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Public Policy Report for 13 January 2014

Congress Expected to Pass Final FY 2014 Funding Bill

Congress has returned to work and is expected to address in the coming weeks a couple of legislative issues left over from last year. Notably, signs from the House and Senate suggest that Congress is nearing agreement on a final fiscal year (FY) 2014 appropriations bill that would fund the federal government through the balance of the current fiscal year, which runs through September. Details of the legislation are expected to begin leaking today, but most anticipate the bill will pass this week. Congress is also expected to address the Farm Bill. Beyond these two measures, it remains to be seen whether the divided Congress will be able to successfully address any other large legislative matters before the mid-term elections this November.

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Environmental Scientist Nominated to Head USGS

President Obama has nominated civil servant Dr. Suzette Kimball to lead the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Kimball has served as acting director of the agency for nearly a year since the departure of former director Dr. Marcia McNutt.

“USGS brings critical, impartial information to bear on some of the most complex issues facing our nation today - from the impacts of climate change to natural hazards and their threats,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “With her scientific expertise and decades of public service, Suzette is an excellent choice to lead this agency. During her time at USGS, Suzette has proven herself to be a smart, thoughtful and collaborative leader, and a strong advocate for using science to inform our understanding of our world and provide tools to solve natural resource challenges.”

During her 15-year tenure at USGS, Kimball as served as Eastern regional executive for biology, director of the Eastern Region, and associate director for geology. She is currently the deputy director of the agency. In 2012, she was named the top official for scientific integrity for the Department of the Interior, of which USGS is part.

Kimball has a master’s degree in geology and geophysics and a Ph.D. in environmental sciences/coastal and oceanographic process. She has authored more than 75 publications on coastal ecosystem science and management.

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New Climate Task Force in Senate

Senate Democrats have formed another task force to raise the profile of climate change. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) will lead the Climate Action Task Force, which will be officially announced on Tuesday.

Boxer told reporters that “this isn’t a legislative task force” as they don’t have the votes to pass legislation to price carbon. The group, however, would put forward legislation on building efficiency and renewable energy. The task force will “use the bully pulpit of the Senate to wake up our colleagues to the threat of climate,” said Senator Boxer.

The new initiative is not the only climate change caucus in Congress. Senator Boxer formed a climate change clearinghouse last year. Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) will take over leadership of that group, which allows members of Congress to explore aspects of climate change during weekly meetings. The Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change is co-chaired by Senator Whitehouse and Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA).

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New Funding Opportunities from USDA

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced new funding opportunities. USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Foundational Program is requesting applications for approximately $82 million in research funding. In addition to supporting six existing priority research areas, in 2014 the program will feature two new programs. The Exploratory Research Program addresses new challenges in food security, climate change, environmental quality, natural resources, and nutrition. The Critical Agriculture Research and Extension program will address critical problems that continue to impede the efficient production and protection of plants and animals. Learn more at www.nifa.usda.gov/afri.

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Join Us for the 2014 BESC Congressional Visits Day

Scientists and graduate students who are interested in communicating the importance of federal investments in scientific research and education to lawmakers are invited to participate in the Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition (BESC) Congressional Visits Day in Washington, DC.

This event is an opportunity for scientists to meet with their members of Congress to discuss the importance of federal funding for biological research and education. Event participants advocate for federal investments in biological sciences research, with a primary focus on the National Science Foundation, as well as other federal agencies.

BESC is co-chaired by the American Institute of Biological Sciences and the Ecological Society of America.

This year’s event will be held on 9-10 April 2014 in Washington, DC. The first day is a training program that will prepare participants for meetings with congressional offices. The second day is spent on Capitol Hill meeting with members of Congress and their staff.

There is no cost to participate in this event, but space is limited. BESC and its member organizations are not able to pay/reimburse participants for their expenses.

Learn more about the event and express your interest in participating at http://www.aibs.org/public-policy/congressionalvisitsday.html. The deadline to sign up is 5 March 2014.

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Short Take

  • Funding for the National Science Foundation's Research and Related Activities budget, through which the agency funds research awards and facilities, decreased by about 3.5 percent in fiscal year 2013. The decline in funding is due to budget sequestration.

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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! (www.aibs.org/public-policy/legislativeactioncenter.html)

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. These exciting new advocacy tools 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 Entomological Society of America, Society for the Study of Evolution, Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography, and the Botanical Society of America.

AIBS and our partner organizations invite scientists and science educators to become policy advocates 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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