DC Digest – February 24, 2014

In Today’s Issue

  • This Week in Washington
  • Associations Ask Appropriators to Give Priority to Labor-HHS-Ed Bill for FY15
  • White House Holds Meeting to Discuss Ways to Improve U.S. Patent System
  • Administration Continues Exploring Approaches for Rating Colleges
  • IRS Provides Guidance on ACA Requirements for Adjunct Faculty/Student Employees

 

THIS WEEK IN WASHINGTON
White House: Today President Obama will deliver remarks to the National Governor’s Association, before meeting with western governors to discuss drought and wildfire issues. The balance of his week will be dedicated to events on the economy. Vice President Biden will make the television rounds with appearances scheduled for “Late Night with Seth Meyers” and “The View,”where he will discuss the importance of signing up for health insurance.

Supreme Court: Will hear oral arguments on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and other stationary sources.

Hagel Goes on Defense Tour: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will announce the Pentagon’s budget request and the state of defense this afternoon. He will call for downsizing the army and restructuring several acquisition programs. Later this week, he will visit troops discuss the future of the force, then head off to Brussels for a NATO Defense Ministers Conference on Afghanistan. He testifies on the budget next week to the Senate and House Armed Services Committees.

Capitol Hill:  The House and Senate return this week, with the recent developments in Ukraine expected to get most of the focus. The House will consider changes to the Homeowner Floor Insurance and the Senate will be considering judicial nominees.

Read More:
A Year of Action (whitehouse.gov)
Hagel to propose downsizing Army to smallest size in decades (PBS Newshour)
Supreme Court to consider EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases (Washington Post)


ASSOCIATIONS ASK APPROPRIATORS TO GIVE PRIORITY TO LABOR-HHS-EDUCATION BILL FOR FY15
A group of 17 higher education associations sent a letter to House and Senate appropriators on February 18 asking them to allocate sufficient funding for the FY15 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bills to “enable the subcommittees to address the serious challenges in funding that exist for higher education programs.”  The letter focused on previous years’ funding reductions for federal student aid programs, graduate education, and the National Institutes of Health.

Read More:
Association Letter Requesting Priority for Labor-HHS-Ed (pdf)

WHITE HOUSE HOLDS MEETING TO DISCUSS WAYS TO IMPROVE U.S. PATENT SYSTEM
The White House on February 21 held a Patent Stakeholders Meeting Administration officials reviewed initiatives “designed to combat patent trolls and further strengthen our patent system and foster innovation.”  The speakers reviewed progress on five Executive Actions announced in June, 2013, and announced three new Executive Actions.

Following the public session,  representatives from 25 invited organizations, including universities, attended a roundtable on patent reform legislation where participants presented and discussed their views on key legislative issues.

Read More:
Executive Actions: Answering the President’s Call to Strengthen our Patent System (whitehouse.gov)
University Comments on Legislative Proposals to Curb Abusive Patent Practices (aau.edu)

ADMINISTRATION CONTINUES EXPLORING APPROACHES FOR RATING COLLEGES
The Obama Administration is continuing its efforts to develop a college ratings system, including providing two recent public opportunities to garner feedback from colleges and universities, and others within higher education. Such a system is the centerpiece of the higher education reform proposal announced by President Obama in August.

As Politico reports, “[i]t will be a Consumer Reports for colleges. Or a Good Housekeeping seal of approval. Or a higher education version of the exhaustive Cook’s Illustrated reviews of skillets and blenders for every budget.”

Read More:
Administration Continues Exploring Approaches for Rating Colleges (NAICU.edu)
C is for College Rating System (politico)

IRS PROVIDES GUIDANCE ON ACA REQUIREMENTS FOR ADJUNCT FACULTY/STUDENT EMPLOYEES
On February 10, the IRS provided long-awaited guidance for colleges and universities on defining the workload for adjunct faculty and student employees for purposes of health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The higher education community has been seeking this guidance since March of last year. While the information will help colleges account for workload hours, it is less clear that the guidance will answer all questions on when adjuncts are required to have health insurance under the ACA.Read More:
NAICU Summary (NAICU)