November’s Congressional Wrap Up

2019-12-09T15:17:09+00:00 December 9, 2019|
(Credit: Architect of the Capitol)

(Credit: Architect of the Capitol)

From: Ocean News Weekly/ By: Ocean Leadership Staff 

What Passed

Congress passed a second continuing resolution (H.R. 3055; PL 116-69) signed into law by the president, which funds the federal government during fiscal year (FY) 2020 at FY 2019 levels through December 20.

Several conservation measures passed the House and have been received in the Senate. If enacted, the North American Wetlands Conservation Extension Act (H.R. 925) would reauthorize and increase available funding for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act through FY 2024, while the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act of 2019 (H.R. 737) would make it illegal to possess, buy, or sell shark fins or shark fin products.

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation was active in approving ocean legislation, favorably reporting several ocean-related bills during a 25-bill executive session. This included several conservation measures, among them the Restoring Resilient Reefs Act of 2019 (S. 2429), which would promote conservation of coral reefs through funding for state restoration of reef ecosystems, encourage new coral reef stewardship partnerships, and update the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force; and the SAVE Right Whales Act (S. 2453) which works to promote recovery of the North Atlantic right whale population through funding for collaboration between states, nongovernmental organizations, and members of the fishing and shipping industries.

Senators on the committee also turned their attention to ocean and coastal management issues, including fisheries through the Fishery Failures: Urgently Needed Disaster Declarations Act (S. 2346), which helps communities declare fisheries disasters and get recovery funding; harmful algal blooms and hypoxia through the South Florida Clean Coastal Waters Act of 2019 (S. 10); and marine debris through the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act (S. 1982) which helps improve upon the efforts of the Save our Seas Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-265).

Additional legislation favorably reported from the session include the Digital Coast Act (S. 1069), which would strengthen the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Digital Coast Program to better help coastal communities adapt to changing environmental conditions by increasing access to coastal data; the Learning Excellence and Good Examples from New Developers (LEGEND) Act of 2019 (S. 2597), which works towards making the underlying code and data of NOAA models more publicly available through the planned Earth Prediction Innovation Center; and a bill to improve provisions of law relating to sexual harassment and assault prevention at NOAA (S.2782).

What’s New

The Coastal Resilience Research and Education Act (H.R. 5102) was introduced in the House. If enacted, the legislation would provide NOAA with the authority to designate National Centers of Excellence in Coastal Resilience Research and Education, recognizing public universities and colleges that are leaders in climate change adaptation and mitigation and promoting partnerships between those institutions and federal agencies.

What’s Next

Lawmakers continue negotiations on the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), looking to resolve remaining differences in the two chambers’ versions so each chamber can approve the final version before sending the bill to the president’s desk.

The continuing resolution has given appropriators more time to negotiate differences in spending levels and policy provisions on the way to passing FY 2020 spending bills. While the House and Senate have reached agreement on subcommittee allocations, there are still lingering disputes to resolve in each chamber before bills move to their next steps. Otherwise, Congress will need to consider another stopgap measure, either temporary or yearlong, to avoid a government shutdown at midnight on December 20.

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