March’s Congressional Wrap Up

2018-04-02T13:04:17+00:00 April 2, 2018|
(Credit: Getty Images)

(Credit: Getty Images)

What Passed

Congress kept us on the edge of our seats last month; with only hours remaining before the continuing resolution expired, the omnibus appropriations package for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 was signed into law (P.L.115-141). Thanks to the February budget deal, the final bill included increases across federal science agencies and programs for critical ocean science, research, and technology initiatives (marking the first real raises in nearly a decade for some).

The Department of Energy Research and Innovation Act (H.R. 589 and S. 2503), which authorizes research and development plans in all core program offices within the DOE’s Office of Science, passed out of committee in the Senate.

What’s New

Last month, both chambers introduced nearly identical versions of the Commercial Engagement Through Ocean Technology (CENOTE) Act of 2018 (H.R. 5196 and S. 2511). These bills would direct the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to coordinate development of unmanned maritime systems through partnerships with universities, the Navy, and the private sector and to make data readily available through the Integrated Ocean Observing System. Consortium for Ocean Leadership recognizes the importance of partnerships for ocean science and technology; read more about Jon’s support for the legislation here.

Fishing was a theme in the House with two pieces of legislation on the topic introduced. The Sustainable Shark and Fisheries Trade Act (H.R. 5248) would promote a science-based approach to addressing unsustainable catch and trade of elasmobranchs (e.g., sharks, skates, and rays), require that imports be held to U.S. standards, and prohibit shark finning (removal of a shark’s dorsal fin and discarding the body at sea). The State and Territorial Approval for Restriction of (STAR) Fishing Act (H.R. 5269) would require state or territorial approval to restrict recreational or commercial fishing access from certain areas of their waters.

Additionally, a series of renewable energy bills were introduced in both chambers to promote research for algae-based bioenergy (H.R. 5234), establish career training programs for offshore wind (H.R. 5291), and amend the Clean Air Act’s regulation of fuels to encourage renewables (S. 2519 and H.R. 5212).

What’s Next

With the release of the president’s budget request in February, appropriators are working against a September 30 deadline to write and pass appropriations bills for FY 2019. Several executive leadership positions, including NOAA’s administrator, have yet to be confirmed due to disagreements on the nominees. In the coming months, the Senate is expected to make progress on filling these roles.

 Related coverage from the Consortium For Ocean Leadership: