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No budget, but lame duck Congress passes innovation bills

January 03, 2019
By: Jason Rittenberg

While Congress was unable to pass a budget before funding ran out, legislators did advance multiple innovation-related proposals. Here is a quick summary of what the lame duck session did (and did not do) for tech-based economic development.

New legislative activity during the lame duck session:

  • Training and apprenticeships (H.R. 5509) – NSF is now authorized to award up to $5 million in grants to (a) community colleges partnering with industry and universities to create regionally in-demand STEM certificates and degrees and (b) universities working with industry to offer training, including apprenticeships [signed into law].
  • P3s for unmanned maritime systems (S. 2511) – NOAA is required to work with the Navy, universities and industry to identify opportunities for research and commercialization of the systems [signed into law].
  • Evidence-based policymaking (H.R. 4174) – OMB is authorized to coordinate an array of data-related agency practices and rulemaking, but a key section for metrics-focused organizations is that all federal agencies will be required to publish all data in machine-readable formats [awaiting signature].
  • RBIC adviser exemption (S. 2765) – Individuals providing financial advice only to a Rural Business Investment Corporation do not need to register with the SEC [awaiting signature].
  • Nomination for OSTP – Kelvin Droegemeier was confirmed as Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy on the last day of the 115th session.
  • Farm Bill – (H.R. 2) The new Farm Bill, which contains provisions that could provide significant new tools for rural innovations, was signed into law and featured in a December SSTI story.

Unfortunately, the lame duck session was unable to finish several legislative actions that would help regional innovation economies. The work for the next Congress will include:

  • Federal budget – The nation’s current lack of a complete FY 2019 budget is probably already on your radar. As a reminder, funding for Regional Innovation Strategies, SBA, NSF, NIST, NASA, and others is currently expired and a new budget (not just another continuing resolution) must be passed before committee-approved increases can take effect.
  • Nomination for EDA – Congress did not advance the nomination of John Fleming for EDA director, and he (or another person) will need to be nominated and considered in the 116th session.
  • NIST & NASA reauthorization – The 115th Congress passed a partial NASA reauthorization in 2017, but did not pass a NASA bill covering all activities, nor did a House-passed NIST reauthorization receive consideration in the Senate.
  • Additional tax bills – The House advanced two tax bills in December, an “extenders” package and technical corrections to the 2017 tax law, but neither was passed through the Senate.
legislation, congress