Legislative Update: May 10, 2006

House

The House has passed a $70 billion tax reconciliation package last night, which extends tax cuts for investors and small businesses and to prevent the alternative minimum tax from falling on about 15 million taxpayers in 2006. This was passage of the reconciliation conference report with the Senate. The bill not only included cuts but also included a revenue maker—a cumulative tax increase of about $13 billion from businesses over the next 10 years. The report language now goes to the Senate for a vote.

Senate

As a result of CIA Director Porter Goss's quick departure, the nomination process for his replacement, Gen. Hyden will take over as one of the main priorities for the Senate. That hearing process supposedly will begin next week and will be completed by the May 28 Memorial Day recess. Immigration has been scheduled to return to a priority in the Senate but it continues to get pushed back. As you recall, the House has passed its immigration bill; however, it is focused on border security and no plan for citizenship. The debate in the Senate is centered around the citizenship plan and the plan for returning undocumented citizens to their home country for a specific amount of time.


Reauthorization

The Senate has not scheduled a vote for the Higher Education Act. The bill, if you recall, was passed by the House but only passed out of the HELP Committee in the Senate. The Senate calendar for May does not include HEA, and Senate staff are skeptical when it will actually be introduced. It is expected to come up this spring but it doesn’t look like it will before the Memorial Day recess. It could possibly come up in early June.

CHIA (Collegiate Housing Infrastructure Act- S. 713 and H.R.1548)

CHIA is still an active bill and they are continuing to solicit support to the authors of the bill. ACUI has posted a draft letter of support to Sen. Roberts, a mirror letter will go to Rep. Paul Ryan, author of the bill on the House side.

Opportunity:

The American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) is hosting a free webinar on the newly created Academic Competitiveness Grant and the National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) Grant programs on May 11, from 2–3:30 p.m.

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced on May 2 the criteria that the Department of Education will use to determine what students will be eligible for the new grants, which will be available beginning in the fall 2006 term. AACRAO's webinar will feature the Department of Education's Kay Jacks, general manager of the Federal Student Aid (FSA) Application, School Eligibility & Delivery Services, and Susan O’Flaherty, deputy director, FSA Application Processing, who will provide an overview of the implementation requirements for admissions, financial aid, and registration professionals.

Avian Flu and President's Report

There has been some discussion about the President’s Report on the Avian Flu possibilities and the comments that colleges and universities could serve as quarantine sites. There has not been much discussion about those concepts legislatively and speculations that this will fall to the local authorities to determine the best sites for those needs if there was indeed an epidemic. Please see the link below for an excellent four-part article regarding the Avian Flu and the impact on colleges and universities.

http://www.greentreegazette.com/articles/index.aspx