DC Digest – March 9, 2015

In Today’s Issue:

  • This Week in Washington
  • DIW Office Connects Duke Experts to Washington
  • At Smithsonian, Duke’s Lozier Connects Ocean Science to Public Policy
  • House Science Committee Approves R&D Efficiency Bill
  • Senator Coons Introduces the STRONG Patents Act
  • Higher Ed Associations Support AOTC Reform Bill

Capitol Hill: The Senate will turn this week to human trafficking legislation, taking up a bill would use fines and penalties against perpetrators for more restitution and assistance funds for victims. This is instead of a measure that would require congressional approval of any potential Iran nuclear deal. But Democrats will filibuster the measure until the key negotiation date of March 24 passes. Democrats are still hoping to force a vote on the nomination of Loretta Lynch to become the next Attorney General.

Economy Matters: Today, the Congressional Budget Office releases its updated 10-year baseline projection of spending, revenue and deficits. This information will come just days before the current suspension of the nation’s debt ceiling expires (March 15). In a letter to Congress last Friday,Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew said he expects to exhaust ‘extraordinary measures’ to avoid a default in September or October.

Read More:
This week: Nominations, anti-trafficking top agenda (thehill.com)
CBO: U.S. will hit debt limit in October or November (marketwatch.com)
What do unconventional terrorist threats and elementary and secondary education reform have in common?  Each are areas of expertise that Duke faculty shared with the Washington policy world last week, via conference calls arranged by staff at Duke in Washington (DIW), the university’s outreach center in Washington, DC.  These “rapid response policy calls” are the latest examples of efforts by DIW staff to connect Duke scholarship and people to policymakers and other leaders in Washington.

“Duke is home to expertise in just about any discipline you can think of.  And people in DC are working to solve just about any problem you can think of,” said Landy Elliott, director of Duke in Washington.

“Our goal is to get Duke’s evidence-based scholarship in the hands of those who have to make tough policy decisions.  To give policymakers the information and background that will help them to make the best-informed decisions possible.”

Read More:
DIW Office Connects Duke Experts to Washington (Duke Today)


Susan Lozier, professor of ocean studies at the Nicholas School of the Environment, delivered the National Research Council’s annual Revelle Lecture  last week at the Smithsonian Institute’s Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.  The annual lecture, put on by the Ocean Studies Board of the NRC, features talks that connect ocean science to public  policy.

Lozier was selected to give the talk because of the topic was “relevant to the concerns of the scientific community,” said Bob Duce, the chair of the Ocean Studies Board. “Not only is Lozier an outstanding scientist, she’s a tremendous communicator,” Duce said. “She can get ideas across to even a non-science community in a wonderful way.”

Read More:
At Smithsonian Talk, Lozier Overturns What We Know About Ocean Currents (Duke Today)


The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee on March 4 approved the Research and Development Efficiency Act (H.R. 1119), legislation that aims to reduce the burden of federal regulations on government-sponsored research by harmonizing, streamlining, and eliminating duplicative federal regulations and reporting requirements.

The bill would task the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) with establishing a working group to review federal research regulations affecting research and research universities. OSTP would report back to Congress within one year on what steps had been taken to carry out the recommendations of that working group.


Senator Christopher Coons (D-DE) on March 3 introduced the Support Technology and Research for Our Nation’s Growth (STRONG) Patents Act of 2015, legislation aimed at targeting the harmful litigation practices of patent trolls without damaging the broader U.S. patent system.

The bill would give the Federal Trade Commission powers against abusive demand letters and make changes to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s process for challenging patents after they have been issued, reports Politico.

AAU issued a statement on March 2 endorsing the bill.

Read More:
The STRONG Patents Act (Coons.Senate.gov)
AAU Expresses Strong Support for STRONG Patents Act of 2015 (aau.edu)


A group of 12 higher education associations sent a letter Feb. 27 to Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) in support of his recently introduced bill to make a number of reforms to the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) and Lifetime Learning Credit.

The bill consolidates the two credits into one simplified, permanent AOTC that would provide up to $3,000 per year in tax relief for students. It also incorporates the expanded eligible expenses of the current AOTC, increases income phase-out thresholds, and replaces current limits on the number of years a student can utilize the AOTC with a $15,000 lifetime cap.

In steps that would particularly benefit low- and moderate-income students, the bill increases the partial refundability of the current AOTC to a maximum of $1,500 and better coordinates the interaction of the credit with Pell Grants.

Read More:
Higher Ed Letter Supporting Schumer Bill (acenet.edu)