What the midterms may hold for science and innovation policy

SSTI board member Bruce Mehlman, a former George W. Bush administration official and founder of Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas, recently published a midterm election presentation that has been discussed by numerous DC publications. Mehlman included an analysis of the last 10 senatorial midterm elections (see slide 15). The results suggest that incumbent senators of a different party than the president are very likely to win reelection, even in states carried by the president. Translating this to the 2018 midterms: Democrats hold 10 seats in states won by President Donald Trump. Based on this historical analysis, the party would have a 61 percent chance of carrying all 10 seats.[1] Meanwhile, Mehlman’s presentation states that seats held by the same party as the president face significantly lower odds. In the 2018 midterms, Republicans would have a 17 percent chance of retaining all three seats where one seat is in a state lost by the president, and two where the incumbent is not running for reelection.[2]

Startup Act would reauthorize Regional Innovation Strategies, implement commercialization grants

Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) along with Senators Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)  introduced the Startup Act today – legislation that would help regions throughout the country address critical gaps between R&D and economic prosperity. SSTI has worked with the offices on sections of the bill that reauthorize and expand the Regional Innovation Strategies program and would implement a new commercialization grants program. SSTI supports the Startup Act (S. 1877) and calls upon other senators to cosponsor this bill and for the House to take up the legislation.

Congress sends mixed signals on evidence-based programming

In an unexpected twist, the FY 2017 budget passed earlier this month by Congress has more dislikes than likes for evidence-based program and policy design, despite being embraced strongly by both Presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama. Masked under a variety of different nomenclatures – performance contracting, social impact bonds, pay for success, for example – evidence-based programming incorporates rigorous metrics to assess the effectiveness of public policy toward meeting its goals and basing expenditures accordingly. The largest initiative testing its merit in federal funding outlays was the Social Innovation Fund, housed within the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). Congress eliminated the entire $54 million for the program, which had supported dozens of pay for success pilot programs across the country.

House Science Committee advancing R&D changes

The U.S. House Science Committee released a letter last week reasserting the majority party’s interest in setting R&D priorities for federal science agencies and supporting appropriation levels that generally align with the White House’s budget blueprint. The letter notes priorities for most of the $42 billion in R&D budgets within the committee’s purview, including the following:

Legislative & Federal News for March 2, 2017

The Trump administration’s initial proposal of a $54 billion increase in defense spending with the same amount being cut from non-defense spending would alter spending rules established in 2013, which set a cap on discretionary spending across the federal government and affected defense and non-defense spending equally. Press reports have indicated congressional opposition to this approach with a key House appropriator commenting, "The president will propose, and the Congress will dispose.” While the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has provided top-line numbers to individual agencies as it works in preparing the FY 2018 budget request, those figures have not been released publicly. The full FY 2018 budget proposal is expected in late spring with an outline to be released mid-March.

Help support federal data

C2ER is sharing a letter to Congress that describes the value of federal data collection and publication, including the census, employment information, R&D spending and much more, for private- and public-sector decision making, individual choice and democratic institutions. If you agree with this sentiment, you can complete a form with the Association of Public Data Users to have your name, title and affiliation added to the letter in support of continuing this critical information source.

Slew of innovation bills introduced, pass US House

The U. S. House of Representatives wasted no time at the start of the new Congress, passing seven bills Tuesday that had been approved by the chamber in a previous session but had not received consideration in the Senate. Four of these bills with particular relevance to the innovation community are the HALOS Act, TALENT Act, Leveraging Emerging Technologies Act of 2017  and Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act.

COMPETES Act Reauthorized without Funding

Last week, Congress passed the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (S. 3084), which reauthorizes the America COMPETES Act. The Act does not include any funding levels for any of the programs or agencies reauthorized in the bill but does reinforce Congress’s support for research and makes adjustments to some programs. One crucial component of the bill adjusts the cost share requirement for NIST’s Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership to 1:1 throughout the new authorization period. In a press release, Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) emphasized that the act will also provide agencies more leeway to adjust EPSCoR solicitations and encourage NSF to expand I-Corps through agreements with other federal agencies, state and local governments, and follow-on grants.

Federal Continuing Resolution Would Keep Regional Innovation, R&D Funding Stable

Earlier this week, congressional appropriators reached a tentative agreement on spending levels for the 2015 fiscal year just a few days before the Thursday deadline. The continuing resolution omnibus, “cromnibus,” spending package would, if approved by the House, Senate and president, avert a government shutdown and again defer budget negotiations until next September. Under the agreement, most agency budgets would remain at similar levels to those enacted for FY14.

Regional Innovation Included in FY15 Bill; 254 Applications Received for FY14 Competition

Included in the continuing resolution/omnibus spending bill for FY15 is $10 million for the Regional Innovation program. The Regional Innovation Program was authorized under the American COMPETES Act and is designed to provide funding to support regional innovation activities. The program received its first funding of $10 million in FY14 after extensive work on the Hill by SSTI, its members and others. More than 60 organizations signed a letter urging Congress to fund the program at $20 million (see August 7, 2014 Digest article) for FY15. Last week, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced that the FY14 solicitation had received 254 applications requesting more than $100 million in funding.


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