- Congress Reconvenes, Misses Budget Deadline
- Senate Committee Approves NCLB Reauthorization; Passage Could be Positive Sign for Higher Education Act
- ACE, Associations Comment on Higher Education Tax Provisions for Senate Working Groups
- IN BRIEF: Oral Arguments Heard in Marvel Patent Case; Obama Administration Seeks Comment on Proposed Rules to Implement Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act
Congress reconvened Monday after a two-week recess, and plunged immediately into a debate over a range of high-profile issues, including its budget resolution for FY 2016.
Both the House and Senate passed their respective budget resolutions the last week in March, before the break. Each chamber appointed its representatives to the conference committee this week, and the next step will be for them to meet and develop a joint budget resolution. The formal annual deadline for Congress to adopt a joint resolution is April 15, although lawmakers have missed the deadline numerous times.
This is the year, however, they wanted to get back to regular order on budget and appropriations, so we expect to see something relatively soon. Leaders on both sides have predicted they will finish their work by the end of April. It is important to remember that budget resolutions are non-binding and do not require a presidential signature, and their significance is best understood as an indication of preferred policy choices.
In other congressional action, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions yesterday voted unanimously to approve a bill to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, possibly signaling a positive, bipartisan environment for the committee’s upcoming work to renew the Higher Education Act (HEA).
Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) announced last week that they had reached agreement on the NCLB bill, which was then passed after three days of amendment and debate. Both Alexander’s and Murray’s statements upon passage praised the committee’s bipartisan cooperation in coming to a consensus on the complex and politically difficult measure, which has been awaiting reauthorization since 2007. The bill now goes to the full Senate for a vote.
The HEA expires at the end of this year, and Alexander has commented several times that a reauthorization bill will be finished by then. With the 2016 campaign gearing up, it is unclear if the committee will make this goal, but the spirit of bipartisanship evident in passing NCLB bodes well for HEA reauthorization.
ACE and 15 other higher education associations submitted comments this week to the Senate Finance Committee Tax Reform Working Group on Individual Income Tax, outlining the importance of the various tax incentives students and families use to pay for college, as well as the vital role of charitable giving tax incentives to higher education.
Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) launched five tax working groups in January to spur comprehensive tax reform efforts in this Congress. Each of the groups will work directly with the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation to produce an in-depth analysis of options and potential legislative solutions for its assigned area, with the goal of releasing recommendations by the end of May.
In our comments, we expressed strong support for the framework of higher education provisions in the tax code but recommended a range of improvements that would maximize the effectiveness of certain provisions and enhance college access. We also discussed the importance of charitable giving to higher education—for supporting student aid, teaching, groundbreaking research and technological innovation, and the public service activities of colleges and universities.
ACE also signed onto comments submitted by the National Association of College and University Business Officers to the Working Group on Business Income Tax, and endorsed comments submitted to the Working Group on Community Development & Infrastructure regarding the importance of tax-exempt financing.
The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments March 31 in Kimble v. Marvel Enterprises, Inc., a case that centered around a 1964 Supreme Court decision (Brulotte v. Thys Co.) that says royalty agreements cannot extend past the expiration of a patent. ACE joined an amicus brief in February submitted in support of the plaintiff, stressing that the Brulotte rule interferes with transactions that can aid in the transformation of scientific research into potentially life-changing therapies and inventions that benefit the public. Reports of the justices’ responses during oral arguments suggest that the court may not overturn precedent as our brief urged, and instead leave this issue to Congress to address if lawmakers so choose. For more information on the case, see SCOTUSBlog.
The departments of Education and Labor announced this week that they are seeking comment on five Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRMs), proposing rules that would implement the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) signed by President Obama last July. The law, particularly important to the nation’s community colleges, streamlines the federally funded system of workforce development programs, ending 15 of them and shrinking state and local workforce investment boards. It also applies a standard set of outcome measures to evaluate all federal job-training programs. Click here for more details on each of the NPRMs, along with instructions on how to submit comments.
Molly Corbett Broad
President of ACE