- Paul Gosar (R-Ariz) introduced a bill (H.J.Res 46) to loosen restrictions on drilling in National Parks and then was selected to chair the Subcommittee on Energy and Minerals. His bill would repeal some of Obama’s updates to “9B” regulations including elimination of a cap on compensation for environmental damage and elimination of exemption from regulations (Washington Post).
- Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) introduced a bill to sell off 3 million acres of public land (H.R.621), but he withdrew it because of public outcry (Vox). This follows a change in the rule of how the value of public lands is calculated, which makes it easier to remove public lands from federal control (Washington Post).
- The House and Senate voted to overturn a regulation passed in December that strengthens Federal restrictions on dumping coal debris (Time, Vox, NY Times) using the Congressional Review Act, which allows repeal of any recently passed rule. More environmental regulations are targeted for repeal (Vox).
- Ted Cruz (R-Texas) remains the leader of the Space, Science, and Competitiveness subcommittee of the Senate which conducts oversight of NSF and NASA. The subcommittee currently consists of seven republicans and five democrats (Cruz press release).
- House Bill 1485, introduced in the Texas House of Representatives on February 2, 2017, is the fourth anti-science bill of the year, joining similar bills in Indiana, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. (NCSE). National Association of Geoscience Teachers oppose South Dakota’s SB 55, which introduces language that allows for non-scientific arguments in science classrooms (NCSE).
- Debate in the Senate over the nomination of Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary has ended; a vote will take place this week (Time).
- A preliminary vote has been taken by the SBOE on whether to remove creationist language from the Texas science standards (TEKS), they voted 9-5 to keep the language in the standards (Texas Tribune). The board rewrote some of the standards themselves (My Statesman).
- Governor Abbott announced to the Texas state legislature that he would like to continue funding the Governor’s University Research Initiative, a program that has allowed UT and A&M to attract distinguished researchers (Governor’s Office).
- Texas State Senator Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) has introduced Senate Bill 3, to expand school choice programs in Texas (Senate press release).
- In a survey from Pew Research Center taken before the election, the majority of Americans say that the benefits of childhood vaccines outweigh the risk and that medical scientists should be involved in immunization policies (Pew).
- Stricter regulations on immigrants and students from Muslim countries may turn away foreign doctors looking to do their residencies in the US (Propublica).
City of Austin
- South Austin neighborhood associations have requested the Environmental Commission support the Austin Independent School District (AISD) bid for purchasing a 9-acre parcel of forested land called the Central Warehouse Land, located near Woodrow and Congress Ave (AISD Proposal, Environmental Commission).
- While the state legislature is in session, voting is currently only allowed on items Governor Greg Abbott designated as “emergencies”: overhauling child protective services, banning sanctuary cities, reforming ethics laws, and supporting a convention of states to make amendments to the US constitution (Dallas News).
- In his “state of the city” address, Mayor Steve Adler encouraged Austinites to accept change, and indicated his priorities: improving the downtown-East Austin corridor, rewriting the city development code, supporting musicians, and pushing back against the state and federal government (Mayoral website). He warned that without more dense housing solutions Austin could turn into San Francisco, where the average house price is >$1 million (Austin Chronicle).
- CodeNEXT, the draft of the new development code for Austin has been released and is open for public comment here.
- Want to be more involved in the current legislative session? Listen to “What’s Next ATX?” where legislators talk about the best ways to get involved (Austin EcoNetwork).
Science Communication / Miscellaneous
- The Supreme Court will hear a number of cases this year related to climate change, pollution, endangered species, and natural products (Nature News).
- In response to the immigration ban, many academic societies (including AAAS, SSB, ASN, and SSE) joined together to write a letter to President Trump urging him to rescind the order (AAAS). Scientists may boycott scientific meetings held in the US (Science Magazine).
- Scientific societies are debating whether to participate in the March for Science set for April 22 (Science Magazine). While some organizations are waiting until the march organizers come out with a mission statement to decide whether to formally participate, there are who worry that the march will politicize scientists and create further opposition (NYT).
- Professional Development Leader Holly Hamilton suggests 8 ways to advocate for science (LinkedIn).
Events this week
- Saturday, February 11: Austin’s Darwin Day events. The main speakers are two professors from UT: Dr. Mike Ryan (Integrative Biology) and Dr. Rebecca Lewis (Anthropology).
- Sunday, February 12 is International Darwin Day