhile,
some Congressional Republicans have indicated a higher level of comfort with defense cuts than might
have been expected.
Study: Sequestration Will Impact NASA, NOAA Jobs. A recent report by the Aerospace
Industries Association estimated that 20,500 NASA contractor jobs and 2,500 mostly satellite-related jobs at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) could be lost if sequestration goes
into effect. The report argues that aerospace industry clusters would thus be particularly hard-hit by the cuts. According to AAAS estimates, NOAA and NASA would likely experience combined
R&D cuts of $3.7 billion over the next five years - plus additional non-R&D cuts - under sequestration.
GAO Releases Fiscal Outlook. Earlier this month, the Government Accountability Office updated its long-term fiscal outlook, which
assesses federal fiscal health over the next several decades. The report finds that if the fiscal cliff is fully avoided, national debt will likely surpass GDP before 2030 and continue to grow. However,
even if the nation does go over the fiscal cliff, national debt would decline only temporarily before resuming long-term growth, eventually surpassing GDP before 2050.
Senate Unveils Disaster Assistance Bill. In
the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the Senate Appropriations Committee last week released a
draft FY 2013 disaster assistance supplemental spending bill. Although the bulk of the $60.4 billion bill is for FEMA, infrastructure repairs, and other non-science funding, it also contains a handful
of provisions to assist science agencies in repair of key facilities and equipment, and for environmental restoration and study. This proposed spending includes $482 million for NOAA, $224 million for
USDA, and $15 million for NASA.
As Fiscal Cliff Approaches, AAAS Highlights Voices of Science. AAAS is collecting messages from scientists about the importance of their federally-funded research
and the potential impact of sequestration. Messages can be submitted through Dec. 20 and viewed at http://membercentral.aaas.org/sequestration.
These messages will be sent to Congressional leaders and the White House to ensure that the S&T community is heard from on this critical issue. Additionally, the messages will be used to attract
as much press and public interest as possible.
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
House Science Committee Majority Members and Democratic Ranking Member Announced. Incoming chairman Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) announced the
Republican members who will serve next session on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. They include: former chairman Ralph Hall (TX), F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (WI), Dana Rohrabacher
(CA), Frank D. Lucas (OK), Randy Neugebauer (TX), Michael McCaul (TX), Paul Broun (GA), Scott Rigell (VA), Steven Palazzo (MS), Mo Brooks (AL), Andy Harris (MD), Larry Bucshon (IN), Cynthia Lummis (WY),
Bill Posey (FL), David Schweikert (AZ), Steve Stockman (TX), Thomas Massie (KY), Jim Bridenstine (OK), Kevin Cramer (ND), Chris Stewart (UT), and Randy Weber (TX). For the Democratic Members, Rep.
Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) will again serve as Ranking Member of the committee,
and the rest of the Democratic roster is expected to be named in January.
New House Caucus to Focus on Federal Labs. On Dec. 7 Rep. Randy Hultgren (D-IL) announced the
creation of the House Science and National Labs Caucus. The caucus's focus is to raise awareness about the role that federal labs play in long-term economic growth. Other co-chairs include
Reps. Chaka Fattah (D-PA), Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), and Alan Nunnelee (R-MS).
Senate Forms Climate Change Caucus. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) announced that
she will form a climate change caucus in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Boxer said of the new caucus, "it is going to work with all the committees and all the committee chairmen to make sure
we can move forward legislation that reduces carbon pollution and also works on mitigation and all of the other elements...I think you are going to see a lot of bills on climate change."
EPA, NOAA Weigh In On Climate Change. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report, "Climate
Change Indicators in the United States, 2012," outlining 26 different indicators including temperature and precipitation. The report concludes that weather patterns are changing and extreme weather
events are negatively affecting societies and ecosystems. Meanwhile, NOAA's National Climate Data Center reported that it is "nearly certain" that
2012 was the hottest year on record.
State Legislators Preparing Anti-Evolution Legislation for 2013. A new anti-evolution bill has been prefiled
in the Texas House. HB 285 would alter the state's education code to say, "An institution of higher education may not discriminate against or penalize in any manner, especially with regard
to employment or academic support, a faculty member or student based on the faculty member's or student's conduct of research relating to the theory of intelligent design or other alternate
theories of the origination and development of organisms." The Texas legislature convenes on Jan. 8. An identical bill died in committee there in 2011. In Indiana,
state senator Dennis Kruse, an advocate of teaching creationism, says that he plans to introduce a bill allowing students to challenge teachers on their lessons. The Fort Wayne News-Sentinel dubbed
it "one more attempt to force a religious debate into science classrooms." In other state education news, the Nebraska state board of education adopted a new
set of social studies standards on Dec. 7. The standards acknowledge climate change for the first time but, after some eleventh-hour changes, misrepresent it as scientifically controversial.
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.
Europe to Adopt Uniform Patent System. The European Parliament has voted to
adopt a uniform patent system for Europe. Under
the new system, unitary patents granted by the European Patent Office (EPO) will not need to be validated by individual country patent offices as well. Patents may be filed in English, German, or
French. These regulations will go into effect for 25 of 27 member states. (Italy and Spain are the exceptions.) The new system also provides for a Unified
Patent Court to have jurisdiction over patents granted by EPO. This agreement is expected to be signed in February and will need to be ratified by at least 13 Contracting Member States, including
France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, to enter into force.
People in the News. Jane Lubchenco announced on
Dec. 12 that she will step down as Administrator of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at the end of February. She will be returning to her academic home at Oregon State University and intimated
that the strain of maintaining a bicoastal family life had influenced her decision to leave NOAA. The full text of Lubchenco's message can be found at the above link.
NOTE TO READERS
The Policy Alert will not publish for the next two weeks and will resume publication the week of January 7, 2013.
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, Ed Derrick, Erin Heath, Matt Hourihan, Gretchen Seiler, Sara Spizzirri
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