March and April’s Congressional Wrap Up

2019-05-28T14:45:35+00:00 May 28, 2019|
(Credit: Architect of the Capitol)

(Credit: Architect of the Capitol)

From: Ocean News Weekly/ By: Ocean Leadership Staff 

What Passed

Several bills aimed at addressing ocean and coastal acidification, including the Coastal and Ocean Acidification Stressors and Threats (COAST) Research Act of 2019 (H.R. 1237), the Coastal Communities Ocean Acidification Act of 2019 (H.R. 1716), the Ocean Acidification Innovation Act of 2019 (H.R. 1921), and the National Estuaries and Acidification Research (NEAR) Act of 2019 (H.R. 988), passed out of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. These bills would collectively improve the federal government’s research and response efforts to better understand ocean acidification and how communities can mitigate its effects.

In the Senate, bills to reauthorize the National Sea Grant College Program and the Integrated Coastal and Ocean Observing System — the National Sea Grant College Program Amendments Act of 2019 (S. 910) and Coordinated Ocean Observations and Research Act of 2019 (S. 914), respectively — passed out of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

What’s New

The co-chairs of the Senate Oceans Caucus unveiled new bipartisan legislation to advance ocean data collection and monitoring. The Bolstering Long-Term Understanding and Exploration of the Great Lakes, Oceans, Bays, and Estuaries (BLUE GLOBE) Act (S. 933) would charge several existing federal ocean-focused interagency committees, such as the Interagency Ocean Observation Committee, to improve coordination of data collection and enhance data management and accessibility both domestically and internationally. This bill would also task the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with coordinating with other federal agencies to invest in research and workforce development, new and innovative technologies to enhance ocean exploration, and the mitigation of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. To “catalyze the rapid development and deployment of data collection and monitoring technologies,” the BLUE GLOBE Act would establish a competitive Ocean Innovation prize in several areas, ranging from marine eDNA to harmful algal bloom monitoring.

Both chambers introduced the Scientific Integrity Act (S. 775 and H.R. 1709). The Scientific Integrity Act would formalize and reinforce existing scientific integrity policies or create them for federal agencies without policies. The bill aims to mitigate the influence of political, ideological, or financial conflicts of interest on public scientific research.

What’s Next

With the release of the president’s budget request in March, appropriators started working to pass appropriations bills for fiscal year (FY) 2020. In the coming months, appropriations committees in both chambers will write, markup, and vote on bills to fund the government past the end of FY 2019. Bills that pass out of committee will be put to a floor vote, and bills that pass both chambers will go to the president’s desk. Concurrent to the budget discussions, Congress must decide whether to raise the spending caps imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-25). Raising the spending caps would allow Congress more available funding for FY 2020 nondefense discretionary appropriations bills.

Related coverage from the Consortium for Ocean Leadership

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