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Communities mull challenges, benefits to municipal broadband

Broadband connectivity is foundational for regional competitiveness in the global economy, prompting more states and communities to develop innovative solutions to expand high-quality broadband access for their businesses, residents, education systems and public sector. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam provided one of the most recent examples of the trend by signing legislation making it easier for municipalities and cooperative boards to deliver broadband connectivity in underrepresented communities throughout the Volunteer State. Considerable socioeconomic and political challenges remain for communities interested in providing broadband service at the municipal level.

Useful Stats: Personal income grows, state ranks largely unchanged

According to the most recent U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis state personal income data, national per capita income grew 4.0 percent from 2015 to 2016, and growth since 2012 is at 12.0 percent. States are experiencing this growth disparately, however, with five-year growth rates ranging from -0.6 percent (North Dakota) to 17.6 percent (California). Over this period, few states experienced significant changes in their performance relative to their peers — just four states moved more than five rankings — but shifts between income quintiles and variable growth rates suggest that more movement will be witnessed over the next few years.

Science march takes center stage on Earth Day

This weekend’s March for Science in Washington, D.C., and another 517 satellite locations across the globe, will be marked with teach-ins and rallies, and will be live-streamed as a virtual march as well. The march is intended to serve as “a call for politicians to implement science based policies, as well as a public celebration of science and the enormous public service it provides in our democracy, our economy, and our daily lives.”

This weekend also marks Earth Day, and the U.S. Census Bureau provided some facts pertaining to energy and the environment:

Legislative & Federal News for April 20, 2017

U.S. Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Gary Peters (D-MI) sent a letter requesting a 4 percent increase in appropriations for the National Science Foundation and National Institute of Standards and Technology to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The White House announced an executive order to review the H-1B visa program, and the accompanying language suggests the administration’s interest in reforms to emphasize applicant skills and wages.

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney lifted the federal hiring freeze last week and asked agencies to plan for workforce reductions.

Maryland legislation encourages manufacturing jobs, training

New legislation in Maryland that takes effect in June provides $1 million in workforce development scholarships and builds on current apprenticeship programs, while also providing tax incentives for new and existing manufacturers to create jobs in areas of the state that need them most. Gov. Larry Hogan signed the More Jobs for Marylanders Act into law last week, a key piece of his jobs initiative. The new legislation establishes scholarships for eligible students enrolled in job training programs at community colleges, and contains measures to encourage high schools to offer additional vocational training, as well as requiring state agencies to analyze their registered apprenticeship programs.

U.S. companies investing in foreign R&D

U.S. companies spent 18 percent of their research and development dollars outside of the United States in 2013, according to data recently released by the NSF. The $73 billion in foreign R&D is concentrated in the information industry, pharmaceuticals, semiconductors, and automobiles and parts. Those four industries accounted for 52 percent of all foreign R&D performance by U.S.

Federal support needed for energy innovation

Innovation in the energy sector requires strong leadership from the federal government to help mitigate potential risks, according to a recent report by the American Energy Innovation Council (AEIC), a project of the Bipartisan Policy Center. The AEIC is a group of ten private sector leaders that includes Bill Gates, the heads of industry giants like Dominion Energy and Southern Company, and retired leaders of corporations such as Lockheed Martin and DuPont.

Boston Consulting Group: Private-public research consortia fundamental to U.S. competitiveness

While the U.S. remains the global leader in overall R&D spending, China has surpassed the U.S. in later stage technological investments, according to a new report by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). At its current rate of growth, the authors find that China’s investment in later-stage R&D could double that of the U.S. by 2018. Their analysis suggests that there is significant potential for the U.S to get more out of its R&D by strengthening the relationships between industry and research institutions.

H-1B cap reached in one week

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on Friday that it had reached the congressionally mandated 65,000 visa H-1B cap for FY 2018, just five days after opening the application process. USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions that are otherwise exempt from the cap. This year, petitioners were unable to apply for premium processing, which has been temporarily suspended. USCIS has also received “a sufficient number” of H-1B petitions to meet the 20,000 visa U.S. advanced degree exemption, also known as the master’s cap.

DOC leadership pivotal to collaboration on Manufacturing USA, GAO finds

While the Department of Commerce (DOC) has incorporated several key practices for enhancing and sustaining interagency collaboration around the Manufacturing USA network, the agency needs to develop a better a governance system that outlines the responsibilities and role of non-sponsoring agencies (e.g. Department of Labor, Department of Education) in the network, according to a new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). The report makes recommendations to DOC with the intent of increasing the involvement of non-sponsoring agencies in helping support the 11 innovation institutes that comprise the Manufacturing USA network.

SSTI members make major push for FY 2018 Regional Innovation funding

The federal FY 2018 budget process is well underway, and SSTI members have participated in record numbers to ask Congress to prioritize funding for the Regional Innovation Strategies program. Member organizations, working with SSTI and The Sheridan Group, co-signed 60 appropriations requests to congressional offices and helped to secure 39 signatures on a “Dear Colleague” letter by Reps. David Cicilline (D-RI) and Randy Hultgren (R-IL).

NY launches tuition-free college education for New Yorkers

On April 8, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the Excelsior Scholarship program will be included in the state’s FY 2018 budget, after having been approved by the legislature. In its first year, the state will commit $163 million to provide tuition-free options for New Yorkers from ‘middle-class’ families at the state’s public institutions of higher education. Under the Excelsior Scholarship program, students can attend any of the colleges or universities that comprise the State University of New York and the City University of New York systems. After completing their degree, the scholarship requires that recipients must work or live in the state after graduation for the same number of years that they receive support. Cuomo contends that over 75 percent of the state’s 940,000 families with college-aged children would qualify for the program.

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