September’s Congressional Wrap Up
One bill in COL’s legislative tracker, Continuing Appropriations Act, 2018 and Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Requirements Act, 2017 (H.R. 601) was signed into law this month. It includes a continuing resolution to fund the federal government below Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 levels (there was a 0.7 percent across-the-board cut) through December 8, extends the National Flood Insurance Program through the same date, and provides $15.25 billion in emergency disaster relief funds. The Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act, 2018 (H.R. 3354), which consists of all FY 2018 House appropriations bills, passed out of the House this month by a vote of 211-198.
The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 (H.R. 2810) heads to conference committee after an 89-8 vote in the Senate. The policy bill, which authorizes activities for the Department of Defense and the national security activities of the Department of Energy, includes $692 billion in discretionary funding for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018. Although 152 amendments were added, several high-profile and controversial ones, including one that would have ended defense sequestration, did not receive votes, although Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (AZ) vowed he would include some of those in conference discussions with the House. Additionally, an amendment offered by Senator Nelson (FL) would have extended a moratorium currently expiring in 2022 on drilling in the eastern Gulf until 2027, but it was not taken up.
Positive support for ocean science occurred in the Senate with the unanimous passing of National Sea Grant College Program Amendments Act of 2017 (S. 129). This bill would reauthorize the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Sea Grant Program through FY 2022, offer equitable placement of John A. Knauss Marine Policy Sea Grant legislative fellows among Republican and Democrat offices, increase funding authorization by 0.5% at the national office, and establish aquaculture as a priority. The bill has been sent to the House, which has yet to resolve the issue of the distribution of fellows among congressional offices. The Senate also passed the Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2017 (S. 1057), which reauthorizes the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act and allows blooms to be declared an “event of national significance,” – making funds available to assess and mitigate environmental, economic, social, and public health effects.
The Senate wasn’t the only one interested in HABS – among the newly-introduced bills in the House was one that focuses on the use of innovation and technology to solve environmental problems. The HABS Act of 2017 (H.R. 3661) would establish a program to award prizes to develop technologies to reduce, mitigate, and control harmful algal blooms.
Two others seek to better protect our shorelines and marine mammals. The Great Lakes Environmental Sensitivity Index Act of 2017 (H.R. 3786) would prioritize and update mapping of the Great Lakes to enable rapid response should an oil spill or natural disaster occur. The Blue Whales and Blue Skies Act (H.R. 3682) would create a program to reduce air pollution, underwater acoustics, and the risk of vessel strikes to blue whales.
In the Senate, the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program Reauthorization Act of 2017 (S. 1768) highlights the importance of “a well-funded seismological research program” that “could provide the scientific understanding needed to fully implement an effective earthquake early warning system.” The bill updates the law to advance technologies, reduce risks, and increase preparedness.
The Senate continues work on its appropriations bills. Both chambers will conference the NDAA to come to agreement on a single bill.
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