DC Digest – March 3, 2014

In Today’s Issue

  • This Week in Washington
  • Duke Faculty Testify Before Congress on Child Development, Presidential Authority
  • Ways and Means Chair’s Tax Overhaul Plan Would Affect Universities, Students
  • Rep. David Price Participates in “Rethinking Regulation” Panel on Campus
  • AAU, APLU Endorse Manufacturing Innovation Bill
  • 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


White House: The focus of the week was supposed to be the release of the President’s budget — which will be Tuesday — yet between the recent events in Ukraine, the budget has become somewhat overshadowed. It will still be the highlight on President Obama’s week, however; with events on the budget and the administration’s commitment to “opportunity for all” scheduled in Washington and Miami. Also on his schedule: welcoming the Israeli Prime Minister to the White House on Monday, an event discussing the minimum wage on Wednesday, and an event on the economy and healthcare on Thursday.

Foreign Policy: Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Kiev on Tuesday to address the rising tensions in the Crimea region.

Capitol Hill: The Senate will take up the reauthorization of Child Development Block Grants, with the possibility of patent reform and manufacturing incentives receiving floor time in the coming weeks. In the House of Representatives, Rep. Darrell Issa has set up another showdown Lois Lerner, the former IRS official by inviting her to testify before the Oversight and Reform Committee Wednesday. The full House will vote on a number of bills relating to energy efficiency and repealing the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate

Financial Markets: On Friday, the February U.S. jobs numbers will be released.

Read More:
Obama budget: What to watch for (The Hill)
Benjamin Netanyahu vows tough stance (Politico)
Kerry to visit Ukraine on Tuesday, threatens sanctions if Russia doesn’t pull forces back (Washington Post)
Rep. Issa says IRS’s Lois Lerner will testify (CNN)


Two Duke faculty members testified before Congressional committees on Wednesday in hearings highlighting Duke’s expertise over the wide scope of congressional oversight, interest and structure.  Chris Schroeder, Charles S. Murphy Professor of Law and Professor of Public Policy Studies, testified before the House Judiciary Committee and Dr. E. Jane Costello, associate director for research at the Center for Child and Family Policy, testified before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

Read More:
Duke Faculty Testify in Congressional Hearings on Child Development, Presidential Authority (today.duke.edu)

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) on February 26 introduced an ambitious plan to overhaul the federal tax code that contains several provisions of significant concern to the higher education community.  The proposal would streamline individual and corporate tax brackets, lower tax rates, and modify or eliminate a number of tax breaks and incentives, including several that are important to higher education.

An initial review indicates that the bill contains provisions that would adversely affect students’ ability to pay for college, potentially reduce charitable giving, increase regulatory and compliance burdens, and make it harder for universities to carry out their missions.

The plan was met with little enthusiasm on Capitol Hill.  House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said he welcomed “a public conversation about the issue of tax reform,” without offering comments on specific provisions in the measure.  Both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said the package stands no chance of approval in this election year.

For more information about specific provisions impacting higher education, read the Inside Higher Ed story below.

Read More:
Camp Releases Tax Reform Plan (Waysandmeans.house.gov)
The Tax Bill Cometh (Inside Higher Ed)

Congressman David Price, Harvard Business School professor David Moss, and former North Carolina Commissioner of Banks Joseph Smith took part last Friday in a panel discussion:  “Preventing Regulatory Capture” as part of the program in Rethinking Regulation at the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke.

Read More:
Rethinking Regulation panel brings together scholars and policymakers together to discuss “capture” (kenan.ethics.duke.edu)

AAU and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) on February 26 sent a letter to Senate sponsors of the Revitalize American Manufacturing Act of 2013 (RAMI), expressing preliminary support for the bill (S. 1468), which would establish a new network of regional public-private manufacturing institutes.  The letter was copied to Reps. Tom Reed (D-NY) and Joseph Kennedy (D-MA), who introduced the measure (H.R. 2996) in the House.

The two associations told Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) they could fully support S. 1648 if a provision related to intellectual property rights were modified in committee markup.

RAMI aims to support development of such consortia as the American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute based in the Detroit area and the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute based in Chicago, which President Obama announced on February 25.

Read More:
President Obama Announces Public-Private Manufacturing Innovation Institutes (whitehouse.gov)
Letter endorsing RAMI (pdf)


A group of 57 state and national higher education associations submitted comments to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on February 27, expressing serious concerns about the agency’s proposed changes in rules governing the political campaign activities of tax-exempt nonprofit organizations.

The organizations, led by the American Council on Education (ACE), expressed particular concern about the possibility that the IRS could extend proposed restrictions on campaign-related activities of so-called social welfare organizations under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code to include section 501(c)(3) organizations.  This could have unintended consequences:

“Given our long-standing commitment to civic engagement, we are deeply concerned about potential restrictions on long-permissible speech and other non-partisan campaign-related activities, many of which regularly take place on our campuses. These activities go to the heart of the role our institutions play as “intellectual and public commons.” We strongly believe that student learning would be harmed, political discourse on campus chilled, and our civic mission severely undercut if the proposed 501(c)(4) restrictions are imposed on 501(c)(3) organizations.”

Read More:
ACE-led Comments on IRS REG-134417-13 (pdf)

With President Obama’s FY15 budget plan set for release this week and the appropriations process getting underway, a group of 14 organizations on February 27 launched a creative video that urges Congress to Close the Innovation Deficit with strong federal investments in research and higher education.

The four-minute video, featuring rapidly hand-drawn images and text, explains the direct link between basic research, economic growth, improved medical treatments, and national security.  The video also shows the risk that recent cuts to research pose to the United States’ role as the global innovation leader at a time when other nations are rapidly increasing their research investments, as well as the significant benefits that renewed investments in research would bring the country.

The innovation deficit is the gap between actual and needed federal investments in research and higher education at a time when other nations such as China, India, and Singapore are dramatically boosting research funding to develop the next great technological and medical breakthroughs.

The redesigned Close the Innovation Deficit website now features a fact sheet and an array of compelling charts that detail the effects that U.S. cuts and foreign investments in research are having on the nation’s role as innovation leader.

Read More:
Innovation Deficit Press Release
Innovation Deficit Video (youtube)