DC Digest – April 7, 2014

In Today’s Issue

  • This Week in Washington
  • House Republicans’ FY15 Budget Proposes Big Cuts in Higher Education
  • Higher Ed Associations Urge House Budget Committee to Help Close Innovation Deficit
  • Senate Appropriations Chair Plans April 29 Hearing on Innovation Deficit
  • Tax-Writing Committees Begin Work on Tax Extenders
  • Higher Ed Associations Comment on Student-Related Provisions of Draft Tax Bill
  • Panel Reaches Consensus on Draft Rules for New Campus Safety Law


THIS WEEK IN WASHINGTON
Equal Pay Day: On Tuesday, the President will sign two executive actions on equal pay, while the Senate will take another vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act. One executive action will establish “Equal Pay Day,” while the second will instruct Labor Secretary Tom Perez to create new regulations requiring federal contractors to report salary summary data to the government, including sex and race breakdowns.

Unemployment Set to Clear Senate: The Senate will also vote on final passage of legislation providing five months of emergency unemployment insurance, retroactive to late December and expiring on May 31. Last Friday, House Majority Eric Cantor declined to say whether or not the House would consider the Senate-passed measure.

Civil Rights Turns 50: The LBJ Presidential Library will host a Civil Rights Summit to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Summit will reflect on the seminal nature of the civil rights legislation passed by President Johnson while examining civil rights issues in America and around the world today. President Barack Obama will be joined by three former Presidents who will also deliver remarks at the Civil Rights Summit: Jimmy Carter will speak on April 8; Bill Clinton will speak on April 9; and George W. Bush will speak on the evening of April 10.

Around Capitol Hill: The House and Senate will adjourn for a two-week spring recess at the conclusion of this week, allowing members to return home for Easter and Passover. Appropriators will continue with hearings and Thursday, the HouseGovernment Oversight and Reform Committee will vote on holding Lois Lerner in contempt.

Read More:
New Obama Order to lead Midterm Equal Pay Push (Politico)
Senate is expected to pass unemployment bill, but a difficult path awaits in House (Washington Post)
Civil Rights Summit (civilrightssummit.org)
House contempt vote for IRS’ Lois Lerner set for next week (Politico)


HOUSE REPUBLICANS’ FY15 BUDGET PROPOSES BIG CUTS IN HIGHER EDUCATION

Last week, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) introduced an FY15 budget resolution that adheres to the FY15 discretionary spending caps and the wall between defense and nondefense discretionary spending set by last year’s budget agreement.  However, the measure also proposes to cut federal spending by some $5.1 trillion over 10 years, significantly change major federal programs, and balance the budget over the decade.  The House Budget Committee approved the package on April 2; the measure is likely to be considered on the House floor next week.

However, the House budget resolution stands no chance of receiving final congressional approval—Senate Democrats see no reason to approve a new budget resolution given last year’s budget agreement, but it lends support to efforts to change research policies, eliminate certain domestic agencies, and significantly cut funding for specific research and education programs.

Read More:
House FY15 Budget Resolution (budget.house.gov)


HIGHER ED ASSOCIATIONS URGE HOUSE BUDGET COMMITTEE TO HELP CLOSE INNOVATION DEFICIT

AAU and the APLU sent a letter to leaders of the House Budget Committee on April 1 urging them to adopt an FY15 budget resolution that would “help close the innovation deficit that is building in the United States and threatening our national and economic security.”  The letter says:

“It is imperative that any new budget plan for FY2015 and beyond help grow our economy, create American jobs, and ensure that the U.S. remains the global innovation leader.  Federal spending for research and higher education has proven to be an extraordinarily fruitful investment for our country, yielding rich returns to the American people in the form of medical advances, stronger national security, technological breakthroughs that have transformed our nation and the world, a highly capable workforce, and long-term economic growth and the jobs that go with it. Therefore, we believe the Budget Resolution should specify the need for increased funding of these priorities that exceeds inflation.”

Read More:
AAU-APLU Letter FY15 Budget Resolution (pdf)

SENATE APPROPRIATIONS CHAIR PLANS APRIL 29 HEARING ON THE INNOVATION DEFICIT
During a Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on April 2 to discuss the FY15 budget for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), full Committee Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) announced that the Appropriations Committee would hold a hearing on innovation and budget cuts on April 29.  The goal, she said, is “to make sure that budget cuts and the possibility of future sequester do not dampen our standing as a world innovation leader.”  She added that appropriators were concerned not only about the federal budget deficit, but also about the “innovation deficit.”

Senator Mikulski said the panel would hear from the President’s Science Advisor, as well as from leaders at such federal research agencies as NIH, NSF, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and Energy.

Read More:
Senator Mikulski’s statement at the hearing, at 1:42:07 (appropriations.senate.gov)
Duke Joins Effort to Raise Awareness of Innovation Deficit (Duke Today)


TAX-WRITING COMMITTEES BEGIN WORK ON TAX EXTENDERS

The House and Senate tax-writing committees have begun work on reauthorizing the set of tax provisions, called the “tax extenders,” which expired at the end of 2013.  House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI), who announced last Friday that he will retire at the end of this year, has said he hopes to make some of the tax extenders permanent through the comprehensive tax reform package he introduced on February 26.  But Congress is not expected to approve a comprehensive tax reform package in this election year, so another vehicle will be needed.

In the Senate, Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) released their own tax extenders package on April 1.  The measure was marked up and approved in the full Committee on April 3.  Chairman Wyden says he hopes a short-term extension of expired provisions can serve as a “springboard” to broader tax reform.  National Journal reports that action on a final extenders package deal is unlikely until after the November elections.

In anticipation of eventual action on the tax extenders, a group of higher education associations sent a letter to Chairmen Camp and Wyden on March 28 asking them to include in any final extenders bill two higher education provisions: the above-the-line deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses and the Individual Retirement Account (IRA) Charitable Rollover.  The letter notes that the tuition deduction is particularly important to graduate students because they are ineligible for the American Opportunity Tax Credit. The IRA Charitable Rollover has proven a valuable incentive for charitable giving that helps nonprofit organizations generate new or increased contributions.

Read More:
Senate Tax Extenders Package (finance.senate.gov)
Higher Ed Associations’ letter regarding higher ed provisions (pdf)

HIGHER EDUCATION ASSOCIATIONS COMMENT ON STUDENT-RELATED PROVISIONS IN DRAFT TAX BILL
A group of 11 higher education associations sent a letter on April 4 to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) providing comments on the student aid-related provisions in his draft comprehensive tax reform package.

“We are very pleased to see that the discussion draft seeks to create a simpler, consolidated higher education tax credit…While we support simplification, it can and should be done in a way that will not effectively increase the cost of a higher education for middle-income and nontraditional low-income students and families.”

Read More:
Letter – Higher Ed Provisions in Tax Reform Act of 2014 Discussion Draft (pdf)

PANEL REACHES CONSENSUS ON DRAFT RULES FOR NEW CAMPUS SAFETY LAW
The Department of Education (ED) panel working on draft regulations for the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act (SaVE Act), part of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act signed into law in March 2013, reached consensus on proposed language Wednesday in the last of its three negotiated rulemaking sessions.

The SaVE Act provision expands the information colleges must incorporate into their annual crime reports and includes updated definitions of domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking, according to the final draft agreed upon by negotiators. The panel also agreed on language that would help institutions better manage the conflicts between protecting student confidentiality and safety that can occur in some situations, as well as providing more flexibility in the timeframe for a “prompt, fair, and impartial proceeding” to deal with complaints. Campuses would be required to have ongoing programs and awareness campaigns aimed at preventing dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, and these programs would have to be tailored to the campus culture and based on research or assessed for effectiveness.  The rule allows any student in a campus sexual assault proceeding to have an advisor of his or her choice.

ED will publish the draft rule in the Federal Register, likely before the end of the month, after which there will be a 45-day comment period. Final regulations are expected to be published before Nov. 1. Because consensus was reached, the agreed upon regulations are unlikely to change very much.