With the end of the fiscal year looming on September 30 and not a single appropriations bill signed into law, Congress took just enough action to avoid a government shutdown before the elections. It adjourned yesterday, two weeks before its target adjournment.
Congress will return for a lame-duck session after the election, but election results will dictate how full that agenda will be.
Stopgap Funding Bill Sent to President's Desk
Congress passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government through December 11, 2014. Funding for federal agencies will continue near current levels, with a half-percent decrease to offset spending for Ebola and arms for Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The President is expected to sign the measure.
House Passes Bill to Create More Advanced Manufacturing Institutes
The House of Representatives approved the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation (RAMI) Act. The legislation authorizes additional innovation hubs--like Chicago's Digital Manufacturing Design and Innovation Institute (DMDII)--with each specializing in the production of a unique technology, material, or process relevant to advanced manufacturing. President Robert Easter provided a letter of support for the legislation in April. The measure awaits Senate passage. If enacted, the DMDII would become the "nerve center" or "electronic backbone" that would link the institutes.
Dean Bartles, DMDII's Executive Director and Adjunct Professor in Urbana's Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering, participated as a panelist in a congressional briefing on RAMI. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker provided the keynote address at the forum, which also featured the leaders of two other manufacturing institutes and leading industry partners, including Lockheed Martin.
NCSA-Approved Supercomputing Bill Clears House
The House passed H.R. 2495, the American Super Computing Leadership Act, legislation intended to jump start research into high-performance computing technologies to ensure continued American leadership in advanced computing. At the request of leaders at Urbana's National Center for Supercomputing Applications, the bill's sponsor—Illinois Rep. Randy Hultgren—included language to foster collaboration between universities and DOE national laboratories. NCSA endorsed the bill, which seeks to enable computing whose speed approaches that of the human brain, last June.
"Exascale computing, exceeding the existing generation of super computing power by 10,000 percent, represents an exciting new world of science and American leadership," Hultgren said in a press release. "Unfortunately, America is falling behind as China boasts the world’s fastest computer and is not slowing down. Massive gains in computing power are necessary to meet our national security, scientific, and health care needs."
Student Worker Exemption Bill Gains IL Delegation Support
UI Associate Vice President for University Human Resources Maureen Parks wrote to the Illinois delegation last week, asking them to support legislation that addresses an important issue regarding the treatment of student employees under the employer mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The bill would would exempt universities from being required to offer employer-sponsored health care insurance plans to full-time students who work over 30 hours a week as required by the mandate. Illinois Reps. Aaron Schock, Peter Roskam, and Rodney Davis have agreed to sign on.
White House Launches "It's On Us" Campaign
Today at the White House, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden announced a public awareness and education campaign called "It's On Us", which aims to engage college students—especially men—and campus communities in preventing sexual assault. The White House partnered with the Center for American Progress' Generation Progress, student leaders, celebrities, and collegiate sports organizations. More than 200 student body leaders, including Urbana's student senate president Mitch Dickey, committed to the effort so far.
The White House launched a website where individuals and universities can take an online pledge, as well as a Public Service Annoucement (PSA). There will be a National Week of Action in November.
President Easter, VPR Schook Discuss UI Economic Development Initiatives
UI President Robert Easter and Vice President for Research Larry Schook participated in the Council on Competitiveness' 2014 National Competitiveness Forum. While in DC, they met with agency and business leaders to discuss the University of Illinois' economic development activities and public/private partnerships. In addition to Matt Erskine, Deputy Assistant Secretary Of Commerce for Economic Development of the Economic Development Administration, Easter and Schook met with former Michigan governor, and current President of Business Roundtable, Gov. John Engler.
Former NCSA Director Larry Smarr Honored with Golden Goose Award
Larry Smarr, the first director of Urbana's National Center for Supercomputing Applications, received the prestigious Golden Goose Award for his NSF-funded research on black hole collisions that led to the development of NCSA Mosaic—the precursor to modern web browsers. The Golden Goose Award honors scientists and engineers whose federally funded research may have seemed offbeat or silly-sounding when conceived, but which yielded enormous human or economic benefits. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was one of the sponsors of this year's festivities.
Awardees and their families were honored at a luncheon with award sponsors and Members of Congress. National Cancer Institute (NCI) Director (and former NIH Director) Harold Varmus gave remarks.
Urbana Provost Ilesanmi Adesida and NCSA Director Edward Seidel attended the luncheon as well as the awards ceremony. Seidel was also featured in the video honoring Smarr and the other awardees.
Miles O'Brien emceed the awards ceremony, which he jokingly referred to as the "Academy Awards for nerds." One of the biggest applause lines of the evening actually came from a Member of Congress--Illinois, Rep. Randy Hultgren. "I'm a conservative Republican," he said. "One who is passionate about the government funding basic scientific research."
UI Out in Full Force for Medical Research
VPR Larry Schook, Associate Director for Administration of the University of Illinois Cancer Center Regina Schwind, Urbana Professor of Molecular and Integrative Physiology Ann Nardulli, and UIC Professor of Gastroenterology and Hepatology Paul Grippo participated in the 2014 Rally for Medical Research, a Capitol Hill advocacy effort to underscore the importance of supporting the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and investing in medical research.
On Wednesday evening, Schwind met Sen. Dick Durbin at a Rally for Medical Research reception where he received an award from the American Association for Cancer Research and was a guest speaker. He mentioned the University of Illinois and his American Cures Act legislation in his remarks. The next day, Schook, Schwind, Nardulli and Grippo joined forces with other Illinois-affiliated representatives, including Northwestern University and the University of Chicago. They met with Reps. Danny Davis, Rodney Davis, Lipinski, Kinzinger, and Hultgren as well as the offices of Sens. Durbin and Kirk and Reps. Quigley and Bustos.
Urbana Center for Digital Inclusion Director Meets with Agencies & Capitol Hill
Dr. Jon Gant, Director of Urbana's Center for Digital Inclusion, attended the Telecommunications Policy Research Conference (TPRC) where he moderated a panel on “Internet, Innovation & Effects.” While in DC, he met with the World Bank, the New America Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Education Technology.
He also visited with the offices of Reps. Bill Enyart, Rodney Davis, John Shimkus, and Sen. Dick Durbin to discuss the Center's efforts to address the digital divide and highlight its partnership with Illinois Extension to bring cutting-edge tools and information about digital manufacturing and big data to students, businesses, and entrepreneurs to all parts of the state.
The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) CHANCE program hosted the director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Katherine Archuleta on campus Thursday for a roundtable discussion yesterday to speak with UIC students about opportunities in public service. Director Archuleta is the first Latina to lead OPM, and serves as the President's workforce ambassador. CHANCE Director Kendal Parker provided welcoming remarks, which were followed by an inspirational speech by Director Archuleta.
Urbana's Willard Airport received a $437,532 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation for runway widening, marking and other runway infrastructure improvements.
CHECK IT OUT: NEW OGR WEBSITE
The Office of Governmental Relations (OGR) has a new website: https://www.ogr.uillinois.edu/. We hope you'll save it to your favorites. From the OGR home page, you can access both the federal and state relations sites.