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HACU Legislative Update--February 27, 2007

 
Washington, D.C. Office

Before recessing February 26, 2007, the 110th Congress had six weeks of activity to complete work left over from the 109th as well as introduce new initiatives for the 110th.  

FY2007 Budget - On February 15, the President signed HJ Res. 20 which provides funding for FY2007 at the FY2006 level for all federal budgets except the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security whose FY2007 budgets passed during the waning days of the 109th Congress. The only other exceptions are a $615 million increase to the Pell Grant program, raising the maximum grant from $4,050 to $4,310, and a $620 million increase for the National Institutes of Health. All federally funded HSI programs will continue at the FY2006 funding level for 2007. 

President's FY2008 Budget Proposal - On February 5 the administration sent the FY2008 spending bill to Congress, recommending curtailment of domestic programs to free up resources for Iraq, Afghanistan and other areas in the Middle East. Within the Department of Education, 44 programs are recommended for termination, including Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG), Teacher Quality Enhancement Grants, Even Start, Educational Technology State Grants, and Elementary and Secondary School Counseling. All other programs are recommended to be level funded for FY2008, including Title V at $94.9 million.

Higher Education Act (HEA) - Legislators from both chambers are busy reintroducing new bills for inclusion in the Higher Education Bill when it is reintroduced. Rep. Hinojosa (TX), Chair of the Subcommittee on Higher Education, Life Long Learning and Competitiveness for the Education and Labor Committee, reintroduced the New Generation Hispanic-Serving Institutions Act (HR 451) creating a Title V Graduate Education program. Senator Bingaman (NM) also reintroduced the Senate companion bill (S 565).

Other key HEA bills include the College Student Relief Act of 2007 (S 282) by Senator Durbin (IL), the College Student Relief Act of 2007 by Rep. McKeon (CA), the Student Debt Relief Act of 2007 by Senator Kennedy (MA), and the Nontraditional Student Success Act (S 301) by Senator Clinton (NY).  

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) - The reauthorization of the NCLB, a "legislative must" for the 110th Congress according to both the administration and Congress, appears to be on schedule for completion during this session. The administration has developed "A Blueprint for Strengthening the No Child Left behind Act" which includes a commitment to improve math and science instruction. Senator Collins (ME) introduced the Flexibility and Improvement Act and Reps. McCarthy (NY) and Pryce (OH) have introduced the Graduation Really Achieves Dream Act as two key bills for the NCLB authorization. HACU is working with other education organizations like the American Council on Education (ACE), The Alliance for Equity in Higher Education, the Hispanic Higher Education Coalition (HEC) to advance HACU's priorities as a part of these organizations' NCLB recommendations.

Farm Bill - With the assistance of four colleges, the HACU Government Relations (GR) office sponsored five focus group meetings: the HACU Annual Conference in San Antonio Oct. 25; CalPoly Pomona Jan.12; the University of Puerto Rico at Mayag├╝ez Jan. 25; New Mexico State University Feb. 13; and California State University at Fresno Feb. 23. All the focus group meetings have been highly successful generating a great deal of interest and information; focus group participants addressed capacity-building issues and identified priority areas for research. Focus group feedback will be included in the "HACU Public Policy Priorities for the 2007 Farm Bill" along with the HACU Farm Bill Survey results. If you haven't yet completed the Survey, please go to "Farm Bill Reauthorization" under "Government Relations" at www.hacu.net.

Wireless Technology and MSIs - Senator M. Pryor (AK) introduced a wireless and technology bill (S 639) on February 15, similar to S 291 and S 315 (Digital and Wireless Technology) already introduced. This bill will fund four pilot digital wireless and network technology programs for MSIs to test the effectiveness of online higher education programs to increase the number of graduates in science and technology disciplines.

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) - The competitiveness issue will again be a major legislative initiative. Rep. Davis (VA) introduced the Higher Education Science and Technology Competitiveness Act (HR 102) to encourage articulation agreements between 2 and 4 year colleges to assist students to choose and succeed in STEM careers.

Minority Health Disparities - Comprehensive health issues and minority health disparities are also emerging as major legislative initiatives. Rep. Solis (CA) is the first to introduce a health bill (HR 398) with a focus on eradicating specific illnesses and diseases affecting minority populations. Other bills can be expected during the next few months.

Latino Museum Study Commission - HR 512, co-authored by Reps. Becerra (CA) and Ros-Lehtinen (FL), unanimously passed in the House on February 6. It calls for the creation of a commission to study the possibility of a national museum of the American Latino. An identical companion bill was introduced in the Senate by Senators Salazar (CO), Martinez (FL), Menendez (NJ) and 20 co-sponsors.

The Capitol Forum - Planning continues for the 12th annual Capitol Forum March 25-27. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Johanns is confirmed to speak on the Farm Bill and the Deputy Secretary of Education Kathleen Leos will speak on NCLB reauthorization. Admiral Allen, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, and Cora Marrett, Assistant Director of the National Science Foundation, are among other invited keynote speakers. This is an important opportunity for HACU members to make our case before the new Congress. More information can be found at www.hacu.net.

Gumecindo Salas
Vice President of Governmental Relations
Washington, D.C. Office
salasgu@hacu.net

Western Regional Office (WRO)

Arizona - Despite the recent passage of Proposition 300, we continue to be supportive of the AZ DREAM Act (HCR 2029) to keep this important issue in the minds of Arizona's legislators. In addition, we have monitored the following legislation (without taking a position): HB 1179, 1222, 1354, 1559, 1618, 1096, and SB 5476, 5411, 5806, and 5497. Please contact us if there are other bills you would like HACU to support or oppose.

California - We have been meeting with CA legislators to promote a bill which would benefit low-performing schools and increase access to four year institutions.   We have met with all members of the Latino Caucus to discuss HACU budget and legislative priorities, which will continue to develop as the session progresses. Among the bills being tracked, we are supporting the CA DREAM Act, AJR 1 by Assembly Member Dymally on Charles Drew University's HBCU status, AB 302 by De La Torre on Cal Grants, and AB 175 by Assembly Member Curren Price.   Updated information is available at www.hacu.net in the Western Regional Office section under Government Relations.

Washington - We are supporting SCR 8403, which would establish a subcommittee on Latino higher education accessibility.  We are also monitoring HB 2206, 2245, 2266, and SB 1069, 1081, 1068. Please contact us if there are other bills you would like HACU to support or oppose.

Erica M. Romero
Executive Director of Western States Legislative Affairs
eromero@hacu.net


For more information, visit Government Relations at the HACU website at www.hacu.net.