DC Digest – March 2, 2015

In Today’s Issue:

  • This Week in Washington
  • Dukies on the Move
  • 144 Universities Send Letter on Patent Bill
  • House Votes to Expand 529 College Savings Plans
  • Duke Experts Brief Staffers on Terrorist Threats and Ed Reform
  • Senators Reintroduce Legislation to Address Campus Sexual Assault Issues
  • Higher Ed Associations Urge House and Senate Budget Leaders to Repeal Sequestration
  • Administration Will Allow Spouses of Certain High-Skilled Immigrants to Work in US
  • Higher Ed Associations Endorse Bill to Curb College and University Regulation
  • Higher Ed Community Comments on Proposed PIRS Campus Rating System


THIS WEEK IN WASHINGTON

DHS Funding Pt. 2: The fight over how to fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) continues, after lawmakers voted last week to pass a one-week spending bill. The Senate voted tonight against movint to a conference committee with the House of Representatives on a bill that ties funding for DHS to blocking President’s executive action on immigration. Congress has until Friday at midnight to reach a resolution; however, the House is schedule to leave town on Thursday afternoon.

Netanyahu to Address Congress: The Israeli prime minister will address a joint meeting of Congress on Tuesday at 11 a.m. two weeks before his country’s elections. Netanyahu is expected to criticize the Iran nuclear negotiations and urge support against a deal. President Obama will not meet with Netanyahu while he is in Washington, and Vice-President Joe Biden, and Secretary of State John Kerry are scheduled to be out of the country, a potential sign of souring relations between the two countries.

Keystone XL, Still: The Senate will attempt to override President Obama’s veto of the legislation authorizing the Keystone XL pipeline this week, with a vote coming as early as Tuesday. This was the President’s first veto of the Congress and the override vote is expected to fall short of the necessary 2/3 majority.

Supreme Court: The Supreme Court will hear arguments in two notable cases this week. In the first, the justices will consider whether it is unconstitutional for states to remove legislatures from the redistricting process. Later in the week, they will hear arguments on whether the federal government has the authority to provide health care subsidies to individuals in states that elected not to establish a state-run exchange under the Affordable Care Act.

Read More:
This Week: Netanyahu addresses Congress amid DHS stalemate (thehill.com)
Supreme Court considers Constitutionality of independent redistricting (politico.com)


DUKIES ON THE MOVE
Amanda Neely (L ’08)
is now oversight counsel on the Oversight Subcommittee of the House Committee on Ways & Means.

Are you or other Dukies you know making a move in DC?  Please send tips to Landy Elliott –landy.elliott@duke.edu.

 

UNIVERSITIES WARN CONGRESS THAT PENDING PATENT BILL WOULD HARM U.S. INNOVATION SYSTEM
A group of 144 universities, including Duke, sent a letter to leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees on February 24 expressing concern about pending legislation to address abusive patent litigation practices.

The letter, which was copied to the full Congress, specifically addresses the Innovation Act ( H.R. 9), legislation introduced earlier this month by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), and expresses readiness to work on “targeted, measured, and carefully calibrated” legislation to address patent litigation abuses.

The universities warn that much of the patent legislation currently being discussed in Congress, including the Innovation Act, “goes well beyond what is needed to address the bad actions of a small number of patent holders, and would instead make it more difficult and expensive for patent holders to defend their rights in good faith.” They add, “The resulting uncertainty and increased financial risk surrounding university patents would discourage potential licensees and venture capitalists from investing in university discoveries, thus disrupting the nation’s innovation ecosystem.”

Read More:
University Letter on Patent Legislation (aau.edu)
Accompanying Press Release (aau.edu)

HOUSE VOTES TO EXPAND TAX BENEFITS FOR 529 COLLEGE SAVINGS PLANS
The House on February 26 voted overwhelmingly to extend and expand the tax break for 529 college savings plans. The measure, which was approved by a vote of 401 to 20, would add to current benefits by allowing participants to use the accounts for computers and other technology and to redeposit campus refunds back into the accounts without penalty. The Chronicle of Higher Education notes that the measure enjoys bipartisan support in the Senate and seems likely to be signed into law.

Earlier this year, President Obama proposed to eliminate the 529 savings plan tax break as part of a broader education tax reform package to help fund his proposal to provide two free years of community college and bolster the main tuition tax credit. His proposal to cut the 529 benefit was criticized by both Republicans and Democrats.

 Read More:
House Approves Modest Expansion of 529 College Savings Plans (Chronicle)

DUKE EXPERTS BRIEF STAFFERS ON TERRORIST THREATS AND EDUCATION REFORM
Duke in Washington hosted two rapid response policy conference calls last week, connecting Duke expertise to policymakers in DC.  On February 24, David Schanzer, director of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, and Jayne Huckerby, associate clinical professor of law, spoke to a group of staff and alumni about their respective research into preventing violent radicalization and the role women play in terrorism. The call took place on the heels of a White House summit on countering violent extremism, in which Huckerby participated.

On February 25, congressional education aides, agency representatives, and a handful of alums working in education policy gathered to hear about issues related to No Child Left Behind reform efforts that are making their way through the House and Senate. Professors Ken Dodge,, director of the Center for Child and Family Policy at Sanford, and Helen “Sunny” Ladd, professor of public policy and economics, contributed their knowledge of early childhood education, low-income schools, and testing to the conversation.

SENATORS REINTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO ADDRESS CAMPUS SEXUAL ASSAULT ISSUES
A bipartisan group of 12 Senators last week introduced a revised version of legislation to address sexual assault on college campuses. Like the bill introduced in the last Congress, the new Campus Accountability and Safety Act (CASA) would require colleges and universities to institute explicit disciplinary procedures for handling charges of sexual harassment and assault on campus, better coordinate with local police departments, expand reporting of their efforts, and provide expanded assistance and information to victims.

The new version responds to a number of substantive concerns identified by the university community. It strengthens the rights of the accused, clarifies details related to the responsibilities and training of campus confidential advisors, and clarifies the requirement for institutions to enter into memoranda of understanding with law enforcement agencies, among other changes. The new bill would also use funding from campus penalties to support a new Department of Justice research program, rather than on the Department of Education’s enforcement activities.

There are several remaining issues of concern to higher education, including, but not limited to, the mandated federal climate survey, the penalties and fines, and training for responsible employees.

Read More:
Senator McCaskill Press Release (mccaskill.senate.gov)

HIGHER ED ASSOCIATIONS URGE HOUSE AND SENATE BUDGET LEADERS TO REPEAL SEQUESTRATION
Three Higher Ed Associations sent a letter to House and Senate Budget Committee leaders on February 27 urging them to repeal sequestration and give high priority to scientific research and higher education in the FY16 budget resolution. The letter noted that under current law, sequestration would hold FY16 discretionary spending at essentially its FY15 level, a cut in purchasing power for a part of the federal budget that funds the nation’s investments in the future. The associations urged the congressional leaders to craft an FY16 budget resolution that addresses the broad budget issues by providing “a path for comprehensive tax reform” and “meaningful entitlement reform.”

Read More:
Higher Ed Letter Urging Repeal of Sequestration, Priority to Research and Higher Ed (aau.edu)

ADMINISTRATION WILL ALLOW SPOUSES OF CERTAIN HIGH-SKILLED IMMIGRANTS TO WORK IN THE U.S.
The Obama Administration announced on February 24 that it will allow individuals holding H-4 dependent spouse visas to work legally in the United States while their working spouses are seeking employment-based permanent resident status (a green card). The regulation will take effect on May 26.

Current law prevents spouses of H-1B visa holders seeking green cards from being able to work legally while their spouses’ applications are being processed.

Read More:
DHS Extends Eligibility Employment Authorization for Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses (USCIS.gov)

 

HIGHER ED ASSOCIATIONS ENDORSE BILL TO CURB COLLEGE AND UNIVERSITY REGULATION
Higher education associations sent a letter on February 23 supporting the bipartisan House bill Supporting Academic Freedom Through Regulatory Relief Act (H.R. 970). The measure would block the Department of Education (ED) regulations on state authorization, credit hour and gainful employment and prohibit the department from continuing work on its plan to rate colleges and on the proposed regulations regarding the quality of teacher preparation programs.

The bill would bar ED from enforcing or continuing to develop these regulations until Congress reauthorizes the Higher Education Act (HEA)—an effort to let Congress weigh in on the direction these rules are going.  The letter was addressed to the bill’s sponsors, Virginia Foxx (R-NC), chair of the House Education and the Workforce’s Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training; Alcee Hastings (D-FL); Matt Salmon (R-AZ); and John Kline (R-MN), chair of the House education committee. Richard Burr (R-NC) has introduced a similar bill (S. 559) in the Senate and also received the letter.

Read More:
Higer Ed Letter Endorsing SAFRRA (acenet.edu)

HIGHER EDUCATION COMMUNITY COMMENTS ON PROPOSED PIRS CAMPUS RATING SYSTEM
Twenty-six higher education associations last submitted comments to the Department of Education regarding its proposed Postsecondary Institution Ratings System (PIRS). The comment letter expresses concern about the feasibility of a ratings system and the serious danger of unintended consequences. The letter strong urges the Department to offer more details about its plans well before publishing any ratings, specifically to provide more information about any formulas it plans to use to rate institutions and any weights that would be applied.

Read More:
Higher Ed Comments on PIRS (aau.edu)