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Budget and Appropriations Bills on the Horizon
The House of Representatives has begun work on Fiscal Year 2016 (FY16) appropriations bills and, constrained by strict funding levels set by the Budget Control Act, the early drafts reflect an essentially flat funding scenario. The House passed the FY16 appropriations bill that funds the Department of Energy (DOE), providing an increase of $32M for the Office of Science but $240M less than the President’s Budget Request (PBR). The bill dramatically reduces spending on climate science and energy efficiency programs. As this issue went to press, the House will soon be introducing funding bills into committee for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Science Foundation (NSF). Funding for NASA Science is $7M below the FY15 enacted level; funding for NIST is $9M below; funding for NOAA is $274M below; but funding for the NSF is $50M above FY15.
The Administration has already issued veto threats to several House budget and appropriations bills over policy provisions and concerns on funding priorities.
The America COMPETES Act, at press time, is expected to be introduced on the House floor the week of May 25. Passing COMPETES out of committee proved to be a contentious and partisan affair, with almost every amendment and the bill itself passing or failing along party lines.
The divisive factors in the bill include a number of policy provisions that APS strongly opposes, such as (1) restricting the use of scientific research funded by DOE for policy making and (2) creating unnecessary inefficiencies in NSF’s management of large scale facilities. APS sent a letter to the House science committee that Ranking Member Johnson (D-TX) cited in her opening remarks. The letter can be read online.
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), set to replace No Child Left Behind (NCLB), passed the Senate Education committee with a vote of 22 for, 0 opposed. And true to the bipartisan nature of ESEA, multiple amendments passed overwhelmingly. Missing from earlier drafts but now restored by the STEM-Ed Amendment are the Math Science Partnerships. Also of importance is that “evidence-based” has now been defined in the legislation, something that was sorely lacking from NCLB.
Looking forward, ESEA is expected to be introduced on the floor before the August recess. Additionally, now that ESEA has moved out of committee, the Senate education committee will be taking up the Higher Education Act shortly.
WASHINGTON OFFICE ACTIVITIES
Austin Hinkel, a physics student at the University of Kentucky, wrote an op-ed in the Lexington Herald-Leader (KY), calling for robust support of science funding and an end to sequestration. Read the op-ed
APS Director of Public Affairs Michael S. Lubell opined about changing the nation’s tax policy as an incentive to get companies to invest in long-term scientific research in his latest Roll Call column. Read the op-ed
APS Panel on Public Affairs
The member comment period for the proposed Statement on Earth’s Changing Climate concluded on May 6th. A review committee is assessing membership feedback and will report its recommendations to the APS Panel on Public Affairs (POPA) in the coming weeks.
The POPA Physics & the Public Subcommittee continues its work on a survey focused on overcoming the obstacles of recruiting teachers in the physical sciences. It plans to carry out a survey this summer, with results expected by year’s end. Two proposed APS Statements, one a revision of the APS Statement on Civic Engagement and the second on the Status of Women in Physics, will be made available for APS membership comment this summer.
The POPA National Security Subcommittee will introduce a revised proposal at the Panel’s mid-year meeting for a study on non-weapons science conducted at the nation’s national security laboratories.
The POPA Energy & Environment Subcommittee is pursuing partnerships with other scientific organizations to study the long-term challenges of helium supply and pricing. A workshop is anticipated in the early fall.
A template for study proposals can be found online, along with a suggestion box for future POPA studies.
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