Conservation and Alternative Energy

  • The Texas House Appropriations Committee held a public hearing for H.B. 78 on May 4th, which would ensure that the majority of revenue from the state’s “sporting goods sales tax” would go to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department towards Texas’ state parks and historical sites. Similar legislation was passed in 2015, but was repealed in a separate bill to allow lawmakers flexibility to respond to natural disasters  (Texas Tribune).
  • President Trump’s executive order to review the status of 27 national monuments has revealed deep polarization between groups for and against Utah’s Bears Ears recent designation as one. Those in opposition are worried about further restrictions to land development and see the declaration as an affront to their ability to protect the land. Those in favor welcome outside help to preserve the artifacts and sacred burial grounds (NPR).
  • Among both city and rural officeholders and border patrol agents, there is bipartisan support that Texas does not need a wall along the U.S-Mexico border that runs through Big Bend National Park. There is concern that a wall would discourage tourism and would have negative impacts on the park’s wildlife, while having a negligible impact on apprehensions (NPR).

Congressional Committees

  • The U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology unanimously approved H.R. 2105, “The NIST Small Business Cybersecurity Act of 2017”. The act aims to help small business manage their cybersecurity risk, which are particularly vulnerable and a major target of cyberattacks (Press Release).

Higher Education

  • Action: The Texas Senate is considering a bill that would allow SBOE members to censor textbook content that is “unsuitable.” Tell your TX Senator to vote “no” (TFN).

Federal Agencies

  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has announced a new cap on the grant support a single investigator can hold: three NIH RO1 grants or the equivalent in Grant Support Index (21).  This major policy shift is an effort to spread its resources and ensure funding for early-career scientists. The research community is supportive, but is apprehensive about harming productive labs (Science).
  • Action: Write your Senators asking them to sign a letter supporting a 2018 $8 billion budget for the National Science Foundation. The dear colleague letter is being led by Senator Markey (D-MA) (ABIS).

Public Health

  • Minnesota is experiencing an outbreak of measles, primarily among a Somali immigrant community.  Since 2008, the anti-vaccination lobby has been regularly speaking to the community and discouraging routine MMR vaccination, resulting in less than half of Somali children under age 3 having received the vaccine (STAT).

Climate Change 

  • The Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) has fired multiple scientists on its Board of Scientific Counselors, one of two science advisory boards at the E.P.A. that influences policy and regulation.  The White House has also proposed an 84% reduction in funding for the board (Science).
  • The dismissal of five academic scientists from the E.P.A.’s Board of Scientific Counselors appears to be part of a larger move to incorporate business and industry members into the broader Science Advisory Board. Scott Pruitt suggested it’s possible representatives from industries whose pollution the agency regulates will replace the academic scientists and recently the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1431, which amends the qualifications for members of the board to allow for more business and technical representation (NYT).
  • Action: The EPA is soliciting comments until May 15 on repealing EPA regulations. Share why you support protections for clean air, soil, and water (Regulations.gov)
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