Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Federal Legislative Update-October 23

Movement on the Labor, Health and Human Services,
Education Appropriations bill in the Senate- vote likely today

The fiscal year 2008 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education Appropriations bill is currently on the Senate floor with final passage of the bill likely today. Last night, the Senate rejected, by a vote of 68-24, an amendment to the bill proposed by Senator Allard, R-CO, that would cut all programs rated "ineffective" under President Bush's Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) program by 10 percent. The Senate is voting on remaining amendments to the bill today, including one that would provide a $25 million increase to Career and Technical Education Basic State Grants.

Late last week, the Senate accepted an amendment to the bill by voice vote relating to the Upward Bound Program. The amendment would halt an evaluation of the Upward Bound program until Congress completes a reauthorization, or renewal, of the Higher Education Act, the law governing most federal student-aid programs.

In 2006 the Department of Education announced an evaluation rule which mandates Upward Bound programs to recruit twice as many students than they will be able to serve and use half of the students as a "control group" that will not receive the services provided under the Upward Bound program. The Education Department says the study is necessary to determine whether Upward Bound is serving the right students, however many claim the study is unethical because it denies services to some students. Senator Sherrod Brown, D-OH, with Senators Lincoln, D-AR, Obama, D-IL, Feingold, D-WI, Collins, R-ME, Wyden, D-OR, Kerry, D-MA, and Menendez, D-NJ, introduced the amendment that would prohibit the use of funds to promulgate, implement, or enforce the evaluation for the Upward Bound Program.

Just a reminder, that the full House approved its version of the fiscal year 2008 Labor, HHS, Education appropriations bill in July. President Bush has threatened to veto any spending measures that exceed his budget request for fiscal year 2008, including the Labor, HHS, Education bill.

DREAM Act to be taken up tomorrow
The Senate is also expected to vote on the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, S.2205, tomorrow. In order to have a chance of obtaining the 60 votes that will be necessary for the bill to pass, the DREAM Act's sponsors have been forced to drop a provision that repeals the federal ban on in-state tuition for undocumented students. As a reminder, the DREAM Act provides a path to citizenship for undocumented students who are long-term residents of the United States and were initially brought to the country before the age of 16. Eligible students gain legal status through two years of higher education or military service.

Federal Budget Update
Now that it is mid-October and budget bills have not yet been passed, Congress must settle down and move forward on twelve appropriation bills before the end of the year, including the Labor,HHS,Education bill. Even with early year promises of earmark reform, earmarks (the measures inserted by members of Congress into the various appropriations bills that direct funds to a specific project or recipient) continue to be part of the budgeting process, including several identified for colleges and universities within the system. The following web resources are available to track bill progress:

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THOMAS was launched in January of 1995, at the inception of the 104th Congress to make federal legislative information freely available to the public. Since that time THOMAS has expanded the scope of its offerings to include the features and content listed below.
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