DC Digest - March 28, 2011
In Today's Issue:
- Status of Negotiations on FY11 Budget Remains Unclear
- Group of House Democrats Urges $32 Billion Budget for NIH
- House Judiciary Committee to Introduce Patent Reform Bill
- Student Aid Alliance Unveils New Website to Help Fight Federal Student Aid Cuts
- Tough Calls on Pell Explored in Two House Subcommittee Hearings
- Department Releases Guidance on State Authorization, Credit Hour, Other Areas
STATUS OF NEGOTIATIONS ON FY11 BUDGET REMAINS UNCLEAR
With the current FY11 continuing resolution (CR) set to expire on April 8, it is still unclear if Republican and Democratic negotiators are making progress in reaching agreement on how to fund the government through the remaining six months of FY11. Many Members of the House and Senate have said the current short-term funding bill should be the last, but finding a compromise that can pass both chambers and be signed by the President remains a daunting task.
News reports indicate that conservative Republicans are pressing House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to hold fast on the House-approved cuts of $61 billion, even though the House measure (H.R. 1) failed to pass the Senate on March 9. (The plan offered that day by the Senate Democratic leadership cutting $4.7 billion also failed to pass.) Further complicating negotiations are several hot-button policy riders added to the House bill, including ones to defund Planned Parenthood and curtail the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to monitor air and water. A clearer picture may emerge this week as Congress returns from recess.
GROUP OF HOUSE DEMOCRATS URGES $32 BILLION BUDGET FOR NIH
A group of 117 Democratic Members of the House, led by Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA), sent a letter to House Appropriations Committee leaders on March 21 calling for increased funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in FY12. The letter requests a funding level for the agency of $32 billion, a level consistent with President Obama’s FY12 budget request.
Letter to House Appropriations for Increased NIH funding (pdf)
HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE TO INTRODUCE PATENT REFORM BILL
The House Judiciary Committee is expected to introduce its version of patent reform legislation on Monday, March 28, continuing the progress made by the Senate in approving its patent bill (S. 23) on March 8. The six higher education associations that have been working together on patent reform strongly support the Senate bill.
The House bill is expected to track the Senate bill in many areas, including adoption of a first-inventor-to-file system, which would harmonize the U.S. patent system with that of major U.S. trading partners, and expanded resources for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. However, two provisions expected to be included in the House bill raise serious concerns for universities. These are 1) expansion of the prior user rights defense, and 2) elimination of the elevated threshold for instituting an inter partes review that the Senate Judiciary Committee included in S. 23.
The group of six higher education associations on Friday issued a statement expressing strong opposition to any expansion of the prior user rights defense. The associations are AAU, the American Council on Education, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, the Association of University Technology Managers, and the Council on Governmental Relations.
Associations' Statement on Prior User Rights (pdf)
STUDENT AID ALLIANCE UNVEILS NEW WEBSITE TO HELP FIGHT FEDERAL STUDENT AID CUTS
The Student Aid Alliance, a coalition of 61 higher education organizations committed to protecting federal student aid programs, last week unveiled a new website (www.studentaidalliance.org) to help students and higher education leaders make the case for protecting Pell Grants and other core federal student aid programs from drastic budget cuts.
Student Aid Alliance Unveils New Website to Fight Federal Student Aid Cuts (ACEnet.edu)
TOUGH CALLS ON PELL EXPLORED IN TWO HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE HEARINGS
At two recent House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee hearings, the administration defended its Pell Grant Protection Act, submitted to Congress as part of its FY 2012 budget request. The proposal would maintain the maximum grant at $5,550. To do that, though, the plan calls for a number of cutbacks in other Pell provisions to rein in the exploding costs of the program, and cut out the in-school interest subsidy on graduate loans.
Tough Calls on Pell Explored in Two House Subcommittee Hearings (NAICU.edu)
DEPARTMENT RELEASES GUIDANCE ON STATE AUTHORIZATION, CREDIT HOUR, OTHER AREAS
The Department of Education has released two "Dear Colleague" letters providing further guidance on regulations issued last October. The first "Dear Colleague" letter was released on March 17, and deals with state authorization, incentive compensation, and misrepresentation. The second letter, released March 18, addresses the federal definition of a credit hour and accreditation agency procedures for enforcing the definition.
Department Releases Guidance on State Authorization, Credit Hour, Other Areas (NAICU.edu)