DC Digest – April 15, 2014

In Today’s Issue

  • This Week in Washington
  • Members of Congress Visit Campus to Discuss Research, Tour Labs
  • VA Official, Duke Alum to Join Sanford Faculty
  • House Appropriations Committee Approves Two FY15 Funding Bills
  • Senate Judiciary Committee Postpones Consideration of Patent Legislation
  • Senate Approves DATA Act
  • President of Colby College Nominated to Head NEH
  • H1-B Visa Cap for FY15 Reached in One Week


THIS WEEK IN WASHINGTON
The Supreme Court and Congress are taking a brief recess to observe the Passover and Easter holidays, and so is This Week in Washington. We’ll return on April 28, when the Senate will be debating minimum wage legislation, energy efficiency and tax extenders, along with beginning the confirmation process for Sylvia Burwell, nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services. The House is expected to continue FY15 Appropriations hearings.

MEMBERS OF CONGRESS VISIT CAMPUS TO DISCUSS RESEARCH, TOUR LABS
Two members of Congress visited Duke University last week to discuss regulations regarding federally-funded research and learn more about research taking place in university laboratories. On Friday afternoon, Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL, G ’98) met with President Richard Brodhead to discuss a number of topics, including the FIRST Act. Rep. Lipinski is  the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Research and Technology of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. Also on Friday, Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA, T ’80), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, met with Duke researchers to learn more about DoD-funded research. While on campus, Rep. Peters also participated in a Law School panel entitled “The Surveillance Society.”

VA OFFICIAL, DUKE ALUM TO JOIN SANFORD FACULTY
Tommy Sowers, assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, will join the faculty of Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy this summer. Sowers has received a one-year appointment as a visiting assistant professor of the practice and assistant director of the school’s Hart Leadership Program.

Read More:
VA Official to Join Duke Faculty (sanford.duke.edu)

HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE APPROVES TWO FY15 FUNDING BILLS
The House Appropriations Committee approved two of its 12 appropriations bills for FY15 on April 9, furthering Chairman Harold Rogers’s (R-KY) goal of moving as many funding bills as possible this year under regular order.  Both the FY15 Military Construction-Veterans Affairs and Legislative Branch appropriations bills were approved by voice vote.  The Committee has not yet released its plan for dividing the FY15 discretionary spending total among the 12 subcommittees, referred to as the 302(b) allocations.

The Committee expects to mark up the FY15 Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill in subcommittee on May 8, reports CQ Roll Call.  The first subcommittee markup in the Senate Appropriations Committee is likely to be Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, around May 22.

Chairman Rogers hopes to report all 12 of the Committee’s FY15 funding bills before the July 4 recess.  Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) told the publication that she plans to move some of the Senate bills to the floor individually and package the rest into “minibuses.”  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has allocated four weeks of Senate floor time in June and July to consider appropriations bills.

SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE POSTPONES CONSIDERATION OF PATENT LEGISLATION
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced on April 9 that the Committee would postpone consideration of legislation to address abusive patent practices until after the two-week congressional recess.  The chairman said in his statement, “We have made enormous progress, and we now have a broad bipartisan agreement in principle.  This is a complex issue and we need additional time to draft the important provisions that have been the subject of the discussion.”  He added that he would circulate his manager’s package on the day Congress returns from recess, with the goal of marking it up in committee that week.

The Committee had originally planned to take up the bill on April 3, but several Senators said during the session they would prefer delaying markup of the bill in order to get its elements right.  The panel agreed to postpone the markup to April 8, but that has now been moved to the week of April 28.

The Senators had heard from a number of organization and university leaders expressing concern that the bill would address the problem of so-called “patent trolls” in an overly broad way that would threaten the ability of patent holders to legitimately enforce their patents and thus undermine the nation’s innovation capacity.

SENATE APPROVES DATA ACT
The Senate on April 10 approved by unanimous consent the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (S. 944), a revised version of the measure approved by the House last November (H.R. 2061).  Politico reports that the House leadership is likely to move the Senate-passed version quickly in order to send the measure to the President for signature.

AAU, APLU, and the Council on Governmental Relations have endorsed S. 944, and last November sent a letter to Senators Tom Carper (D-DE) and Tom Coburn (R-OK), leaders of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, thanking them for their leadership in securing bipartisan support for the bill.

The DATA Act requires greater financial transparency in federal grant and contract awards, and aims to eliminate duplicative financial reporting requirements and reduce compliance costs.  The bill also requires the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to establish federal government-wide data standards, and specifically mentions institutions of higher education as stakeholders with whom OMB should consult in identifying ways to streamline reporting requirements.  It also calls on OMB to conduct a pilot program to that end.

Read More:
Senate Unanimously Passes DATA Act (Information Week)

PRESIDENT OF COLBY COLLEGE NOMINATED TO LEAD NEH
The White House announced on April 10 that the President has nominated Dr. William “Bro” Adams, President of Colby College, to serve as chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

Dr. Adams, who has been president of Colby since 2000, also served as president of Bucknell University, and held academic positions at Wesleyan University, Stanford University, Santa Clara University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  He earned a bachelor’s degree from the Colorado College and a doctoral degree in political philosophy from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

H1-B VISA CAP FOR FY15 REACHED IN ONE WEEK
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service announced on April 10 that it had received more than enough applications for H-1B visas to fill the statutory allotment for FY15.  The filing period opened on April 1, and the agency was able to fill every slot through its lottery process by April 7.  The agency received 172,000 visa petitions.  The annual cap on H-1B visas is set at 65,000, with another 20,000 slots for foreign residents with a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. university.