All posts by aibsito

HR 933: Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013

Lawmakers have avoided a government shutdown with passage of a Continuing Resolution for fiscal year (FY) 2013. The legislation, H.R. 933, will fund the federal government for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends on 30 September 2013. The House and Senate have passed the bill with bipartisan support, and it has been sent to President Obama for his signature.
Since the legislation maintains the $85 billion sequestration cuts, the net impact for most federal agencies is a budget decrease.

Although the original House bill only granted fiscal flexibility to defense programs, the Senate amended the legislation to provide more flexibility to the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Homeland Security, and Justice, among other agencies.

A few science agencies were among the entities granted budget increases under a Senate-adopted amendment to the legislation. Although these are increases relative to FY 2012, after the effects of sequestration, these agencies will receive a budget cut.

The Senate gave an additional $221 million to the National Science Foundation (NSF); accounting for sequestration, the agency will be cut by about two percent relative to FY 2012.

The increase for NSF was largely due to the efforts of Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). Her figure for NSF’s research account was $50 million higher than an earlier Senate mark and $100 million more than the House number. NSF’s education directorate was marked for an additional $20 million more than the President’s budget request.

The National Institutes of Health received an extra $71 million, which will partly offset the $1.5 billion cut resulting from budget sequestration. At $5 billion, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also received a slight increase relative to last year, prior to the effects of sequestration. The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative received a ten percent boost, which means that it will be one of a handful of programs that comes out ahead financially even after accounting for the five percent cut from sequester.
The legislation maintains a pay freeze for federal workers, which means that employees will go three years without a pay increase.

The Senate considered many amendments before a deal was struck for final passage of the legislation. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) successfully offered an amendment that bars NSF from awarding any grants on political science research unless the agency’s director can explain how the research promotes “national security or the economic interests of the United States.”

HR 933 became public law on March 26, 2013.

HR 1030: Secret Science Reform Act of 2015

A bill to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from proposing, finalizing, or disseminating regulations or assessments based upon science that is not transparent or reproducible.

This bill amends the Environmental Research, Development, and Demonstration Authorization Act of 1978 to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from proposing, finalizing, or disseminating a covered action unless all scientific and technical information relied on to support such action is the best available science, specifically identified, and publicly available in a manner sufficient for independent analysis and substantial reproduction of research results. A covered action includes a risk, exposure, or hazard assessment, criteria document, standard, limitation, regulation, regulatory impact analysis, or guidance. Scientific and technical information includes: (1) materials, data, and associated protocols necessary to understand, assess, and extend conclusions; (2) computer codes and models involved in the creation and analysis of the information; (3) recorded factual materials; and (4) detailed descriptions of how to access and use the information.

This Act may not be construed as requiring the EPA to disseminate scientific and technical information, or superseding any nondiscretionary statutory requirement.

The EPA may not spend more than $1 million per fiscal year on carrying out this Act.

HR 1030 is sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith.  It passed the House on March 18, 2015.

S. 1177: Every Student Succeeds Act

This bill reauthorizes and amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). The bill addresses issues such as accountability and testing requirements, distribution and requirements for grants, fiscal accountability requirements, and the evaluation of teachers.

The bill provides states with increased flexibility and responsibility for developing accountability systems, deciding how federally required tests should be weighed, selecting additional measures of student and school performance, and implementing teacher evaluation systems.

It includes grants for providing language instruction educational programs, improving low-performing schools, and developing programs for American Indian and Alaska Native students. The bill provides rural school districts with increased flexibility in using federal funding. It also revises the Impact Aid formula.

The bill requires school districts to consult stakeholders in planning and implementing programs to improve student safety, health, well-being, and academic achievement.

It combines two existing charter school programs into one program that includes grants for high-quality charter schools, facilities financing assistance, and replication and expansion.

The bill provides states with flexibility in meeting maintenance of effort requirements for state and local education funding to supplement federal assistance.

The bill prohibits the Department of Education from imposing certain requirements on states or school districts seeking waivers from federal laws.

It provides that ESEA dollars may be used to improve early childhood education programs and specifies requirements to ensure that homeless youth have access to all services provided by the states and school districts.

S 1177 is sponsored by Senator Lamar Alexander. It become law on December 10, 2015.

HR 331: A bill to prohibit the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Commerce from authorizing commercial finfish aquaculture operations in the Exclusive Economic Zone except in accordance with a law authorizing such action.

A bill to prohibit the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Commerce from authorizing commercial finfish aquaculture operations in the Exclusive Economic Zone except in accordance with a law authorizing such action.

HR 331 is sponsored by Representative Don Young.

HR 2055: Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012 (Megabus)

This $915 billion deal will fund a major portion of the federal government through fiscal year (FY) 2012. The so-called ‘megabus’–a collection of nine appropriations bills–will fund the Departments of Defense, Energy, Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Interior, Labor, and State, as well as numerous independent agencies.

Notably, the megabus includes a second consecutive year of budget cuts for many programs. According to documents from Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee: “When all FY 2012 Appropriations legislation is complete, Congress will have cut discretionary spending for two straight years in a row — the first time this has occurred in modern history. In fact, the enactment of the final Appropriations legislation will mark a savings of nearly $31 billion in total discretionary spending compared to last year’s level and a savings of $95 billion compared to FY 2010.”

Despite overall budget reductions, several agencies will receive increased funding. For instance, military spending will increase by $5.1 billion over last year’s level. Most programs, however, will not receive the amount of funding requested by the Obama Administration earlier this year.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) will receive an increase of $299 million, for a total spending level of $30.7 billion. Congress also made clear that it wants NIH to continue to spend 90 percent of its budget on external grants.

Funding for the Department of Energy Office of Science will increase by $46 million to $4.9 billion. Despite a push by the House to cut funding for Biological and Environment Research, the program will operate with the same funding level it had last year.

Most science and environmental programs will be funded at smaller levels than in FY 2011. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be cut by $233 million, including a six percent reduction to clean air and climate research programs. Congress included funds for EPA to conduct a long-term evaluation of the agency’s laboratory network to “ensure the current organization matches the Agency’s strategic needs.” This directive follows a recommendation made by the Government Accountability Office.

Within the Department of the Interior, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) will lose $13.9 million. The Ecosystems division will be essentially flat funded, although programmatic funding within the division will change. Monitoring, fisheries, and Cooperative Research Units will be trimmed slightly so that programs on invasive species, and terrestrial, freshwater, and marine environments can be increased by 21 percent and 2.9 percent, respectively. Climate Science Centers will receive $4.6 million in new funding, but climate research and development will be cut by $6.4 million.

The budget for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will remain at $1.5 billion. Although the National Wildlife Refuges will be trimmed 1.1 percent, cooperative landscape conservation and adaptive science will increase slightly. The Cooperative Endangered Species Fund will be cut by $12.1 million relative to last year. Funding for the National Park Service will also remain essentially flat at $2.6 billion.

Forest and Rangeland Research at the United States Forest Service will be reduced by 3.5 percent.

HR 2055 was signed into law on 23 December 2011.