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February Public Policy News

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PRESIDENT OBAMA SINGLES OUT "COMPETITIVENESS" AND STEM EDUCATION IN STATE OF THE UNION: President Obama said that the U.S. was experiencing a "Sputnik Moment" as he delivered his State of the Union Address on 25 January. He received a standing ovation when he said "We need to teach our kids that it's not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair." Obama indicated that R&D spending and STEM education will remain top priorities in his FY 2012 Budget Request, which will be presented to Congress on 15 February.

WHITE HOUSE LAUNCHES STARTUP AMERICA INITIATIVE: President Obama launched "Startup America," a national campaign to help promote high-growth entrepreneurship across the country with new initiatives to help encourage private sector investment in job-creating startups and small firms, accelerate research, and address barriers to success for entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Answering the President's call to action to invest in job-creating startups, leaders in the private sector will launch the "Startup America Partnership," an independent and private-sector led campaign to mobilize private sector commitments. Steve Case, co-founder of AOL and Chairman of the Case Foundation, will chair the Partnership, and Carl Schramm, President and CEO of the Kauffman Foundation will be a founding board member. Case and Schramm, along with entrepreneurs from across the country, will join administration officials at the event.

RARE EARTHS AND CRITICAL MATERIALS LEGISLATION BEING PREPARED: According to published reports, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) is prepared to reintroduce a bill from the last session of Congress which addresses China's decision to cut exports of rare earth metals by 35% in the first half of 2011. China supplies about 95% of the world's rare earth metals, used in many products manufactured by SPIE members.. Coffman's bill will be called the RESTART Act. According to Coffman's office, key provisions of the bill will be:

• Create a strategic stockpile of rare earth metals within the Department of Defense that will help stimulate domestic production and protect the U.S. from further Chinese export restrictions.

• Make loans, backed by the federal government, available to start production should lending from the capital markets not be available.

• Establish coordinated responses from the federal government to address the problems preventing establishment of rare earth industry.

• Utilize the Defense Production Act of 1950 to recreate our ability to manufacture rare earth metals, alloys and magnets in the U.S.

• Establish a Rare Earth Policy Task Force across relevant Executive Branch agencies to expedite the development of alternative sources of supply.

The Senate approved H.R. 366 by unanimous consent to extend the program through May 31, 2011, under the same terms and conditions currently authorized through January 31, 2011, under the Small Business Act or the Small Business Investment Act of 1958.

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