The House broke for its month-long August recess yesterday. As previously reported, the Senate has cancelled the majority of its recess to complete work on confirmations and appropriations. Below is a quick update on Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 appropriations and some highlights of the U of I System's recent engagement activities in the nation's capital.
Progress on Appropriations
The appropriations process for FY 2019 has been picking up steam in the past few weeks. Although there have been some disagreements over funding levels and policy issues, a bicameral conference committee has been established to resolve differences for a three-bill appropriations package that includes funding for the departments of Energy and Veterans Affairs, military construction, and congressional operations.
Last week, the House approved a two-bill appropriations package that included FY 2019 funding for the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). OGR lobbied against an amendment that would have cut NEH/NEA funding by 15 percent. The amendment was ultimately defeated, with the entire Illinois delegation voting "no." Antoinette Burton, who leads the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities at Urbana-Champaign, thanked members for voting to protect NEH/NEA funding.
This week the Senate started considering a four-bill appropriations package that bundled the two above-mentioned House-passed spending bills plus funding for Agriculture-Food and Drug Administration and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development.
House Democrats Release HEA Reauthorization Legislation
With the PROSPER Act stalled in the House, Democrats released their version of a Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization bill, called the Aim Higher Act. That bill calls for bolstering funding for federal student aid programs, including boosting the Pell Grant award. It also would protect and expand the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. While the bill has no chance of passage currently, it is a marker for the next Congress. APLU issued a statement. All 17 Democrats on the House Education & Workforce Committee — including Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi — have co-sponsored the bill. Read the summary.
Promoting U of I System Leadership in Innovation
At the invitation of Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, Vice President for Economic Development and Innovation Edward Seidel was in DC on July 25 to present to members of the Committee on Education and the Workforce during their Innovation Forum and Showcase. Each member of the committee was able to invite an innovator to share how they are addressing our nation’s challenges in education and workforce development. Seidel presented on the Discovery Partners Institute (DPI), a U of I System-led initiative to drive innovation and economic growth in our state and nation.
During the forum portion of the event, Seidel mentioned how “Top faculty from great institutions will gather at DPI to conduct research and teach students side-by-side with corporations, tackling grand challenges and finding breakthroughs that improve society.” Seidel also engaged with members of Congress (including Rep. Dan Lipinski), Congressional staff, and the general public on DPI at the showcase. The event highlighted DPI as a top innovative model in education.
Click here to watch footage of Seidel's panel (see 1:37:00).
U of I System President Tim Killeen visited DC twice in June for a variety of congressional and federal agency meetings. He met with over half of the Illinois congressional delegation to update them about U of I System-led initiatives to spur innovation and economic growth. He also shared concerns about proposed House legislation to reauthorize the Higher Education Act — such as the PROSPER Act's negative impact on student aid. Additionally, Killeen met with leadership from the Office of Science and Technology Policy to inform them about how the U of I System is taking an innovative approach to workforce and economic development through the DPI and Illinois Innovation Network. In a meeting with Department of Energy (DOE) leadership, Killeen highlighted energy-related research strengths across the U of I System. The system had more than $56 million in research expenditures in FY2017, making it one of DOE's top university funding partners.
Jim Hammerschmidt, associate vice provost for global engagement at the University of Illinois at Chicago, participated as a panelist at a Hill briefing on employment-based immigration that discussed current challenges facing universities and the private sector relating to H-1Bs, as well as other related topics.
Susan Martinis, interim vice chancellor for research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, was in DC on July 26 for meetings with the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Accompanying Martinis on this trip were Rohit Bhargava, the director of Urbana’s Cancer Center, and Melissa Edwards executive director of strategic communications for OVCR, who also met with congressional staff about the Cancer Center.
Chris Barkan, executive director of the Rail Transportation and Engineering Center (RailTEC), met with Congressional staff to discuss university research into rail safety and efficiency.
Randy Sandone, executive director of the Urbana-led Critical Infrastructure Resilience Institute (CIRI), presented at a June 25 briefing on Capitol Hill that highlighted the successes and achievements of Department of Homeland Security Centers of Excellence.
Bob Flider (Chancellor's office), Steve Brown (Prairie Research Institute), and Gene Cossey (Willard Airport) were in DC at the end of June as part of a delegation from the Champaign County First, a combined effort of the Champaign County Chamber and the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation regarding the projects of interest to the county. In meetings with Congress and federal agencies, they discussed local transportation and water issues.
Antoinette Burton, director of the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, was in DC at the end of June. While in town, she met with officials at the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The Science Coalition (TSC), a nonprofit, nonpartisan association of which the U of I System is a member, recently honored Rep. Bill Foster during an event in DC that recognized all past recipients of the Champion of Science Award still serving in Congress in addition to honoring the three most recent recipients. The award recognizes members of Congress for supporting investment in basic scientific research. During the Champions of Science All-Stars Reception — which was attended by nearly 150 people, including key administration officials — Foster was given his commemorative Wheaties ® box. The U of I System nominated Foster for the award in 2016, along with Northern Illinois University and Northwestern University, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
OGR Federal Relations
Paul Weinberger and Melissa Haas