April’s Congressional Wrap Up

2018-05-14T17:15:00+00:00 May 14, 2018|

From: Ocean News Weekly/ By: Consortium for Ocean Leadership Staff

What Passed

A bill aimed at helping scientists and innovators to commercialize their products (H.R. 5086) passed the House with bipartisan support while another focused on mentoring and apprenticeships in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers (H.R. 5509) was agreed to in the same chamber’s Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

The Commercial Engagement Through Ocean Technology Act of 2018 (CENOTE, S. 2511), which is designed to coordinate development of unmanned maritime systems and to encourage partnerships between government (U.S. Navy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)), industry, and academia, passed out of the Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

 What’s New

Climate change, storm resiliency, and education were themes among the legislation introduced in both chambers. The new bills would establish a climate change education program at NOAA (S. 2740 and H.R. 5506), enhance flood mapping in areas vulnerable to sea-level rise (S. 2701 and H.R. 5569) and transfer flood map preparation responsibilities to the U.S. Geological Survey (H.R. 5559), improve resiliency to natural disasters through use of natural ecosystems and nature-based features (S. 2783), recognize the impacts of changing environments on outdoor recreation (H. Res. 825), and reinstate climate change information previously removed from the Environmental Protection Agency’s website (H.R. 5552).

Additionally, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (NDAA, H.R. 5515) was introduced in the House. This annual reauthorization bill outlines program priorities for the Department of Defense (DOD), including research activities under the 6.1 (basic research), 6.2 (applied research), and 6.3 (advanced technology development) budget codes and authorizes DOD activities ranging from disaster relief to law enforcement. The ocean science, research, and technology sectors will be watching to see if ocean observations, autonomous systems, Arctic research, public-private partnerships, a changing ocean environment (e.g., sea-level rise, ocean acidification, ocean warming), and other relevant topics are part of the final bill.

What’s Next

Last Tuesday, the president officially asked Congress to rescind $15.4 billion of unspent money from previous years, including funds for Hurricane Sandy relief. Congress will have 45 days to act on the package, otherwise the rescinded money is released to the agencies. Bipartisan cooperation is not needed for approval, as passage only requires a simple majority vote in the House (418 votes) and Senate (51 votes), rather than the usual 60 needed in the Senate. There is bipartisan concern that a rescission could disrupt cooperation during the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 appropriations process, which is currently underway.

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