HACU LEGISLATIVE UPDATE
May 23, 2007
The 110th Congress is completing its fifth month and has already made some significant progress in legislation of interest to HACU members. There remain, however, many other areas in which legislation is being prepared for introduction; several of these are critical and can have a major impact on Hispanic-Serving Institutions.
Appropriations: On May 18, Congress finally adopted a $2.9 trillion budget resolution which allows appropriations committees to begin the process for funding all federal programs for FY 2008. HACU Government Relations staff has met with staff of key members of appropriations subcommittees to clarify any questions or concerns on the HACU requests for FY 2008.
Higher Education Act (HEA): A comprehensive HEA bill has yet to be introduced. Both the Senate and House are expected to introduce bills before Memorial Day. In preparation for the drafting of the HEA bill, Representatives Miller and McKeon, Chair and Ranking Member of the House Education and Labor Committee, and Representatives Hinojosa and Keller, Chair and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Higher Education Lifelong Learning and Competitiveness, sent a letter of request March 8 to all stakeholders asking them to submit their recommendations by the end of March. HACU submitted its HEA requests, and we continue to meet with staff of committee members to remind them of HACU’s policy recommendations.
We have been actively promoting the Title V Graduate Initiative (HR 451–Next Generation Hispanic-Serving Institutions Act) which Congressman Hinojosa reintroduced on January 12, 2007. In April Government Relations staff sent letters to presidents and chancellors of all HACU member institutions asking them to contact their representatives to request that they become cosponsors of the bill. Eight new co-sponsors signed on in May.
No Child Left Behind: Congress is determined to complete the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)–No Child Left Behind (NCLB)–before Congress recesses at the end of 2007. Government Relations staff is monitoring the following NCLB bills with potential for HSIs. Contact our Government Relations staff for specific information on any of these bills.
The Farm Bill: Congress is expected to complete work on the 2007 Farm Bill before the Labor Day recess. The HACU work plan for the reauthorization process includes 23 legislative recommendations in 7 of the 10 titles of the Act.
The HACU Farm Bill policy document was distributed to all members of the House and Senate Agriculture committees. Since January 15, staff has been in contact with majority staff of House and Senate committees. Land-grant status remains the major legislative effort for the Farm Bill, and HACU has developed legislative language for potential creation of 25 Land Grant HSIs and has begun meeting with committee members to support the proposed legislation.
On April 28 and May 17, HACU sent letters to members of the House Agriculture Committee, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Conference underscoring the importance of the HACU Farm Bill policy recommendations. HACU has also been meeting with Congressional staff to secure sponsors for the various recommendations. To date, Congressman Salazar has agreed to champion the land grant recommendation and other Representatives have expressed an interest in supporting other recommendations.
In addition, HACU has been able to ensure that HSIs are included in the Agriculture bill in development by Congressman Baca from
Wireless Technology and MSIs: The MSI Digital and Wireless Technology bill has been introduced in both chambers. Government Relations staff is meeting regularly with Senator Kerry’s staff in the Senate and Representative Towns’ staff in the House to secure Congressional support for both bills. Senate bills S 291 by Senators G. Smith (OR) and Kerry (MA) and S 315 by Senators Warren (VA) and Webb (VA) have been combined into one. We are assisting Reps. Towns (NY) and Forbes (VA) to secure co-sponsors for the House companion bill, HR 694.
Immigration: Congress continues to express high expectations that the DREAM Act and a comprehensive immigration reform bill will move through both chambers of Congress and reach the President for signature. This overhaul of the immigration law will be the first major reform since 1986. It is the third legislative session effort (108th, 109th, and 110th) to amend the law. In a special negotiation, a bi-partisan committee in the Senate crafted a bill scheduled to move to the Senate Floor for discussion this week. The House is not slated to consider an immigration bill until the Senate completes the task of approving its bill. HACU’s policy document on the DREAM Act has been distributed to members of the House and Senate Judiciary committees.
National Science Foundation (NSF): Congress is in the process of reauthorizing the National Science Foundation. The House has already passed the NSF Bill (HR 1867) and now the NSF bill moves to the Senate. HACU developed a policy document with recommendations for NSF to provide support for HSIs in workforce development, research, and teaching. The policy document resulted in the inclusion of two major provisions in the Bill. One authorizes NSF to create an infrastructure development program for HSIs; the other requests that the National Academy of Science report on minorities in STEM fields examine the degree to which Minority-Serving Institutions should be supported by NSF. HACU is already working with the Senate committee on NSF reauthorization. In addition to visits to Committee members, HACU e-mailed and faxed letters on two occasions requesting support for HACU’s policy agenda.
Health Disparities: Health disparities legislation is being drafted in both chambers. In the House, Congresswoman Hilda Solis (CA), Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Task Force on Health, is expected to drop a comprehensive health disparities bill very soon. The Senate companion bill will be introduced by Senator Kennedy. HACU is submitting recommendations on both versions of the bill to ensure that Hispanic-Serving Institutions are included. HACU has been participating in a national health disparities coalition with National Hispanic Medical Association and other Latino organizations. HACU is also monitoring other health disparities-related bills including HR 2210 (Diabetes Prevention Access and Care Act of 2007) and HR 398 (the Healthy Places Act of 2007).
The Entrepreneurship Pilot Program: The Entrepreneurship Pilot Program has been introduced into both chambers (HR 1985 and S 98). HACU is working closely with both major sponsors (Sen. Kerry and Rep. Cummings) to increase the number of sponsors in order to take the bill for floor votes. The bill will provide resources to MSIs to assist minority entrepreneurs to grow and expand small businesses.
Western Regional Office (WRO)
For more information, visit Government Relations at the HACU Web site at www.hacu.net.