Capitol Contact Updates from DC

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					       Capitol Connections: Updates from ISU’s Washington Office
                                               May 8, 2008

Welcome to Capitol Connections, a new, quarterly bulletin from Iowa State University’s Office of Federal
Relations that will provide updates on legislative and policy issues relevant to ISU. Please feel free to
contact Allison Rosenberg, Special Assistant to the President for Federal Relations, or Laura Katzin,
Federal Relations Associate, at 202-403-8610 with questions or suggestions.

FARM BILL: After months of difficult deliberations, House and Senate conferees appointed to reconcile
differences between the two chambers’ versions of the Farm Bill have reached agreement. Senate
Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA), the conference chairman, held a press conference
on May 8 to discuss the final conference agreement. Major provisions in the bill, H.R. 2419, include
changes to crop insurance, livestock programs, land-conservation initiatives, and ethanol tax credits, and
tighter caps on subsidies. Even as the committee chairman announced the completion of the conference,
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) indicated he will not support the bill complicating the
prospects for final passage.

A complex bill that authorizes much of U.S. federal farm law and policy on agriculture programs,
conservation, rural development, energy, foreign food aid, and more, the Farm Bill also provides funding
for ISU research initiatives and supports University Extension and outreach across the state. Iowa State
University’s Office of Federal Relations worked with the Iowa Congressional delegation on a host of
provisions important to ISU, including research funding at USDA, Value Added Agriculture Producer
Grants, a new land-grant consortia on agricultural and rural transportation research and education,
biochar research development and demonstration, the New Century Farm, and more.

HIGHER EDUCATION ACT REAUTHORIZATION: Unable to complete negotiations on differences
between the House and Senate versions of another critical, five-year authorization bill, the two chambers
last week approved an extension of the Higher Education Reauthorization Act, maintaining current
funding levels for education programs through May 31. Both the House and Senate passed their bills
with strong bipartisan support, yet differences remain around state funding, new reporting requirements,
and accreditation issues. The top priority concerns of the higher education community include: (1)
college costs; (2) new disclosure and reporting requirements; and (3) federal governmental intrusion into
academic freedom and control of curriculum development and content. To view a list of higher education
priorities for the HEA conference, please see:

STUDENT LOANS: Instability in the United States’ credit markets has caused some lenders in the
federally guaranteed student loan program to scale back their lending activity. Though neither students
nor colleges have reported difficulties in securing student financial aid to date, the House and Senate
have passed legislation (H.R. 5715) to ensure continued access to federal loans. President Bush signed
the legislation on May 7. The bill increases the amount of unsubsidized loans a student may borrow;
expands eligibility for the Academic Competitiveness Grant and the National Science & Mathematics
Access to Retain Talent Grant programs; and directs the Government Accountability Office to conduct a
study on the impact of raising student loan limits on tuition, fees, and living costs at colleges and
universities and on private student loan borrowing. To read a complete summary of the passed bill from
the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, please visit

FY08 SUPPLEMENTAL APPROPRIATIONS BILL: Scientific groups, professional associations, and
corporations have sent letters to President Bush and Congressional leaders urging them to support a
minimum of $500 million in additional funding for science programs in the FY08 supplemental
appropriations bill, a piece of legislation often dubbed the “War Supplemental” or “Emergency
Supplemental” because it funds the President’s request for additional support for military operations in
Iraq and Afghanistan. These university letters advocate additional funding for the National Science
Foundation, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and
Technology, each of which had been slated for increased funding in last year’s regular appropriations
process but lost those increases when Congress wrapped up a number of uncompleted bills into one
large omnibus appropriations act. The Senate’s supplemental appropriations package, expected to me
marked up on May 15, includes $1.2 billion for science activities of NASA, NIH, the National Science
Foundation, and the Energy Department. The House has postponed voting on its supplemental
appropriations request – which does not include funding for science initiatives – when conservative
Democrats (“Blue Dogs”) opposed adding veterans’ education benefits to the bill with no offsets for the
additional expense.

FALSE CLAIMS ACT: Members of the higher education community have expressed growing concern
about proposed legislation to modify the federal False Claims Act. Though some have suggested the
current bills – S. 2041, introduced by Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), and H.R. 4854, introduced by
Representative Howard Berman (D-CA) – originally were aimed at curbing contractor abuse in Iraq, as
written these bills would have significant, negative consequences for all federal contractors, including
colleges and universities. The False Claims Correction Act (S. 2041), approved by the Senate Judiciary
Committee on April 3, would significantly increase damages for even inadvertent mistakes in charges for
payment under a government contract; apply the new law retroactively to all pending cases; and extend
the statute of limitations for false claims from seven to 10 years. Iowa State University’s federal relations
staff has met with Senate Judiciary staff to express the community’s concerns. Though the Committee
appears committed to passing this legislation, there may be an opportunity to amend some of the
language that poses particularly deleterious – and apparently unintended – effects on colleges and
universities. To learn more about the community’s concerns, please see

FY09 BUDGET & APPROPRIATIONS: The House and Senate each have passed a budget for the
coming fiscal year (FY09), but neither chamber has reached an agreement on funding levels for the
twelve appropriations subcommittees that fund the federal government. Only after a budget is passed
and each subcommittee receives its allocation can those subcommittees begin hammering out the details
of funding for federal agencies and programs within their jurisdiction. The appropriations process is
supposed to be completed by the end of the current fiscal year (September 30), yet Congress rarely
abides by this deadline; in several recent years, a majority of the appropriations bills have been compiled
into a single omnibus spending package long after the new fiscal year has begun. In this election year,
the timing of the annual appropriations process is especially unclear, and many observers speculate the
Democratic leadership on Capitol Hill will wait until a new president is inaugurated to send up their
spending proposals.

NEW ENERGY RESEARCH CENTERS PROGRAM: The Department of Energy (DOE) Office of
Science recently issued a funding opportunity announcement for a new program – Energy Frontier
Research Centers (EFRC). These centers will further scientific breakthroughs needed for new energy
technologies. Approximately $100 million will be available for awards in FY09, and awards for the first
group of centers are expected to be in the range of $2 - $5 million a year for an initial 5 year period. The
competition is open to universities, DOE laboratories, and other institutions. To learn more about this
funding opportunity, please visit:


In conjunction with ISU’s Federal Relations Office, several University officials, faculty, and
representatives have met here in Washington with Members of the Iowa delegation and their staff.

•   On January 22, President Bush appointed Tahira Hira, executive assistant to the president and
    a professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Iowa State
    University, to the President's Advisory Council on Financial Literacy. The Council is charged
    with assisting citizens in understanding and addressing financial matters.

•   President Geoffroy presented Iowa State University’s FY09 Federal Agenda to the members of
    the Iowa Congressional Delegation and their staff during his annual breakfast briefing in
    Washington on February 6. President Geoffroy and Allison Rosenberg, Special Assistant to the
    President for Federal Relations, also met individually with several Members of the Congressional
    delegation to discuss ISU’s federal initiatives.
•   Roberta Johnson, Iowa State University’s Director, Office of Student Financial Aid, and National
    Chair of the National Direct Student Loan Coalition met with Members of Congress regarding the
    Federal Direct Loan Program on February 26. On March 14, she testified before the House
    Committee on Education and Labor on Iowa State University’s experience with the Direct Loan
    program. The Committee is holding hearings to ensure the availability of federal loans for college
•   The American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) held an advocacy day on February 27.
    Mark Kushner, Dean, College of Engineering, Iowa State University and P. Barry Butler, Dean,
    College of Engineering, University of Iowa, met with Iowa’s Congressional delegation regarding
    the need to fund the America Competes Act, which included increased support for the
    Department of Energy Office of Science and the National Science Foundation.
•   On March 5, ISU Extension and Iowa’s representatives to the Council for Agricultural Research,
    Extension and Teaching (CARET) met with the Iowa Congressional delegation to discuss Agriculture
    and Extension programs and funding. Participants included Terri Carstensen, cattle and crop
    producer; Donald Latham, Latham Seed Company; Jack Payne, Vice President for ISU Extension
    and Outreach; Mark Settle, ISU Extension Director for Communications & External Relations; Sally
    Stutsman, Johnson County supervisor; and Wendy Wintersteen, Dean of the ISU College of
    Agriculture and Life Sciences.
•   Craig Gundersen, ISU Associate Professor, Department of Human Development and Family
    Studies, and Jim Ziliak, University of Kentucky Professor and Gatton Endowed Chair in
    Microeconomics, appeared before the Senate Special Committee on Aging on March 5 to present
    their report, “The Causes, Consequences, and Future of Senior Hunger in America.”
•   On March 6, Cheryl Achterberg, Dean of the College of Human Sciences represented the Learning
    and Education Academic Research Network (LEARN) in meetings with Senator Harkin and other
    Members of Congress. The LEARN agenda includes advancing the scientific understanding of
    learning and development through increased funding for the Department of Education Institute of
    Education Sciences, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National
    Institutes of Mental Health, and the NSF Education and Human Resources Directorate.
•   Members of the Big XII Student Governments organized a day on Capitol Hill on March 12 to
    advocate on college costs, study abroad opportunities, and increased federal research funding.
    Mitch Hayek, Maggie Luttrell, Anthony Maly, Chris Rieser, and Charles Wakefield from ISU’s
    Government of the Student Body met with staff from the offices of Senator Harkin, Senator Grassley,
    and Representative Latham. Maggie Luttrell represented ISU at a meeting with Undersecretary of
    Education Sara Martinez Tucker.
•   On April 2, Dr. Robert C. Brown, Bergles Professor in Thermal Sciences, Professor, Department of
    Mechanical Engineering, Chemical and Biological Engineering, and Agricultural and Biosystems
    Engineering, and Director, Office of Biorenewables Programs met with high ranking officials at the
    Department of Energy and USDA to discuss a growing recognition of the role thermochemical
    conversion of biomass will play in the production of biofuels and biobased products.
•   Jim Oliver, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Director of the CyberInnovation Institute, and
    Director of ISU’s Virtual Reality Applications Center, traveled to Washington on April 21 to brief the
    National Guard Bureau and Iowa’s Congressional offices on the university’s unique capabilities in
    bringing the world’s highest resolution immersive virtual reality display system to bear on training
    America’s defense forces
•   Participants from the Joint Council of Extension Professionals Public Issues Leadership
    Development Conference met with Members of the Iowa Congressional delegation on April 30 to
    request Congressional support for full funding of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP).
•   On May 7, Bruce Babcock, Professor of Economics and Director of the Center for Agricultural and
    Rural Development at Iowa State University, testified before the Senate Committee on Homeland
    Security and Government Affairs on the impact of federal biofuels policy on crop and food prices.