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Public Policy Report for 27 January 2014

Congress Approves Spending Plan for FY 2014

In mid-January, Congress overwhelmingly approved a $1.012 trillion spending plan to fund the federal government for the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2014, which runs through 30 September 2014. The plan (HR 3547) will increase funding by $44 billion above the levels established by a 2011 budget deal.

"This agreement will not be viewed as perfect by everyone. It required difficult choices, and nobody got everything they wanted," said Senator Barbara Mikulski, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. "But this agreement is what we need now to move the country forward by funding the critical missions of our government and investing in America's greatest assets -- our people, our infrastructure, and the research and discoveries that will create jobs today and in the future. And at the same time, the agreement ensures the American people get value for their taxpayer dollars by ending dated, duplicative, and dysfunctional programs."

The law, also called an omnibus, is a package of 12 appropriations bills that collectively fund the entire federal government. This is the first time since 2011 that all 12 bills were enacted; in recent years several sectors of the government have operated under continuing resolutions that maintain the previous year's budget.

"The Omnibus will fulfill the basic duty of Congress; it provides funding for every aspect of the federal government, from our national defense, to our transportation systems, to the education of our kids," said Representative Hal Rogers (R-KY), who chairs the House Appropriations Committee. "The bill reflects careful decisions to realign the nation's funding priorities and target precious tax dollars to important programs where they are needed the most. At the same time, the legislation will continue the downward trend in federal spending to put our nation on a sustainable fiscal path."

Science agencies did well relative to the FY 2013 post-sequestration levels. Increased funding was provided for:

  • National Science Foundation: $7.2 billion (+4.2 percent)
    • The increase will provide 780 more competitive grants in FY 2014.
  • National Institutes of Health: $29.9 billion (+3.5 percent)
    • NIH could offer funding for 385 additional research grants.
  • Department of Energy Office of Science: $5.1 billion (+9.7 percent)
    • This funding level includes $610 million for biological and environmental research.
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: $5.3 billion (+10.7 percent)
  • Agricultural Research Service, the intramural research program for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA): $1.1 billion (+10.2 percent)
  • Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, USDA's extramural competitive grants program: $316.4 million (+14.5 percent)
  • Environmental Protection Agency, Science and Technology: $759.2 million (+1.9 percent)
  • U.S. Geological Survey: $1.0 billion (+2.0 percent)
    • This includes $152.8 million for the Ecosystems Activity.

The plan passed with the support of 72 Senators, including all Democrats, both Independents, and 17 Republicans. In the House of Representatives, 367 lawmakers voted in favor of the bill and 67 voted against. All but three of the 'nay' votes came from Republicans. President Obama signed the bill into law on 17 January 2014.

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Representative Moran to Retire

The senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and the Environment has announced his intention to retire at the end of the year. Representative Jim Moran (D-VA) will not seek reelection after serving 12 terms in Congress.

During his tenure, Moran has championed environmental conservation, science, and federal workers.

In 2010, the USGS Coalition recognized Moran with the USGS Coalition Leadership Award for his continuing support of the scientific mission of the U.S. Geological Survey.

To date, two dozen lawmakers have announced their intention to retire at the end of the 113th Congress.

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AIBS Public Policy Office 2013 Annual Report Now Available

Despite a daunting political and policy environment, the AIBS Public Policy Office aggressively and successfully advanced the interests of the biological sciences community last year. Learn about our activities and accomplishments in 2013 and find out how you can participate in the future.

A few key accomplishments from 2013:

  • Released the Implementation Plan for a Network Integrated Biocollections Alliance to help guide implementation of a coordinated, large-scale and sustained effort to digitize the nation’s biological collections.
  • Rallied the scientific community in opposition to federal budget sequestration.
  • Testified before Congress on the importance of federal funding for the United States Geological Survey.
  • Facilitated the interaction of scientists with lawmakers in Washington, DC, through the Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition Congressional Visits Day, and around the nation through the 5th Annual Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits event.
  • Organized two science policy briefings on Capitol Hill.
  • Arranged 150 meetings with congressional policymakers about biological research and education.

To download the report, visit www.aibs.org/public-policy/news/aibspublicpolicyoffice2013annualreportnowavailable.html#033747.

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NSF Releases Guidance for Ideas Labs Applications

The National Science Foundation has released a dear colleague letter on the topic of “Preparing Applications to Participate in Phase I Ideas Labs on Undergraduate STEM Education.” The letter provides additional guidance on the specific themes of the three Ideas Labs, which aim to address grand challenges related to workforce development in the biological sciences, the geological sciences, and engineering. The deadline to apply is 4 February 2014. Read the letter at http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2014/nsf14033/nsf14033.jsp?WT.mcid=USNSF25&WT.mc_ev=click.

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Join Us for the 2014 BESC Congressional Visits Day

Scientists and graduate students 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 /public-policy/congressionalvisitsday.html. The deadline to sign up is 5 March 2014.

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