American Geological Institute

Government Affairs Program UPDATE


September 1998


This monthly update goes out to members of the AGI Government Affairs Program (GAP) Advisory Committee as well as the leadership of AGI's member societies and other interested geoscientists as part of a continuing effort to improve communications between GAP and the geoscience community that it serves.

This monthly update includes:

Appropriations Process Go Into Overtime
Strategic Petroleum Reserve Purchase Dropped
Eisenhower Science Education Program Under Fire
Groat Approved by Senate Committee, Awaits Full Senate Vote
House Science Policy Study Released
Women in Science Bill Passes Congress
GAP Advisory Committee Approves Strategic Plan, Calls for Climate Statement
Tentative Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
New Material on Web Site

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Appropriations Process Goes Into Overtime
Fiscal Year 1999 is upon us, and the federal government is operating on a nine-day continuing resolution to ring it in. Only one of the 13 appropriations bills has been signed by the President, although three more have been completed in the past week. Many of the remaining nine bills are expected to be rolled up into an omnibus appropriations bill, but even so, many federal workers are starting to worry about a repeat of the furloughs that took place two years ago. Congress took a much greater share of the blame than they expected for that fiscal stalemate, however, and congressional leaders are not likely to allow a repeat before the November elections. The political oddsmakers are betting on another continuing resolution that may last until after the elections.

Science has fared well overall in the FY 1999 process so far. Among geoscience-related bills, only the Energy & Water bill (which funds most of DOE plus the Army Corps of Engineers) has been sent to the President. In it, DOE science activities are up 8 percent over FY 1998. The House and Senate have completed their conference on the VA/HUD/Independent Agencies bill, which includes NSF, NASA, and EPA. NSF would receive an overall 7 percent increase with the research account receiving nearly a 9 percent increase, and education programs receiving a 5 percent boost. The Interior bill (USGS, DOE Fossil Energy) has yet to even pass the Senate and is already under a veto threat from President Clinton over a range of environmental provisions (known as "riders") attached to the bill. Bills funding the Department of Agriculture, NOAA, and the Department of Education are all awaiting a House-Senate conference and are likely to end up as part of an omnibus package. For more information on appropriations, visit the AGI web site at http://www.agiweb.org/legis105/apprfy99.html.

Strategic Petroleum Reserve Purchase Dropped
In July, the Senate voted to purchase $420 million worth of oil for the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve in an effort to help out independent producers who have been hard-hit by record low oil prices. The purchase would take advantage of those low prices to replenish a stockpile that has been depleted in recent years due to nearly annual sales to plug holes in the federal budget. The purchase was attached to the Treasury and General Government appropriations bill, S. 2312. The House version did not have a similar provision, and last week a House-Senate conference left the purchase out of the final version of the bill. Proponents of the purchase are now seeking to attach it to the omnibus appropriations package that could be assembled in the next week. Another oil-related provision still under consideration would extend for one year the current moratorium on the Minerals Management Service's proposed oil royalty valuation rule. More information on the oil royalty issue is available on the AGI web site at http://www.agiweb.org/hearings/rik797.html.

Eisenhower Science Education Program Under Fire
On September 18th, the House passed legislation that would consolidate 31 separate federal education programs, including the Eisenhower Professional Development Program for science and math teachers, into a single block grant to the states. H.R. 3248, the Dollars for the Classroom Act, squeaked through by fourteen votes. Under this bill, states could choose to spend money on professional development for science and math teachers, but they would not be required to do so. The Senate counterpart, S. 1589, introduced by Senator Tim Hutchinson (R-AR), remains in the Committee on Labor and Human Resources and will probably not see action this session. There is still a chance, however, that the provisions contained in H.R. 3248 could be attached to an omnibus appropriations bill. The Eisenhower program has survived several elimination attempts in recent years, and if H.R. 3248 does not make it this time, the issue will likely resurface at the start of the 106th Congress, when the Elementary and Secondary Education Act comes up for reauthorization. For more information, visit the AGI web site at http://www.agiweb.org/legis105/ike98.html.

Groat Approved by Senate Committee, Awaits Full Senate Vote
On September 23rd, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted unanimously to confirm Charles G. "Chip" Groat as the next Director of the U.S. Geological Survey. The full Senate has yet to act on the confirmation but is expected to vote under a unanimous consent agreement before they recess in early October. The committee held a confirmation hearing for Groat and two Department of Energy nominees on September 17th. As a former Louisiana state geologist, Groat was introduced at the hearing by Senator John Breaux (D-LA). Groat was asked few questions by the senators, who spent most of the time grilling DOE Deputy Secretary nominee T.J. Glauthier over his record as Associate Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. Reflecting the concerns expressed by committee chair Frank Murkowski (R-AK) and other Republicans, the committee has yet to vote on Glauthier's nomination.

House Science Policy Study Released
On September 24th, the House Science Committee unveiled "Unlocking Our Future: Toward a New National Science Policy," a report developed by committee vice-chair Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-MI) at the request of House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA). The report addresses the current state of the nation's science and technology enterprise and outlines a framework for an updated national science policy in the post-Cold War era. It concludes that the overall health of science and engineering in this country is good but makes a number of recommendations for components that need strengthening. The 74-page report is available on the web at: http://www.house.gov/science/science_policy_study.htm. Proponents of the report hope to have it passed as a resolution by the full House and possibly the Senate, whose Science and Technology Caucus has already lent its endorsement. The Science Committee is seeking input on what to do next as well as feedback on the report itself. An AGI special update on the study can be found at http://www.agiweb.org/legis105/study998.html.

Women in Science Bill Passes Congress
On October 1st, the Senate unanimously approved H.R. 3007, the Advancement of Women in Science, Engineering, and Technology Development Act. The bill passed the House on September 14th and now goes to President Clinton for his signature, which is expected. Introduced by House Technology Subcommittee Chair Connie Morella (R-MD), the bill would establish a commission to study the barriers that women face in science, engineering, and technology. The commission would identify and examine the number of women in these fields to determine the specific areas in which they are underrepresented. The commission would also research and describe the practices of employers regarding the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women in these areas then determine if these practices are comparable to their male counterparts. Finally, within 18 months of appointment, the commission would issue recommendations to the government, academia, and private industry. Along similar lines, President Clinton on September 10th directed the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) to develop recommendations within 180 days on how to achieve greater diversity throughout the nation's scientific and technical work force.

GAP Advisory Committee Approves Strategic Plan, Calls for Climate Statement
The AGI Government Affairs Advisory Committee met on the afternoon of September 17th after many committee members spent the morning at the Groat confirmation hearing. The committee approved the GAP Strategic Plan, which will be considered by the AGI Executive Committee and Member Society Council at their meetings in late October. The draft plan is available on the AGI web site at: http://www.agiweb.org/gapac/plan998.html. The committee discussed a number of issues including ways to involve member society membership in grassroots efforts to influence public policy. The committee also discussed the highly contentious climate change issue and is developing a draft consensus statement that could be adopted by AGI and its Member Societies. Such a statement would focus on the nature of science and areas of geoscience research that can contribute to an improved understanding of the problem.

Tentative Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
The GAP Advisory Committee will hold an informational session during the GSA Annual Meeting in Toronto on Canadian geoscience and public policy. The meeting is scheduled for Saturday, October 24, from 2 to 6 p.m. in the Scott A Room of the Delta-Chelsea Hotel.

Oct. 4-7 AIPG Annual Mtg. Baton Rouge LA
Oct. 11-14 AAPG/DEG Conference Taos NM
Oct. 11-17 National Earth Science Week
Oct. 24GAP Advisory CommitteeToronto, Ontario
Oct. 25-29 GSA Annual Meeting Toronto, Ontario
Nov. 14 AGI 50th Anniversary Symposium Washington DC
Nov. 16 NASULGC Annual Meeting Atlanta GA

New Material on Web Site
The following updates and reports were added to the Government Affairs portion of AGI's web site since the last monthly update:


Contributed by David Applegate and Kasey Shewey, AGI Government Affairs

Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program at govt@agiweb.org.

Posted October 4, 1998


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