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WASHINGTON UPDATE
December 2019

BUDGET/APPROPRIATIONS

Congress approved two Fiscal Year 2020 consolidated appropriations bills to fund the federal government through the end of the current fiscal year (September 30, 2020). The first minibus includes Defense, Commerce-Justice-Science, Financial Services, and Homeland Security. The second minibus contains the remaining eight appropriations bill - Agriculture, Energy & Water, Interior-Environment Labor-Health & Human Sciences-Education, Legislative Branch, Military Construction-VA, State & Foreign Operations, and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development. A division-by-division summary is available here & here. The President signed the bills into law on December 20, the last possible date before triggering a government shutdown.

Most research agencies received healthy increases for FY2020 over current funding levels and well above the levels proposed in the Administration’s budget request. Similarly Student Financial Aid programs were funded well above the Administration’s request and included a $150 increase in the maximum Pell Grant award. Below is a breakdown of funding levels for some programs of interest to the University of Florida: 

Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration

  • $962.8 million for Research and Related Activities ($35 million increase). Most programs were held to relatively flat funding, but increases were provided for congressional priorities including a $10 million increase for the Agricultural and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) competitive grants program, $5 million for the new Research Equipment Grants, and increases for the programs supporting the 1890, Hispanic-Serving and Tribal institutions
  • $526 million for Extension Activities ($21 million increase). Most programs were held relatively flat, with slight increases for minority-serving institutions, Tribal Colleges, and an $8 million boost for the Farmer Stress Assistance Network
  • Specialty Crop Research (SCRI) awards may now receive a Secretarial waiver from the 100% matching funds requirement

 Commerce-Justice-Science

  • Increases from FY2019 levels to many National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) accounts: Science Mission Directorate $7.139 billion ($234 million increase), Aeronautics Research Directorate, $784 million ($59 million increase), Space Technology, $1.1 billion ($173 million increase) and Space Grant Program, $48 million ($4 million increase)
  • Within National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Oceanic and Atmospheric Research $548 million, ($23 million increase), Sea Grant Program, $87 million, ($7 million increase)

Defense

  • DoD Science and Technology Basic Research 6.1 accounts, $2.603 billion ($74 million increase)
  • Combined, 6.1-6.3 Science and Technology accounts, $16.074 ($114 million increase),
  • Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) $3.458 billion, ($26 million increase)

Energy and Water Development

  • Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science $7 billion ($415 million increase)
  • ARPA-E, $425 million ($59 million increase)

Interior and Environment

  • EPA’s Office of Science and Technology, $716 ($10 million increase)
  • National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) $162.3 million, ($7.3 million increase)
  • Joint Fire Science Program, $6 million (Level Funding)

Labor-Health and Human Services – Education
Health and Human Services
The final bill provides $41.7 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), $41.7 billion ($2.6 billion increase). Each Institute will receive at a minimum a 3% increase above current funding levels. The bill continues to support several critical research initiatives, including:

  • $2.8 billion for Alzheimer’s disease research
  • $3.1 billion for HIV/AIDS research
  • $500 million for the All of Us precision medicine research initiative
  • $500 million for the Brain Research through Application of Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative
  • $195 million for the Cancer Moonshot research initiative
  • $50 million for the new Childhood Cancer Data Initiative, as well as $30 million to implement the Childhood Cancer STAR Act
  • $12.5 million for firearm injury and mortality prevention research (there’s an additional $12.5 million for the CDC to conduct firearm research)
  • $200 million for research to develop a universal flu vaccine

Education

  • Pell Grant - the maximum Pell Grant award rises to $6,345 ($150 increase), this represents three consecutive years of increases to the maximum Pell award. However, the bill rescinds $500 million from the Pell reserve.
  • Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (SEOG) Program - $865 million ($25 million increase)
  • Federal Work Study Program (FWS) - at $1,180 million ($50 million increase)
  • Institute of Education Sciences, $623.5 million ($8.5 million increase)
  • Title VI International Education programs, $76.2 million, ($4.2 million increase)
  • Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) $23 million (Level Funded)
EDUCATION

H.R. 4674, College Affordability Act On December 10, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) published its score for the House Committee on Education and Labor’s College Affordability Act. According to the CBO, the bill would increase federal direct spending by $331.9 billion over a ten-year budget window. Changes within the federal student loan program are the primary cost driver in the bill, resulting in $169.9 billion over the 2020-2029 period. The federal-state partnership to support the goal of tuition-free community college is projected to cost $59 billion over the ten-year window. Finally, the CBO projects that federal direct spending on Pell Grants will increase by $83.1 billion over the ten-year budget window.

FUTURE Act – On December 10 Congress passed the FUTURE Act, legislation that simplifies the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form and provides new funding for minority-serving institutions. The FAFSA simplification provisions reduce the number of questions currently on the FAFSA form by improving tax return data sharing between the Department of Education and the Internal Revenue Service. This data sharing eliminates the need for a strenuous “verification” process for each application and eliminates up to 22 of the 108 questions on the FAFSA form.

Executive Order on Combating Anti-Semitism – On December 11, the President signed an executive order “Combating Anti-Semitism”, which has generated significant concern and discussion in the higher-education community. The order says that “it shall be the policy of the executive branch to enforce Title VI against prohibited forms of discrimination rooted in anti-Semitism as vigorously as against all other forms of discrimination prohibited by Title VI.” While the order targets a rise in anti-Semitic incidents on college and university campuses, it remains unclear precisely how it will be enforced or what effects it will have on institutions. Although the order states that, when enforcing Title VI, agencies may not “diminish or infringe upon” First Amendment free speech rights, some administrators, faculty, and students are concerned that the order would actually chill free speech.

Section 117 Foreign Contracts and Gift Reporting – On December 17, the Department of Education (DOEd) requested emergency processing of its proposed new collection requirements for information on foreign contracts and gifts required under Section 117 of the Higher Education Act. These requirements would substantially expand the scope of information collected and would impose an administrative burden on campuses far beyond the stated 10 hours per response. UF Federal Relations is working with the higher education associations to encourage OMB to oppose these new restrictive requirements and to encourage the DOEd to work in a more collaborative manner regarding any proposed changes going forward.  

RESEARCH

National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) - Congress and the President approved the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act conference report, which authorizes DOD and some DOE programs and provides Congressional direction to defense agencies. New initiatives in the bill include the creations of a new Space Force within the Air Force and numerous science and security measures. UF Federal Relations worked to support inclusion in the bill a provision establishing an interagency working group of federal science, intelligence, and security agencies to examine undue foreign influence on college campuses and to develop best practices for federal science agencies. It also creates a National Academies Roundtable for the government and research communities to address threats to national security while ensuring an open exchange of ideas.    

JASON Report on Research Security – The NSF commissioned JASON, an independent science advisory group, to “enhance the agency’s understanding of the threats to basic research posed by foreign governments that have taken actions that violate the principles of scientific ethics and research integrity.” In December, JASON released their report on Fundamental Research Security. In summary, the report recommends expanding the scope of disclosures of conflict of commitment and actual or potential conflicts of interest to include more than just financial conflicts. The report also recommends the development and implementation of a strategic plan to maintain U.S. competitiveness for top scientific talent globally. The full report can be found here.

HEALTH

DSH, Teaching Centers, PCORI Continued – the FY 2020 consolidated appropriations law extends several expiring health provisions. The package would delay reductions in Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) allotments until May 22; and provide funding at prorated current levels for Teaching Health Centers.

The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute - The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Trust Fund (PCORTF), which funds the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), is reauthorized through FY 2029. It uses language that closely resembles the Grassley-Wyden proposal released Dec. 6 and legislation introduced by four Senate offices in November (S. 2897).

The law also directs PCORI to balance its national priorities between long- and short-term priorities and be responsive to changing medical evidence/treatments, and to include research with respect to maternal mortality and intellectual and developmental disabilities. In addition, it directs PCORI to design research, as appropriate, to take into consideration, “the full range of clinical and patient-centered outcomes” relevant to various stakeholders, including “the potential burdens and economic impacts of the utilization of medical treatments, items, and services on different stakeholders and decision makers respectively.”

Proton Therapy - In July, Medicare released a proposal to change reimbursements for radiation therapy services. Unfortunately, as it is currently proposed, proton therapy will see drastic cuts approximately 50% to Medicare reimbursements. Originally, Medicare was targeting an implementation date as early as Jan. 1, 2020, but the new regulatory agenda now lists July 2022 as a target. The UFHealth Proton Therapy Institute is a signature component of our clinical research program and of our NCI designation application. Senator Marco Rubio and Congressman John Rutherford (FL-4) both sent letters asking Medicare to reconsider the proposal.  

OTHER

Name Image Likeness (NIL) – The State of California’s new law to allow compensation to student athletes’ for use of their name, image and likeness has sparked similar legislation in state capitols across the country including Florida. The patchwork of potentially conflicting state measures has created pressure in Congress to establish a federal framework governing compensation. Florida congressional members have introduced legislation regarding student athlete protections and compensation for NIL including HR 2036 by Rep. Al Lawson (D-Tallahassee) and HR 2006 by Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Miami) and Rep. Ross Spano (R-Lakeland) which creates a Congressional Advisory Commission to examine the state of college sports here. In addition Florida members Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Pensacola) and Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Belle Glade) are cosponsors of legislation by Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) HR 1804 that would remove the tax exempt status of any organization that restricts a student athlete from being compensated for NIL. US Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) is a member of the bipartisan Senate Working Group on Student Athletics which is engaging federal legislators, collegiate partners, athletes and experts to develop a federal framework in this area. We are working closely with the Florida Congressional delegation, the Southeastern Athletic Conference and our peer institutions to monitor these developments and to advocate for a level playing field for collegiate athletics and safeguards for our students. A NIL fact sheet can be found here.

UF FEDERAL RELATIONS ACTIVITIES

Student Safety and Well-Being – In response to the increasing number of opioid overdoses on college campuses, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) convened college presidents and leaders to discuss how college administrators can ensure the safety and well-being of their students. Linda Cottler, Associate Dean for Research at the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions represented the University of Florida at this White House Roundtable.

Artificial Intelligence Research – On November 14, Sobha Jaishankar, Assistant VP and Director of Research Program Development traveled to Washington DC to meet with officials from the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation to highlight Artificial Intelligence research underway at the University of Florida and areas of possible collaboration.

Support for Global Learning – This November, Provost Glover traveled to Washington on November 21 to meet with leaders from the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Education to express UF’s support for global learning, specifically support for international participation in undergraduate and graduate academic programs.

NASA Showcases Research Fellows Innovative Space Technology – On December 3, Associate Professor for Materials Science & Engineering/Nuclear Engineering, Mike Tonks, traveled to Washington as part of the NASA Space Technology Showcase Day. Through NASA’s Early Stage Innovation Grant, Mike is developing an advanced modeling tool that can assist NASA vehicles as they enter Earth’s atmosphere. This innovative tool will both increase safety and decrease costs of the NASA spacecrafts in operation. More on Mike’s research can be found here.

 

UF Washington Update is a newsletter from the UF Office of Federal Relations. Please contact us if you have any questions or need additional information at 202-220-1381 or UF-FederalRelations@ufl.edu