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November 2012 Public Policy News

November 30, 2012: Representative Lamar Smith elected new Chairman of U.S. House Science, Space, & Technology Committee: When the new Congress convenes in January, Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) will chair the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. Smith will replace Ralph Hall (R-TX) who has chaired the committee since January 2011. In commenting on his selection, Smith stated: "As Chairman of the Science Committee, I will be an advocate for America's innovators by promoting legislation that encourages scientific discoveries, space exploration, and the application of new technologies to expand our economy and create jobs for American workers...Over 80% of the Committee's $39 billion budget touches on research and development. We can't have innovation without research and development. And the purpose of the Science Committee is to encourage the R&D that leads to new innovations...The Science Committee can play an exciting part in the discoveries of science, the exploration of space and the development of new technologies. I appreciate the confidence of my colleagues and look forward to chairing the Committee next Congress."

November 30, 2012: President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology releases report on U.S. Research Enterprise: President Obama's Council of Advisors called for strategic investments in universities and national laboratories as hubs of innovation and economic growth in a new report on the U.S. research enterprise, titled "Transformation and Opportunity: The Future of the U.S. Research Enterprise." "It's a two-pronged message," said William Press, who co-chaired the PCAST working group with major responsibility for crafting the new report. "We need to strengthen basic research at our great universities-that's the primary platform on which new industries are built. And we need policies that encourage industry to keep the commercially directed parts of research and development in the United States. If we do both, then we can continue to create new industries and new jobs here at home." The full report can be accessed here, as well as a webcast here.

November 29, 2012: Departments of Commerce and State publishes proposed rule as part of Export Control Reform Initiative: The Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security has published a proposed rule on Control of Military Electronic Equipment and related items. The State Department has released a proposed rule on a revision to the U.S. Munitions List. Both proposed rules are part of the President's Export Control Reform Initiative. Comments on both rules are due on January 28, 2013. The BIS Proposed Rule can be found here, and the State Department Rule can be found here. BIS has also published a rule on Revisions to the Export Administration Regulations that would make the Commerce Control List clearer. Comments for this are also due on January 28 and the proposed rule can be found here.

November 21, 2012: SPIE takes action on proposed legislation that could limit attendance at scientific conferences: There are currently efforts underway in the U.S. Congress to pass a bill that includes an amendment (SA 2060) which would allow federal agencies to attend only one association meeting per year as well as other extreme restrictions. SPIE has launched a campaign asking constituents to email their Members of Congress and request that they vote no on any legislation that would negatively impact the federal government's ability to conduct research and collaborate with other scientists. There is a chance that this measure will be voted on before the end of the year, as part of an effort to reform the Postal Service. The amendment is unrelated to these efforts and would have severe negative consequences for scientific discovery, technological innovation, and job growth (click here to see the language of SA 2060).

November 7, 2012: U.S. election results; President Obama re-elected and changes in Congress: President Obama was re-elected to a second term last night, defeating Mitt Romney, while Republicans retained control of the House of Representatives and Democrats held their majority in the Senate. The 2012 general election cycle generated the departure of 73 Members of the US House of Representatives and 12 US Senators due to primary loss, general election loss, appointment to the Senate or retirement (House= 35(D), 38(R); Senate= 6(D), 5(R), 1(I)). There will be changes of committee and leadership  in both bodies. See a list of committee leadership openings created by departing members in the Senate. It is expected that the Administration and Congress will begin negotiations immediately to avoid the "fiscal cliff," set to occur on January 1, 2013.