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Federal Bills of Interest

The American Jobs Act

President Obama sent his American Jobs Act to Congress on Monday, September 12. Republican leaders immediately planned to send it to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) for an estimate of its cost.

Initial reports point out that the legislation will raise taxes over the next 10 years to pay for the $447 billion one-year stimulus. The plan would include raising taxes of $3 billion from the corporate jet sector, $40 billion from the oil and gas sector and $18 billion from Wall Street’s investment-fund managers, starting in 2013.

The majority of the tax increase comes from $400 billion generated by curbing tax exemptions available to families earning more than $250,000 per year, and to individuals earning more than $200,000 per year.

It is unclear how quickly House leaders will act on the president’s plan or whether House and Senate committees will hold hearings and write their own proposals. It is even uncertain whether leaders in both chambers will schedule votes on the proposal or push it through in pieces. Moreover, the role of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction in dealing with the proposal has not been determined.

View legislative text, as proposed by the White House, here and a White House fact sheet on the proposal here.

Updates will be provided as soon as CBO scores the bill and after further analysis.

House Passes Patent Reform (HR 1249)

The House voted 304-117 in support of HR 1249, the America Invents Act. The bill and its companion measure in the Senate, S 23, would overhaul the U.S. patent system making changes to the way patents are awarded, reviewed and challenged. Under the bill, the basis for awarding patents would be changed from “first to invent” to “first inventor to file.” There are some significant differences between the two versions, including provisions related to patent office fees, which could make any final compromise more difficult to reconcile. We will update as the issue develops.

House to Vote on Patent Reform, HR 1249

The House is scheduled to vote the week of June 20 on HR 1249, the “America Invents Act.” Consideration of H.R. 1249, the America Invents Act, has been delayed over a provision in the bill (Section 22) which would allow the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to retain all of the patent fees it collects in a revolving fund. The funding provision is key to sustaining broad-based support for the reform bill, but House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and House appropriators have announced they oppose allowing the USPTO to retain its patent fees.

View the full text of HR 1249 here.

To view the improvements that have been made to HR1249, click here.

HR 2117, "Protecting Academic Freedom in Higher Education" Approved by House Education Committee"

The House Education and the Workforce Committee approved, 27-11, H.R. 2117. This measure would repeal Obama administration regulations designed to take effect July 1 to establish a definition for a credit hour and set requirements that institutions of higher education must meet to be considered legally authorized by a state.

The measure may move to the House floor in the coming weeks. Continue to check back for updates as the bill moves forward.

View the letter from UT President Joe DiPietro to Congressman Duncan requesting support for the bill here.

Congresswoman Foxx Introduces Bill to Rein In Regulatory Overreach in Higher Education

HR 2117, legislation to prohibit the Department of Education from overreaching into academic affairs and program eligibility under title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965.

This measure would block two highly problematic regulations issued by the Department of Education. Specifically, it would repeal the regulation in Section 600.2 creating a federal definition of a credit hour and the state authorization regulation in Section 600.9. In addition, the legislation would prohibit ED from attempting to impose a federal definition of credit hour in the future.

A number of higher education associations and organizations are opposed to the new ED regulations and support this legislation. View attached letter from the American Council on Education.

See Chairwoman Foxx’s press release here.

Chairwoman Foxx’s bill could be considered in the House Education Committee Wednesday, June 15. We have expressed our support for the measure to Tennessee Congressmen Phil Roe and Scott DesJarlais, who serve on the committee. We will update with more information as the legislation moves forward.

View the full text of HR 2117 here.

Colorado Senator Mark Udall Introduces Bill to Reduce Military’s Reliance on Fossil Fuel

Colorado Senator Mark Udall introduced a bill to reduce military’s reliance on fossil fuel – the Department of Defense Energy Security Act of 2011. Developed in partnership with the office of Rep. Giffords of Arizona, it helps the Pentagon expand existing renewable energy studies and pilot programs. Senator Udall’s release is available here.

View the full text of the Department of Defense Energy Security Act here.

Legislation to Repeal State Authorization and Credit Hour Regulations Introduced

On June 3, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, introduced H.R. 2117, legislation that would repeal the recently finalized Department of Education regulations on state authorization and credit hour. The bill would also prohibit the Department from defining the term “credit hour.”

Graduate Medical School Education Bill, HR 1216

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has come out in opposition to HR 1216, which the House is expected to consider the week of May 23. H.R. 1216 is legislation that will convert the mandatory appropriation for the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)'s Teaching Health Center (THC) program to a discretionary, annually appropriated item. The Affordable Care Act provides $230 million over 5 years for payments through HRSA to community-based, ambulatory patient care centers that operate primary care residencies.

The AAMC urges preservation of HRSA funding for the program and states that "As the supply of physicians shrinks and demand continues to grow, Congress should reaffirm its commitment to health workforce education and training, not undermine it."

The legislation passed out of committee on a party line vote in early April. It is likely to pass the House this week; however, it is not expected to be brought up in the Senate. We will continue to monitor the bill as it moves through the legislative process.

The DREAM Act, S. 952

On Wednesday, May 11, Senators Durbin (D-IL), Menendez (D-NJ), and Reid (D-NV) introduced the DREAM Act, S. 952. Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) introduced a companion bill in the House. Like many prior versions of the legislation, this bill (S. 952 and H.R. 1842) would enable certain individuals brought to the United States as children without proper documentation to remain legally and eventually create a pathway to citizenship.

During last Congress, similar legislation passed the House but was defeated in the Senate. It is not likely that the DREAM Act will pass during this Congress. However, some in Congress are continuing to push to include this bill within a comprehensive immigration reform measure.

S. 23: The Patent Reform Act of 2011

The Senate passed its version, S. 23, the Patent Reform Act of 2011, by a vote of 95 – 5 on March 8, 2011. Senators Alexander and Corker voted in support of the measure.

S. 23 is substantially the same as last year’s Senate patent reform bill, S. 515, and it retains all the key provisions of importance to universities.  The six higher education associations issued a letter of support last year for S. 515, which specified significant improvements in the revised version of the bill; those provisions are retained in S. 23. View a copy of the higher education association letter and summaries of S. 23 here.

In short, the higher education associations and broader pro-patent reform collation believe that S. 23 will create jobs by fostering innovation and strengthening U.S. international competitiveness.  It will accomplish these goals by:

  • harmonizing our patent system with that of our trading partners,
  • improving patent quality,
  • reducing patent litigation costs, and
  • providing additional authority for the U.S. Patent and Trade Office to secure the resources it needs to operate effectively.

America’s universities are the principal source of the basic research that expands the frontiers of knowledge.  By substantially improving the U.S. patent system, S. 23 would enhance universities’ ability to move discoveries arising from university research into the public domain for development into products and processes that benefit our society and strengthen our nation’s economic competitiveness.

S. 23 can be found here.

View the letter from UT's Research Foundation to Congressman Cohen here.

HR 662: The Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2011

A House panel recently approved HR 662, the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2011. This measure will extend the authorization for surface transportation programs through the end of fiscal 2011. Without an extension, the programs will expire March 4.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee gave approval to the bill, which would extend highway transit and safety programs at fiscal 2010 funding levels through September 30, 2011. Discussions are ongoing about drafting a new multi-year reauthorization.

Congressman John J. “Jimmy” Duncan Jr., is chairman of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.

The text of the legislation can be found here.

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