American Geological Institute

Government Affairs Program SPECIAL UPDATE


News on Mapping, Hazards, Taxes, and Research Funding

(8-16-97)


This update was originally sent out as an e-mail message to AGI's member societies

IN A NUTSHELL: On August 5th, President Clinton signed the National Geologic Mapping Reauthorization Act of 1997 into law. The President also signed balanced budget and tax cut legislation. The Senate has passed a reauthorization for the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP), which has also passed the House Science Committee. In a follow-up to this spring's effort by scientific society presidents to obtain a 7% increase for research funding in Fiscal Year (FY) 1998, the American Chemical Society is leading a push for a doubling of funding for research in the next decade. Society presidents are again being asked to sign on to a joint statement.

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Before following Congress into recess, I wanted to provide a brief update on several issues that have seen action in the past two weeks. Also, we have redesigned AGI's web site , and I heartily encourage you to come visit us in cyberspace. Our site has been redesigned by AGI's summer web intern David Hays, a recent geology graduate of Franklin and Marshall College. I hope that you will find the site to be more visually interesting and easier to navigate. Please visit!

National Geologic Mapping Reauthorization Signed By President
The National Geologic Mapping Reauthorization Act of 1997 is now Public Law 105-36, having been signed by the President on August 5th, two weeks after the Senate passed the measure by unanimous consent. The bill had passed the House (H.R. 709) by voice vote in early March but its Senate counterpart (S. 317) was stalled in committee. An earlier update (available on AGI's web site) provides additional information on the bill's provisions and legislative history.

Although the bill authorizes $26 million in Fiscal Year 1998 for the U.S. Geological Survey's National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program, both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have voted a $21.9 million funding level, the same as in FY1997 but $1.7 million more than the President requested. Bill supporters, led by the Association of American State Geologists, hope that passage of the reauthorization bill will encourage the Administration and congressional appropriators to increase support for the program in the coming years.

NEHRP Reauthorization Passes Senate
Legislation to reauthorize another geoscience initiative, the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP), passed the Senate by unanimous consent on July 31st as they were preparing to adjourn for August. The bill (S. 910), introduced by Senate Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space Chairman Bill Frist (R-TN), authorizes $103.2 million for FY1998 and $106.3 million for FY1999.

Several days earlier, the House Science Committee passed H.R. 2249, the companion bill for S. 910. The House bill was introduced by House Science Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Ranking Member George Brown (D-CA). The bill authorizes $105.5 million for fiscal year 1998 and $108.7 million for fiscal year 1999.

S. 910 and H.R. 2249 have identical provisions with the only differences occurring in the authorization of funding levels. The Senate provides more for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the House more for the USGS, NSF and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). An update with additional information on this issue, including specific provisions in the bills, is available on the AGI web site.

President Signs Tax Cut Legislation
Recent AGI updates have been reporting on various provisions in tax cut legislation that would affect geoscientists. The bill that is now law, signed by the President over a week ago, keeps the tax exemption on tuition waivers for graduate students and others intact as well as extending the tax exemption (up to $5,250) for employer-provided educational assistance to be given to an employee for undergraduate-level training. The bill does phase out some tax exemptions for the TIAA-CREF retirement plans, but a company spokesperson has assured us that the change will have a very limited effect on most account holders. For more information, visit .

The tax bill also contains significant provisions on percentage depletion for marginal oil and gas wells, brownfields development, industrial research, and land conservation. A new tax-bill update is now available on the AGI web site.

Scientific Society Presidents Call for "Decade of Investment" In Research
This past spring, the presidents of nearly fifty scientific societies signed a joint statement calling on Congress and the President to increase federal research spending by 7 percent in FY 1998. A strong economy has made it possible for much of that increase to materialize in the spending bills currently making their way through Congress. Now, American Chemical Society president Paul Anderson has written other society presidents asking them to sign on to a joint statement calling for a doubling of federal research spending in the next decade. In January, Sen. Phil Gramm (R-TX) introduced legislation (S. 124) calling for such a doubling in specific science agencies. His bill had raised some concern within the geoscience community for omitting the Department of the Interior. The current statement, however, includes Interior. Although the Gramm bill has made little progress to date, Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) is expected to join him in a bipartisan effort to get it moving.

The presidents of AGI and a number of its Member Societies participated in the earlier effort, which one society president referred to as the "million and a half scientist march" in reference to the number of scientists belonging to the societies represented in the letter. Any Member Society presidents who were not involved in the earlier effort or have not been contacted by ACS and would like more information on this statement, please contact Kasey Shewey here at AGI (703-379-2480 or kcs@agiweb.org). The reply deadline is August 31st.

The draft statement follows:

UNIFIED STATEMENT ON RESEARCH
"A DECADE OF INVESTMENT"

To secure our nation's economic health and prosperity as we enter the next century, we must strengthen our national investment in research. Increased competitiveness of the global economy makes such an investment even more important than in the past. To that end, we call upon the Congress and Administration to double the current level of investment in research within the next ten years starting with FY 1999.

The United States has a critical and long-standing interest in advancing engineering, mathematics, and science research and education. The reasons for this are well-accepted by industry leaders and public policymakers alike:

Engineering, mathematics, and science research provides the basis for the nation's productivity and economic growth, sustains our high standard of living and quality of health, and ensures our national security.

Research conducted today generates the knowledge from which the future is built and helps develop the researchers of that future.

The United States has developed a dynamic, comprehensive, interdependent research system that has enabled our nation to assume global leadership and enjoy a high standard of living. Through the research efforts of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Interior and Transportation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, our nation has benefited from countless scientific and technological innovations that have served as the foundation for our prosperity.

Even during this time of extraordinary economic growth, we must remember that our health and economic, environmental and national security needs of tomorrow depend upon the choices we make today. As leaders of the engineering, mathematics, and science community, we maintain that doubling the nation's research budget within a ten-year period strikes a responsible balance between near-term fiscal goals and long-term economic growth and productivity.


Contributed by David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs

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

Last updated August 16, 1997

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