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Public Policy Report for 31 January 2011

AIBS Applauds President's State of the Union Address

During the 2011 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama challenged the nation to recommit to a spirit of innovation. “We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world,” said the President. In order to accomplish this, the President noted that the nation must invest the resources needed to improve science education and drive scientific research.

“This is our generation’s Sputnik moment,” said President Obama. “Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the Space Race. In a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology - an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.”

Immediately following the speech, AIBS issued a statement applauding the President for restating his commitment to science.

The President also focused on reforming America’s education system, including setting several ambitious goals for the next decade. In addition to replacing the No Child Left Behind Act, the education reform championed by President George W. Bush, President Obama wants to train 100,000 new teachers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math over the next ten years. He also reiterated his goal to restore America’s position as the nation with the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

Lastly, the President pledged to freeze non-security discretionary spending, which accounts for about 12 percent of the total federal budget, for the next five years. Mr. Obama has already frozen the salaries of government employees for the next two years. The move comes after weeks of rhetoric by Congressional Republicans to make deeper cuts. “[L]et’s make sure what we’re cutting is really excess weight. Cutting the deficit by gutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine. It may feel like you’re flying high at first, but it won’t take long before you’ll feel the impact.”

AIBS Public Policy Director, Dr. Robert Gropp, applauded the President’s remarks on science. “We were heartened to hear that President Obama plans to submit to Congress in the coming weeks a budget that would continue to make investments in scientific research. I look forward to seeing the details.”

“Science can not move forward and respond to our grand challenges in an environment of uncertainty. The nation must make sustained and predictable investments in research and development,” said Richard O’Grady, AIBS Executive Director.

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House Appropriations Committee Membership Announced

House Republicans have selected Kentucky’s Hal Rogers to serve as Chairman of the powerful House Committee on Appropriations. Representative Norm Dicks (D-WA) will be the Ranking Minority Member for the full committee as well as hold the top Democratic seat on the Defense Subcommittee.

Chairman Rogers recently announced the Subcommittee Chairmen and Republican membership for the 112th Congress. “Each and every one of our Republican committee members are committed to the historic challenge of dramatically reducing government spending and getting our economy on a sustainable and responsible path. It is with their expertise, hard work, and leadership that this Congress will begin to undo the damage caused by record deficits and debt, put Americans back to work, and provide for a secure financial future. We have a tough road ahead of us, and this Committee will begin our work immediately to accomplish our goals for the 112th Congress,” Rogers said.

The House Democratic Caucus also approved their leadership and membership for the committee. The subcommittee Chairmen, Ranking Minority Members, and members are as follows:

Agriculture Subcommittee

The Chairman will be Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA). California’s Rep. Sam Farr will assume the top Democratic spot on the subcommittee. Members of the panel will be Representatives Tom Latham (R-IA), Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO), Robert Aderholt (R-AL), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Alan Nunnelee (R-MS), Tom Graves (R-GA), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Sanford Bishop (D-GA), and Marcy Kaptur (D-OH).

Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee

The Chairman will be Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA). Pennsylvania’s Rep. Chaka Fattah is now the senior Democrat on the panel, which has jurisdiction over the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV), who was chairman of the Commerce, Justice, Science panel in the last Congress, was defeated in his bid for re-election. Members of the panel will be Representatives John Culberson (R-TX), Robert Aderholt (R-AL), Jo Bonner (R-AL), Steve Austria (R-OH), Tom Graves (R-GA), Kevin Yoder (R-KS), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Mike Honda (D-CA), and José Serrano (D-NY).

Interior and Environment Subcommittee

The Chairman will be Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID). Rep. James P. Moran (D-VA) will hold the senior Democratic spot on the panel, which has jurisdiction over the United States Geological Survey, Environmental Protection Agency, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and parts of the Forest Service. Members of the panel will be Representatives Jerry Lewis (R-CA), Ken Calvert (R-CA), Steve LaTourette (R-OH), Tom Cole (R-OK), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), and José Serrano (D-NY).

Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee

The Chairman will be Denny Rehberg (R-MT). Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) will serve as the top Democrat. The senior spot on the panel was previously held by retiring full Committee Chairman, Rep. David Obey (D-WI). DeLauro was previously Chairwoman of the Agriculture Subcommittee. Members of the panel will be Representatives Jerry Lewis (R-CA), Rodney Alexander (R-LA), Jack Kingston (R-GA), Kay Granger (R-TX), Mike Simpson (R-ID), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), and Barbara Lee (D-CA).

Energy and Water Subcommittee

The Chairman will be Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ). Rep. Peter J. Visclosky (D-IN) will hold the top Democratic spot on the Energy and Water Subcommittee. Members of the panel will be Representatives Jerry Lewis (R-CA), Mike Simpson (R-ID), Dennis Rehberg (R-MT), Rodney Alexander (R-LA), Steve Womack (R-AR), and Alan Nunnelee (R-MS).

Defense Subcommittee

The Chairman will be Rep. Bill Young (R-FL). Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA) will serve as Ranking Member. Members of the panel will be Representatives Jerry Lewis (R-CA), Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Jack Kingston (R-GA), Kay Granger (R-TX), Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), Ken Calvert (R-CA), Jo Bonner (R-AL), Tom Cole (R-OK), Ed Pastor (D-AZ), Chaka Fattah (D-PA), and John Olver (D-MA).

Financial Services Subcommittee

The Chairwoman will be Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO). Rep. José E. Serrano (D-NY) will be the senior minority member of the panel. Members of the subcommittee will be Representatives Rodney Alexander (R-LA), Jo Bonner (R-AL), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Tom Graves (R-GA), Kevin Yoder (R-KS), Steve Womack (R-AR), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Pete Visclosky (D-IN), and Ed Pastor (D-AZ).

Homeland Security Subcommittee

The Chairman will be Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL). North Carolina’s David E. Price will remain the senior Democrat on the Homeland Security panel. Members of the panel will be Representatives John Carter (R-TX), John Culberson (R-TX), Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Tom Latham (R-IA), Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), Charles Dent (R-PA), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Nita Lowey (D-NY), and John Olver (D-MA).

Legislative Branch Subcommittee

The panel will be led by Chairman Ander Crenshaw (R-FL). Rep. Michael Honda (D-CA) is the new Ranking Member on the Legislative Branch Subcommittee. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), who had chaired the Legislative Branch Subcommittee during the last session of Congress, lost her seat on the Appropriations Committee when House Republican’s reduced the size of the panel. Members will be Representatives Steve LaTourette (R-OH), Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO), Dennis Rehberg (R-MT), Ken Calvert (R-CA), David Price (D-NC), and Sanford Bishop (D-GA).

Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee

Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) will serve as Chairman. Rep. Sanford D. Bishop Jr. (D-GA) gave up his seat on the Defense Subcommittee to assume the top spot on the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee, a spot that had been held by Rep. Chet Edwards (D-TX). Edwards lost his re-election bid. Members of the panel will be Representatives Bill Young, (R-FL), John Carter (R-TX), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Steve Austria (R-OH), Kevin Yoder (R-KS), Alan Nunnelee (R-MS), Sam Farr (D-CA), Betty McCollum (D-MN), and Jim Moran (D-VA).

State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee

Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX) will serve as Chairwoman. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) will remain the top Democrat on the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee. Members of the panel will be Representatives Jerry Lewis (R-CA), Frank Wolf (R-VA), Tom Cole (R-OK), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Charles Dent (R-PA), Steve Austria (R-OH), Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL), Adam Schiff (D-CA), and Steven Rothman (D-NJ).

Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Subcommittee

Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA) will serve as Chairman. Rep. John Olver (D-MA) will retain his senior post on the subcommittee. Subcommittee members will include Representatives Frank Wolf (R-VA), John Carter (R-TX), Steve LaTourette (R-OH), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Charles Dent (R-PA), Steve Womack (R-AR), Ed Pastor (D-AZ), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), and David Price (D-NC).

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House Science, Space and Technology Committee Membership Announced: First-Term Members to Hold Leadership Positions

On 20 January 2011, the Republican members of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology met to elect subcommittee chairman. The full committee will be chaired by Representative Ralph Hall (R-TX). Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) will serve as the ranking minority member.

“Issues before this Committee are critical to our nation’s competitiveness and our economy,” said Chairman Hall. “From energy technology R&D, math and science education programs, and nanotechnology to our nation’s space exploration program, we are going to be focusing on some issues that have far-ranging impact. I think we have an excellent team of subcommittee chairmen and I look forward to working with them, and all of our Members on both sides of the aisle, to advance important legislation this Congress.”

Subcommittee on Energy and Environment

In the 112th Congress, Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) will chair the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment. Chairman Harris, a first-term member of Congress, is an anesthesiologist by training and represents the first district of Maryland, which includes the counties on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay. In addition to his service on the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, Rep. Harris also serves on the Transportation and Infrastructure, and Natural Resources Committees.

“I feel that my background as a physician and service for the last 12 years on the Maryland State Senate Health, Education, and Environment Committee have prepared me for this role. As chairman, my focus will reflect the concerns of the residents of Maryland’s 1st Congressional District. I want to secure America’s energy future, enhance research on new and existing energy technologies and to look for environmentally safe methods of obtaining the energy that our economy needs to grow and create jobs,” said Harris.

Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC) will serve as the lead Democrat on the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment; Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA), who retired last year, had previously chaired the subcommittee. Other members of the panel include Representatives Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), Frank Lucas (R-OK), Judy Biggert (R-IL), Todd Akin (R-MO), Randy Neugebauer (R-TX), Paul Broun (R-GA), Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), Ben Luján (D-NM), Paul Tonko (D-NY), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), and Jerry McNerney (D-CA).

Subcommittee on Research and Science Education

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), also a first-term member of Congress, was elected Chairman of the Subcommittee on Research and Science Education. Chairman Brooks represents northern Alabama’s fifth district and will also serve on the House Armed Services Committee. Brooks is a lawyer, and a former prosecutor and state legislator.

Brooks stated, “I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to ensure that America continues to lead the world in scientific achievement. Research and education are vital to the future of our country; highly trained scientists and researchers contribute to almost every area of American life.”

Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) will return as the top Democrat on the Research and Science Education Subcommittee. Members of the Subcommittee include Representatives Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), Michael McCaul (R-TX), Ben Quayle (R-AZ), Steven Palazzo (R-MS), Andy Harris (R-MD), Hansen Clarke (D-MI), Paul Tonko (D-NY), John Sarbanes (D-MD), and Terri Sewell (D-AL).

Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation

Rep. Ben Quayle (R-AZ), another first-term member of Congress, was selected to serve as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation. Prior to serving in Congress, Rep. Quayle practiced law as a corporate lawyer in California, New York and Arizona. In addition to serving on the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, he will also hold seats on the Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees.

“I am excited about serving on this important Committee and as chairman of the Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation. House Republicans are focused on creating jobs, cutting spending and reducing burdensome government regulations. The Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation will play an important role in making sure these goals are being met,” said Quayle.

The Ranking Member of the subcommittee will be Rep. David Wu (D-OR), who chaired the panel in the last session of Congress. Members of the Subcommittee include Representatives Lamar Smith (R-TX), Judy Biggert (R-IL), Randy Neugebauer (R-TX), Michael McCaul (R-TX), Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), Scott Rigell (R-VA), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Frederica Wilson (D-FL), Dan Lipinski (D-IL), Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), and Ben Luján (D-NM).

Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics

Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS) will serve as the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics. A first-term member of Congress, Palazzo represents the fourth district of Mississippi and will also serve on the House Armed Services Committee.

“I am honored as a freshman member of Congress to serve as chairman of the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics. South Mississippi is home to many NASA assets, but I will work with my colleagues from all NASA-impacted states to help shape the future of space policy,” said Palazzo.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), who is currently recovering from a gunshot wound, will serve as the Ranking Member on the panel. In her absence, Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL) will serve as Ranking Member. Other members of the subcommittee include Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Lamar Smith (R-TX), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Frank Lucas (R-OK), Todd Akin (R-MO), Michael McCaul (R-TX), Sandy Adams (R-FL), Scott Rigell (R-VA), Mo Brooks (R-AL), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Jerry Costello (D-IL), Terri Sewell (D-AL), David Wu (D-OR), Donna Edwards (D-MD), and Frederica Wilson (D-FL).

Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight

Serving as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight will be Georgia’s Paul Broun. Rep. Broun was first elected to Congress in July 2007 and represents the tenth district of Georgia. Rep. Broun, a medical doctor by training, practiced general medicine prior to his service in Congress. In addition to his service on the science panel, he is a member of the House Homeland Security and Natural Resources Committees.

“I am honored to have been chosen to chair the Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee and address the many critical matters that will come before this Subcommittee in the 112th Congress. I look forward to leading this Subcommittee as it performs its oversight responsibilities, which the American people deserve,” stated Broun.

The Ranking Member of the subcommittee will be Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD). Members of the Subcommittee include Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Sandy Adams (R-FL), Ben Quayle (R-AZ), Steven Palazzo (R-MS), Mo Brooks (R-AL), Andy Harris (R-MD), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Brad Miller (D-NC), and Jerry McNerney (D-CA).

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New Student Campaign for Science, Science Education Launched, Act Now

Over the past few weeks, student members of the Botanical Society of America have worked with the AIBS Public Policy Office to craft an open letter explaining to lawmakers why continued investments in scientific research and training programs are essential to their future career development. This grassroots effort is now becoming a national campaign. As part of this effort, AIBS has created a webpage that allows undergraduate and graduate students to sign an open letter to lawmakers.

The letter encourages “Congress and the President to make sustained investments in the nation’s scientific research, education, and training programs. The extramural, competitive, peer-reviewed grant programs administered by federal agencies are critical to our nation’s scientific enterprise and future.”

If you are a student who is pursuing a Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Doctoral degree in a scientific field, please take action. The letter and sign-on page are available at http://www.aibs.org/public-policy/sciencestudentsletter.html.

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Majority of American Students Not Proficient in Science

According to the results of the latest version of The Nation’s Report Card, 66 percent of fourth graders, 70 percent of eighth graders, and 79 percent of twelfth graders did not score at the ‘proficient’ level or higher on the 2009 science assessment. Even more troubling is the high proportion of students who failed to achieve a ‘basic’ understanding of scientific concepts (28 percent of fourth graders, 37 percent of eighth graders, and 40 percent of 12 graders). Less than 2 percent of students in each of the grades achieved an ‘advanced’ score.

The test results also highlight an achievement gap between male and female students, and among students of different races. Boys’ scores were significantly higher for all three grades. In general, white students scored higher than all other ethnicities, except for grade 12, where white and Asian/Pacific Islander students scored equally well. Additionally, the average score for northern states tended to be higher than the national average, whereas the average score for southern states tended to be lower than the national average. New Hampshire and Montana topped the state rankings; Mississippi ranked last.

The assessment is administered by the National Center for Education Statistics, a part of the Department of Education. The test measures students’ knowledge and abilities in physical, life, earth, and space sciences. Students’ scores are classified into three groups: basic, proficient, and advanced. Because of changes to the 2009 test, the most recent results cannot be compared with previous assessments.

To read the report, visit http://nationsreportcard.gov/science_2009/.

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Short Takes

  • The House of Representatives passed a resolution on 25 January that requires the chamber's Budget Committee Chairman to set non-security spending at or below the levels provided in fiscal year 2008 when he sets a discretionary spending limit for the remainder of fiscal year 2011. Although the resolution does not include the specific amount to be cut from the budget, Republican leaders have discussed cutting $55-60 billion in 2011. The measure had the support of all House Republicans and 17 Democrats.

  • During the 2011 State of the Union address, President Obama challenged the nation to recommit to a spirit of innovation. The President noted that the nation must invest the resources needed to improve science education and drive the scientific research that will answer our most pressing questions in health, the environment, and energy. Please thank the President for making innovation and education a central part of his State of the Union address. Take action on the AIBS Legislative Action Center at http://capwiz.com/aibs/issues/alert/?alertid=24049521.

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In the AIBS Webstore

“Communicating Science: A Primer for Working with the Media,” will prepare scientists for successful and effective media interviews.

Whether you are new to media outreach or just in a need of a media refresher, “Communicating Science” offers advice, case studies, and training exercises to prepare scientists for print, radio, and television interviews. Step-by-step, Menninger and Gropp walk scientists through the entire interview process — from appropriate questions to ask when a reporter calls to practical advice for looking and sounding one’s best on-air or on-camera. “Communicating Science” also provides worksheets to assist readers with interview preparation: building a message framework with talking points and transition phrases, developing analogies, and using illustrative props or images.

“Communicating Science: A Primer for Working with the Media” is available at http://webstore.aibs.org.

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Become an Advocate for Science: Join the AIBS Legislative Action Center

Quick, free, easy, effective, impactful! Join the AIBS Legislative Action Center today!

The AIBS Legislative Action Center is an online resource that allows biologists and science educators to quickly and effectively influence policy and public opinion. Each day lawmakers must make tough decisions about science policy. For example, what investments to make in federal research programs, how to conserve biodiversity, how to mitigate climate change, or under what circumstances to permit stem cell research. Scientists now have the opportunity to help elected officials understand these issues. This exciting new advocacy tool allows individuals to quickly and easily communicate with members of Congress, executive branch officials, and selected media outlets.

This new tool is made possible through contributions from the Society for the Study of Evolution, American Society for Limnology and Oceanography, Association of Ecosystem Research Centers, and the Botanical Society of America.

AIBS and our partner organizations invite scientists and science educators to become a policy advocate today. Simply go to http://capwiz.com/aibs/home/ to send a prepared letter or to sign up to receive periodic Action Alerts.

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