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Public Policy Report for 28 March 2011

FY 2011 Appropriations Still Unresolved

Prior to recessing on 21 March 2011 for a District Work Period, Congress passed another stopgap spending bill — a Continuing Resolution that funds the government through 8 April 2011. Although negotiations continued during the Congress Recess, some recent reports suggest that a compromise has yet to be reached. House Republicans appear to be split on how much to cut spending. Many freshman House Republicans are pressing for extensive cuts to domestic spending, including a repeal of the health care bill, and restrictions on federal funding to Planned Parenthood. Meanwhile, Senate Democrats continue to argue that the budget cuts advocated by the House Republican caucus are too extreme. At the same time, the White House has largely been silent on the matter.

There is growing concern about the inability of government agencies to operate under a string of short-term Continuing Resolutions. The short-term budget process makes agencies’ work “extremely difficult,” said Representative James Moran (D-VA). “If I were a program manager, I don’t know how I would cope with the situation.”

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Anti-Evolution Legislation Progresses in Tennessee Legislature

A bill to promote “academic freedom” regarding the teaching of evolution has been passed from the General Subcommittee of Education in the Tennessee House of Representatives. House Bill 368 was passed from the subcommittee on 16 March on a 9-4 vote. If enacted, the bill would require state and local education authorities to “assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies” and permit teachers to “help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.” The only examples provided of “controversial” theories are “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”

The next step is for the bill to be considered by the full House Education Committee on 29 March 2011. A comparable bill is pending in the Tennessee Senate. Senate Bill 893 is scheduled to be considered by the Senate Education Committee on 30 March.

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Students: Voice Your Support for Investments in Science, Science Education

More than 2,500 students have already signed an open letter to policymakers about the importance of sustained federal investments in science. These undergraduate and graduate students represent the breadth of scientific disciplines.

The letter, developed by student members of the Botanical Society of America, 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.”

Students pursuing a Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Doctoral degree in science, technology, engineering, or math are encouraged to sign the letter at http://www.aibs.org/public-policy/sciencestudentsletter.html. Also, students are encouraged to spread the word about this effort by joining the campaign on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Students-Sign-the-Open-Letter-to-Policymakers-About-Investments-in-Science/183684855001704.

To learn more about this effort, listen to a free podcast at http://sciencecabaret.podomatic.com/player/web/2011-02-27T194204-08_00.

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Graduate Student Policy Internship Available

The American Society of Mammalogists (ASM) and American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) are pleased to announce the availability of an internship in the Washington, DC, AIBS Public Policy Office. The internship is open to ASM members who are currently enrolled in a graduate program or who have completed a program within a semester of application and who are engaged in research that will contribute to the understanding and conservation of mammals. The internship is for three months during fall 2011, and carries a generous monthly stipend. Selection criteria include demonstrated interest in the public policy process, strong communications skills, and excellent academic record. For details and requirements, please visit http://www.aibs.org/public-policy/student_opportunities.html.

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Short Takes

  • Follow the AIBS Public Policy Office on Twitter to stay informed of the latest science policy news. Follow us at AIBS_Policy on Twitter.com.
  • Correction: In the 14 March edition of the Public Policy Report, an article on federal education programs was erroneously titled. The Government Accountability Office found "duplication" in teacher quality programs, not "duplicity."

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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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