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Public Policy Report for 8/15/2000

  • CARA comes one step closer to enactment
  • Birds, rats, and mice are animals, too
  • White House briefing on appropriations for NSF, other research accounts
  • AIBS thanks Senators for the "Doubling Bill"
  • Ehlers science education bill clears committee

The AIBS Public Policy Report is distributed broadly by email every two weeks to AIBS membership leaders and contacts, including the President, President-Elect, Secretary, Treasurer, Executive Director, AIBS Council Representative, Journal Editor, Newsletter Editor, Public Policy Committee Chair, Public Policy Representative, and Education Committee Chair of all AIBS member societies and organizations (see the Membership Directories for contact information).

All material from these reports may be reproduced or forwarded. Please mention AIBS as the source; office staff appreciate receiving copies of materials used. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, please contact the AIBS Director of Public Policy, Dr. Robert Gropp [publ...@aibs.org; 202-628-1500 x250].


CARA comes one step closer to enactment - After several days of debate, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed the Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA) on July 25 on a 13-7 vote. The legislation, which now moves to the full Senate for consideration, dedicates revenue from offshore oil and gas leases to conservation programs including wildlife, land and water restoration, historic preservation, outdoor recreation and conservation-related education activities. The House passed similar legislation (H.R. 701) in May.

The Senate bill would reinvest almost $3 billion annually in federal offshore oil and gas revenue back into natural resources conservation programs, including providing:

$805 million for state coastal impact assistance and stewardship programs;
$900 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, of which half would be divided among the states;
$150 million for the Historic Preservation Fund and Battlefield Protection Program;
$100 million for farm and ranch land protection programs; and
$75 million for the Urban Park and Recreation Recovery Fund.

More than 52 senators have cosponsored CARA or related legislation, and CARA has received support from more than 5,000 organizations, businesses, and elected officials.

Birds, rats, and mice are animals, too - In 1999, a number of activists filed a petition with USDA Secretary Dan Glickman, asking that the express exclusions of rats, mice, and birds from the Animal Welfare Act regulations be reversed. At the same time, the petitioners, who included a private company that develops alternatives to live animal research and a college student who claimed aesthetic and emotional injury from having to work with lab rats that allegedly received inadequate veterinary care and poor housing conditions, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court, seeking to compel USDA to include these taxa in the AWA regulations. Last month, the Court ruled that these plaintiffs cleared a barrier known as "standing" a legal principle that requires that litigants have a certain degree of personal interest in the issue. An earlier, similar lawsuit by animal rights groups had failed because of lack of standing. With this legal impediment out of the way, the plaintiffs may proceed with the litigation. However, it is more likely than not that the USDA won't continue to contest the suit but instead will accede to the plaintiff's demands. In the earlier case, the Court suggested that USDA probably had little basis for excluding these taxa from the AWA regulations.

For most research institutions, the likely change in the regulations may have little effect. Institutions accredited by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AALAC) exceed standards that would be imposed by the AWA regulations. The primary change would be an additional inspection required under the AWA.

White House Briefing on appropriations for NSF, other research accounts - AIBS attended a meeting at the White House chaired by Chief of Staff John Podesta and Science Advisor Neal Lane on 28 July 2000 to brief scientific organizations about the status of Fiscal Year 2001 appropriations for NSF, EPA, Department of Energy, and other federal research accounts. Podesta and Lane praised leaders of both the House and Senate VA-HUD-Independent Agencies appropriations committees (which have jurisdiction over the NSF and EPA budgets), who have expressed a strong desire to increase the NSF budget, but have had limited opportunities to do so as a result of tight funding allocations. The administration has threatened to veto five appropriations bill with research and development accounts, including VA-HUD-Independent Agencies, Interior, and Agriculture, which are underfunded and unacceptable to the administration. It is hoped that Congress will make more money available for VA-HUD-Independent Agencies in the next fiscal year. Podesta stated that like last year, NSF funding will be a key fight for the administration.

They noted the projected budget surpluses present the best opportunity to return the science and math education budgets to the right trajectory for the coming budget surplus decade, beginning with next year's budget.

They also expressed a great deal of concern about the earmarking process and its erosive effect on funding for peer-reviewed science. Jack Lew, Director of the Office of Management and Budget stated that the $800 million in earmarks in the Fiscal Year 2000 budget set a record; the earmarks in the Fiscal Year 2001 budget have already reached a billion dollars.

Lane also praised the Federation of American Societies of Experimental Biology for its leadership in expressing the need for increases in all scientific disciplines, not just biomedical research. In April, FASEB President David G. Kaufman testified before the House appropriations subcommittee on VA-HUD-Independent Agencies in support of increased NSF funding. Dr. Kaufman told lawmakers on the committee, "Discoveries in physics affect biology; breakthroughs in materials research have a profound impact on medicine; new mathematical approaches enable all the sciences and engineering; and advances in biology propel chemistry and physics. Engineering and computer science provide critical tools upon which all of us depend in our research laboratories. We're all in this marvelous enterprise together."

AIBS thanks Senators for the "Doubling Bill" - AIBS President Alan Covich joined the presidents of the American Physical Society, the American Chemical Society, American Mathematical Society, Ecological Society of America, and 16 other scientific organizations in thanking the senators who co-sponsored the "Doubling Bill," which passed the Senate in July 1999. In a 27 July 2000 letter, the scientific organizations thanked the senators for their support of science and engineering and assured them that the scientific organizations are now working hard to assure passage of the Federal Research Investment Act in the House.

Known formally as the Federal Research Investment Act, S. 296 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. Congresswoman Heather Wilson (R-NM) introduced the House bill (H.R.3161) on 28 October 1999. It is still under consideration by the House Science Committee

The AIBS Legislative Information Center at www.aibs.org lists all the co-sponsors for H.R.3161. If your representative is listed, you might consider writing a letter of thanks! If your representative is not listed, think about writing to ask that he or she co-sponsor this legislation.

Ehlers science education bill clears committee One of the three science education bills introduced by Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) has been passed by the House Science Committee. H.R.4271 - The National Science Education Act:

- provides for master teacher grants to allow schools to hire math and science specialists to help K-8 math and science teachers to develop successful teaching materials and increase their own subject-matter proficiency

- creates a national scholarship to reward teach participation in science, math, engineering, or technology (SMET) research

- establishes a mechanism to inform high school students about the courses they will need in order to teach SMET

- creates a working group to identify excellence in contact scope and sequence in K-12 SMET education and to make that information available on the internet

- requires an evaluation of the use of techology in the classroom

- increases teachers' access to cutting-edge education programs by requiring that NSF-sponsored programs be posted on the NSF website

- provides access to training for middle school teachers so that all students are technologically literate by the time they enter high school

- bolsters rural education opporunities by supporting distance learning components of the SMET grants funded by NSF

- creates a competition for high school and college students to develop education software

- calls for an NSF conference to link members of the private sector involved in SMET education

The bill passed unanimously on 27 July 2000. House Science Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-WI) stated, "Congress is acting to address very real shortcomings in U.S. student achievement in the science and math fields. We will suffer in our ability to compete in a global economy if we don't bolster teacher instruction in science and math as well as promote student achievement in these areas." Ranking Member Ralph M. Hall, (D-TX), added that, "This bill will establish programs to address serious deficiencies in the preparation and professional
development of science and math teachers. It will also establish new partnerships between schools and businesses to create greater student interest in science and technology."

The bill has also been referred to the House Education and the Workforce subcommittees on Early Childhood, Youth and Families and Postsecondary Education, Training and Life-Long Learning for consideration.


 


The American Institute of Biological Sciences is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) scientific association headquartered in Washington DC, with a staff of approximately 30. It was founded in 1947 as a part of the National Academy of Sciences and has been an independent organization since the mid-1950s, governed by a Board of Directors elected by its membership. The AIBS membership consists of approximately 6,000 biologists and 80 professional societies and other organizations; the combined individual membership of the latter exceeds 240,000 biologists. AIBS is an umbrella organization for the biological sciences dedicated to promoting an understanding of the natural living world, including the human species and its welfare, by engaging in coalition activities with its members in research, education, public policy, and public outreach; publishing the peer-reviewed journal, BioScience; providing scientific peer review and advisory services to government agencies and other clients; convening scientific meetings; and performing administrative and other support services for its member organizations.


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