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Public Policy Report for 4/12/2000


Urge your representative to help Rep. Ehler's push for science funding - Representative Vern Ehlers (R-MI) is urging fellow representatives to sign on to his letter to the chairman and ranking minority member of the full House Appropriations Committee asking that a high priority be given to scientific research in the FY2001 budget. Typically, a legislator will pay more attention to a Dear Colleague letter when reminded about it by a constituent. A quick call or note to your representative mentioning the letter can sometimes make the difference. The main number for the House of Representatives is 202-224-3121. A copy of Mr. Ehler's letter can be found at http://www.cnie.org/updates/69.htm (don't worry about the deadline in the letter--additional sign-ons are still needed).

Need help finding your Congressional representatives? Use the AIBS Legislation Information Center at http://www.aibs.org/latitude/latpublicpolicy.html. You can send an e-mail directly from the Legislative Information Center.

And while you are writing letters, please consider writing to your representative to ask that he or she co-sponsor H.R. 3161, the Federal Research Investment Act - also known as the "Doubling Bill." The bill calls for a substantial increase in investment in federal science and technology research. Agencies that would receive additional funding, if the House passes the bill and if funds are appropriated, include the National Science Foundation, the Department of the Interior, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Environmental Protection Agency. The legislation authorizes total funding increases ranging from $39 billion in fiscal year 2000 to $64 billion in fiscal year 2009. In addition, the National Academy of Sciences would be directed to develop methods for evaluating federally-funded research programs and for terminating programs that do not meet accepted standards. The Senate passed its version of this bill last year; Congresswoman Heather Wilson (R-NM) introduced the House bill on 28 October 1999.

The AIBS Legislative Information Center lists all the co-sponsors for H.R.3161. If your representative is listed, write a letter of thanks!

A note about communicating with Congress: An old-fashioned, personal letter still outweighs e-mail and phone calls by a substantial margin. If you have the time, consider sending your comments by regular mail. Letters to the Senate go to U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C. 20510. Send letters to your representatives to U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. 20515.

Whether sending e-mail or regular mail, make your communications more effective by:

Limiting your letter to one page and to one subject.
Explain your reason for writing in the first paragraph. Cite the specific bill number if there is one.
Briefly describe your credentials, indicate if you are a constituent, and include other pertinent information. As necessary, note that these are your own views rather than those of your employer.
In the second paragraph, describe the importance of the issue. Cite relevant facts and avoid emotionalism. Frame your discussion from a national, rather than a personal, perspective.
In the third and concluding paragraph, request (do not demand) a specific action. Thank the Member for his or her consideration of your views. Offer assistance.

Budget resolution for "Function 250" holds promise for appropriations process Every year, after the President presents the administration's proposed budget to Congress, the Congressional Budget committees establish general allocations for different functional categories of the budget. Science and technology are included in Function 250. The budget resolutions do not set limits for specific programs, although these are often considered by the budget committees in their discussions. The budget committee sets what amounts to a spending limit for each appropriations committee. For FY2001, the House Budget Committee resolution authorized 19.8 billion for Function 250. A subsequent amendment increased the amount to $20.3 billion. This is $1 billion over the FY 2000 level, which suggests that it may actually be possible to see the NSF budget increase substantially, although probably not by the 17% requested by the President.

AIBS Presidents' Summit follow-up discussion on public policy Following the November 1999 AIBS Presidents' Summit, AIBS Executive Director Richard O'Grady and Public Policy Representative Ellen Paul prepared a feasibility study to explore options for expanding the operations and staffing level of the AIBS Public Policy Office. At a follow-up summit discussion, held 25 March 2000 in Washington DC (the day after the AIBS annual meeting), a number of society presidents and other society representatives met with the AIBS Board and staff to discuss both the feasibility study and the related initiative, developed at the Nov. 99 Summit, to form a Policy Council. Those present at the follow-up summit instructed O'Grady and Paul to work with Diana Wall and Marvalee Wake to establish a plan for a Policy Council that would give AIBS member societies and organizations an opportunity to better interact with AIBS and among themselves in order to express a collective voice, when desired, on public policy matters. O'Grady and Paul were also asked to continue developing a list of funding options for expansion of the AIBS Public Policy Office and to bring those options back to the member societies' leaders for further discussion. Society presidents and public policy committee chairs should be hearing more about this matter soon.

The Summit section on the AIBS homepage at http://www.aibs.org (follow the Summit links from the opening page) has online:

- The feasibility study for expanding the AIBS Public Policy Office.

- All of the initiatives (numbering 11) from the Nov. '99 Summit, including lists of societies whose attending leader agreed to solicit support for a particular initiative from his/her society. The initiatives cover a wide range of public policy, research, and education topics.

- The Summit program.

- And a list of Summit attendees.

Congress Addresses K-12 Education - The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee passed S. 2, which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The science community has expressed concern about the elimination of a specific funding allocation for teacher professional development in science and math. Ranking Minority Member Ted Kennedy (D-MA) offered an amendment that would have restored the science and math set-aside, but it failed. The House version of this bill, which passed last year, contains language that directs local school districts to at least maintain the current level of professional development. The Senate ESEA bill may come to the floor next month. A conference to reconcile the House and Senate bills would likely be held over the summer.


 


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