October 14, 2019

October 14, 2019

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Senate HELP Committee Forms Bipartisan Higher Education Act Reauthorization Working Groups; House Passes America COMPETES Act

Senate HELP Committee Forms Higher Education Act Reauthorization Working Groups

In a joint statement released on May 21, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) announced the formation of bipartisan working groups tasked with addressing four key areas within the Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization. The four working groups, composed of HELP committee staff from both parties, will focus on issues of accountability, accreditation, college affordability and financial aid, and campus sexual assault. Though committee staff will lead the meetings, all Senate HELP Committee members will be invited to attend. Senators Alexander and Murray noted they look forward to the bipartisan collaboration in the weeks to come as the reauthorization process continues to progress. A draft HEA bill is expected this fall.

House Passes America COMPETES Act

The House passed the America COMPETES Act (H.R. 1806) just before the Memorial Day recess. The bill authorizes the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) wrote the bill, which authorizes an overall five percent increase in funding. The funding increase supports research accounts for engineering, computer science, biology, and math/physical sciences, while the bill reduces research funding for geosciences, social sciences, and renewable energy and efficiency. Additionally, the bill curtails climate change research at DOE.

Congressional Democrats are largely displeased with the bill. In fact, the bill did not have any Democratic cosponsors, despite the fact that this legislation received bipartisan support in the past. The Democrats, instead, have supported an alternative America COMPETES Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1898), which will remain stalled in the House. Additionally, the White House has spoken out against the America COMPETES Act with President Obama’s science advisor, John Holdren, commenting that the bill would be bad for science and the country’s global leadership in the area of scientific enterprise.

In the Senate, Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, and  Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), member of the Energy and Water Development Subcommittee, have introduced a bill to reauthorize the energy programs included in the America COMPETES Act (S. 1398). The bill has already received bipartisan support, with six cosponsors, including chairwoman and ranking members of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

The bill would authorize a four percent increase in annual funding for basis energy research and reauthorize the DOC Office of Science and DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) for five years. The bill also would reform five DOE programs and eliminate another six programs that have not been fully implemented. Additionally, the bill would authorize competitive grant programs aimed at building and maintaining scientific talent in this country. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is likely to consider the legislation this summer.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Tuesday, June 2: The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitution and Civil Justice Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will hold a hearing titled “First Amendment Protections On Public College And University Campuses.”

  • Wednesday, June 3: The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will hold a hearing  titled “Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: Ensuring College Affordability.”

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Roxana Boyd, Squire Patton Boggs, Legislative Research,
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Roxana Boyd works closely with universities, municipalities and transportation authorities on a range of legislative and administration matters related to higher education and transportation and infrastructure. She provides research to inform clients on developments related to their strategic plans, monitors legislative movement and drafts client responses when appropriate. Roxana also assists clients to identify and secure federal funding through competitive and discretionary grants.

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Samantha Martin, Public Policy Specialist, Squire Patton Boggs Law Firm
Public Policy Specialist

Samantha Martin works closely with universities, municipalities and transportation authorities on a range of legislative and administration matters related to higher education and transportation and infrastructure. She provides research to inform clients on developments related to their strategic plans, monitors legislative movement and drafts client responses when appropriate. Ms. Martin also assists clients to identify and secure federal funding through competitive and discretionary grants. 

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Amy Budner Smith, SquirePattonBoggs, public policy, non-profit
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Drawing from her background in policy analysis and project management, Amy Budner Smith provides policy guidance to and advocates on behalf of universities and colleges, hospital systems, and other public and non-profit organizations. She focuses on securing federal funding opportunities to support clients’ infrastructure improvements, program expansions and research, and other important community services. Ms. Smith also specializes in developing comprehensive strategic plans to raise clients’ national profile and counseling clients on the potential impact of federal...

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Dana T. Weekes, SquirePattonBoggs, legislation, federal funding
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Dana Weekes represents corporations, universities, and nonprofit organizations on a range of legislative and administrative matters related to agriculture, education and federal funding. She advocates for client interests in major reauthorizations, including the farm bill, the Child Nutrition Act, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Higher Education Act and the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. Dana also advances and protects client interests as federal agencies look to implement legislation through the rulemaking process. Her issues...

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