May And June’s Congressional Wrap Up

2019-07-15T15:07:55+00:00 July 15, 2019|
(Click to enlarge) The U.S. Congress. (Credit: Architect of the Capitol)

(Credit: Architect of the Capitol)

From: Ocean News Weekly/ By: Ocean Leadership Staff 

What Passed

Several fiscal year (FY) 2020 appropriations bills passed in the House in June, including the chamber’s Commerce-Justice-Science (H.R. 3055), Energy-Water (H.R. 2740), and Interior-Environment (H.R. 3052) appropriations bills.

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 the House in early June and now await action from the Senate. Collectively, these bills would enhance the federal government’s research and response efforts to better understand the effects of ocean acidification on coastal communities.

What’s New

The National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP) Reauthorization Act (H.R. 3161), introduced by Representative Jimmy Panetta (CA-20) in June, would support ocean security by facilitating partnerships among federal agencies, academia, industry, and other members of the oceanographic science community to further advance knowledge of ocean science.

In June, the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act (S. 1982) was introduced in the Senate. The bill builds upon the Save Our Seas Act of 2018 (S. 3508; P.L. 115-265), which was signed into law in October 2018 and took the first steps to addressing the growing global issue of marine debris by reauthorizing the Marine Debris Program under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and by fostering international collaboration. This new bill would continue work on reducing marine debris through increasing investments in domestic waste infrastructure, providing additional support for domestic debris response programs, and enhancing international collaboration to address the issue at a global level.

In May, legislation was introduced in both the House and Senate to study the impact that sunscreen chemicals pose to human health and coral reefs around the world. The Oxybenzone and Octinoxate Impact Study Act of 2019 (S. 1371, H.R. 2588) would require the Environmental Protection Agency to study the effects of two key chemicals, oxybenzone and octinoxate, found in many commercial brands of sunscreen on human health and the environment. The Reef Safe Act of 2019 (S. 1374, H.R. 2587) would require the Food and Drug Administration to develop standards for a “Reef Safe” label for sunscreens.

What’s Next

Congress has under three months to meet the September 30 deadline on FY 2020 appropriations. To avoid a government shutdown, both chambers must pass identical versions of 12 appropriations bills that are then signed by the president. The House has passed nine of the 12 spending bills and the Senate has not yet released any funding bills nor held any markup sessions. Congress could also pass a continuing resolution to maintain FY 2019 spending levels for all or part of FY 2020.

In addition to the appropriations discussions, Congress must also decide whether to raise the spending caps imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-25). If Congress votes to raise the spending caps, there would be more available funding for FY 2020 nondefense discretionary appropriations bills.

Related coverage from the Consortium for Ocean Leadership

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