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Tracking Legislation in Our Sciences

March 29, 2019

In order to advance sciences of mind, brain and behavior, in addition to the federal funding for our sciences, FABBS tracks legislation with potential impact – positive and negative – on the scientific process. Below are some examples of legislation that FABBS is currently monitoring, taking a position on, or trying to influence. Also included are several important federal agencies and acts due for reauthorization expected to be introduced this session. If you are aware of a piece of legislation with relevance to brain and behavioral sciences, please bring it to our attention.

Bills introduced this session:

  • Cost Openness and Spending Transparency (COST) Act S.807 introduced by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA). This bill would require recipients of federal funds to disclose information relating to programs, projects, or activities carried out using the federal support. Reporting is already required, an explanation of this bill was used to target individual grants on animal research and to portray them as frivolous. FABBS has concerns about the intent of the bill.
  • Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act 2019 H.R. 36 introduced by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK). This bill addresses sexual harassment in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields by supporting sexual harassment research and efforts to prevent and respond to sexual harassment. FABBS has publicly supported this bill.
  • Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2019 H.R. 601 introduced by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL). This bipartisan legislation would facilitate research on cannabis. Current restrictions in place severely limit researchers’ ability to better understand the potential consequences of cannabis use – both harmful and beneficial. The need to better understand cannabis intensifies as states move to legalize for medical use. FABBS generally supports efforts to facilitate research and address administrative burden when not necessary to protect human subjects.

Bills introduced last session that we anticipate will be introduced again this session:

  • The Primate Protection and Research Modernization Act of 2018 (S. 3773) introduced by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) at the end of last session. The bill would severely restrict and potentially terminate the use of nonhuman primate models in biomedical research. With the expectation that this bill will be reintroduced this session, FABBS is working with member society APA and sister scientific societies to express concerns about how the bill could eliminate critical research.
  • College Transparency Act 2017 S. 1121 (CTA) introduced by now retired Sen. Orin Hatch (R-UT) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) in the Senate and Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-MI) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) (who left Congress to become the Governor of CO) in the House, with many cosigners in both chambers.  CTA would direct the National Center for Education Statistics to coordinate with other federal agencies to track graduation, employment, and other outcomes for colleges. The legislation includes eliminating the ban on student unit records – a provision that the former chair of the House Education Committee firmly opposed. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) has identified this legislation as a priority so we are likely to see the bill reintroduced or included in a bill to reauthorize the Higher Education Act.

Reauthorization bills we might see in 2019-2020:

  • Higher Education Act – In recent sessions, Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) have worked to develop a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Higher Education Act. In the House, Republicans and Democrats introduced separate versions of the legislation. Sen. Alexander has announced his retirement in 2020 and advocates wonder if he will be determined to finish this effort before leaving the Senate.
  • Reauthorization of the Institute of Education Sciences – Authorization for the Institute of Education Sciences expired in 2008. In 2014, Congress had a bipartisan and bicameral bill, the Strengthening Education Through Research Act (SETRA) H.R. 4366, that failed to pass before the end of session. When acting as Chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) tied IES reauthorization to student data privacy (FERPA) – a strategy that the Senate was unwilling to consider. With the agency long overdue for reauthorization and new leadership in the House, FABBS is monitoring discussions to introduce a reauthorization bill.
  •  Reauthorization of the National Science Foundation – In 2016, Congress passed the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (AICA).  While the legislation created, modified and expanded NSF programs, authorization language for a four percent increase to the NSF budget was removed before being voted on by the full Senate and then to the House. Senators worked in a bipartisan manner to draft AICA last session where the House was divided and the then majority produced a reauthorization bill opposed by the broad scientific community.  Chair Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) have already demonstrated a collaborative working relationship and may consider revisiting NSF reauthorization with authorization levels.
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