WASHINGTON – The House Science Committee today approved six pieces of legislation, all of them by voice vote.

Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) began the markup by stating, “[A]ll the bills, as usual, reflect long hours of bipartisan work on important issues…I congratulate all my colleagues on their hard work on these bills, and I look forward to their prompt passage here – and on the House floor.”

The six bills are described below.  For additional information, go to www.house.gov/science, or contact the Science Committee press office.

H.R. 3551, Surface Transportation Research and Development Act of 2004

Environment, Technology and Standards Subcommittee Chairman Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) introduced this legislation.  The bill, a comprehensive plan for transportation research and development (R&D), is expected to be part of the Congress’ overall plan to reauthorize transportation programs (H.R. 3550, TEA-LU).

“Fundamental improvements to the entire transportation system depend on high quality transportation research.  More importantly, research saves lives, saves money and saves time. My bill provides prudent increases in transportation research funding and focuses the research toward solving the most pressing issues – congestion, safety, and efficiency,” said Ehlers.

“This bill ensures that we will be devoting more resources to transportation R&D and that those resources will be better targeted,” said Boehlert.  “The bill authorizes an organized R&D effort that will focus on questions related to safety, environment, demographics, and getting the most out of the infrastructure that is already in place.  It’s an eminently sensible approach, and we will work hard to see that it becomes part of the overall highway bill.”

The Committee approved an amendment sponsored by Ehlers that included funding for the R&D programs.  Because an agreement on the overall total for the transportation reauthorization bill has not been reached, the Amendment requires that 1.08 percent of overall transportation spending be spent on R&D, but also provides a floor of $500 million each year.  

In addition, the Committee approved an En Bloc amendment, which included amendments: by Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) to create a road weather research program; by Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) to create the Garrett Morgan Technology and Transportation Education Program, to help improve the preparation of students, particularly women and minorities, in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics through curriculum development and other activities related to transportation; by Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL) to clarify that all federally funded laboratories are eligible to participate in the R&D programs; by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) to ensure that low income and minority citizens are included as a category in policy research; and by Rep. Eddie Bernie Johnson (D-TX) to develop innovative technologies to improve public input into planning.

The provisions of H.R. 3551 are designed to:

  • create a more relevant R&D program through strategic planning that will tie R&D to achieving specific goals for improving the transportation system, such as relieving congestion;
  • ensure that the Federal government funds fundamental transportation R&D that is unlikely to be supported by other entities;
  • increase the focus on research to limit the environmental impacts of the transportation system;
  • increase the focus on social science research in such areas as the way changing residential patterns and driver behavior will affect the transportation system;
  • increase the focus on how to rehabilitate and get more use out of the existing transportation system;
  • improve the collection, analysis and dissemination of statistics to help policymakers plan transportation projects;
  • improve the quality of university programs related to transportation R&D by requiring more peer review and competition; and
  • emphasize the development of intelligent transportation systems.

H.R. 3752, The Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004

Introduced by Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Chairman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004 is designed to promote the development of the emerging commercial human space flight industry (space tourism) by putting in place a clear, balanced regulatory regime. 

“The Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004 represents a long and thorough process beginning last July with a joint House-Senate hearing, a Space Subcommittee hearing last fall and a policy roundtable with experts in the commercial space transportation industry late last year,” said Rohrabacher.  “H.R. 3752 calls for streamlined and careful regulations for nurturing this new commercial human space flight industry while ensuring public safety.”

Major provisions of the legislation are designed to:

  • eliminate any confusion about who should regulate flights of suborbital rockets carrying human beings by explicitly locating all commercial space flight authority under the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST);
  • make it easier to launch new types of reusable suborbital rockets by allowing AST to issue experimental permits that can be granted more quickly and with fewer requirements than licenses;
  • extend the existing liability indemnification regime for the entire commercial space transportation industry (including licensed, non-experimental commercial human space launches) for a period of three years, but the bill will not grant indemnification for flights conducted under experimental permits, which will be more lightly regulated; and
  • a study on how best to gradually eliminate the liability indemnification regime for the commercial space transportation industry by 2008 or as soon as possible thereafter.

H.R. 912, The Charles ‘Pete’ Conrad Astronomy Awards Act

H.R. 912, the Charles “Pete” Conrad Astronomy Awards Act, named for the third man to walk on the moon, establishes awards to encourage amateur astronomers to discover and track near-earth asteroids.  Earth has experienced several near misses with asteroids that would have proven catastrophic, and the scientific community relies heavily on amateur astronomers to discover and track these objects. 

“The Pete Conrad awards program will help augment existing government capabilities for tracking natural space objects by promoting private citizens to observe the heavens,” said bill sponsor, Subcommittee Chairman Rohrabacher.

The Committee accepted an amendment offered by Rohrabacher, clarifying how the program will be administered and how award recipients will be selected.  The amendment instructs the NASA Administrator to make awards based on the recommendations of the Smithsonian Minor Planet Center and sets award amounts at $3,000.

H.R. 1292, Remote Sensing Applications Act of 2003

The Remote Sensing Applications Act will establish a grant program to help integrate remote sensing data to address state, local and regional needs.  The U.S. already collects an abundant amount of remote sensing data, but it is often used only for scientific ventures.  However, it can have countless local applications including helping in urban planning, coastal zone management, resource supervision and disaster monitoring for state and local authorities.

“The Remote Sensing Applications Act gives state and local governments 21st century tools to deal with 21st century challenges.  My bill will help to bridge the gap between established and emerging technology solutions and the problems and challenges we face regarding growth management, homeland security, forest fire management and other issues,” said bill sponsor, Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO).  “I am please the full committee passed the bill and hope it will move quickly to the floor for consideration by the House.”

The Committee accepted an amendment to the legislation, offered by Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA), directing NASA to examine the capability of applying remote sensing technologies to help fight forest fires.

“America has some of the most advanced technological equipment available and we are failing to harness it to fight a highly preventable disaster,” noted Weldon.  “Since 2000, over 22 million acres were burned in forest fires, and I feel that if we had the proper technology in place, we could have easily minimized the great loss in land, lives and property.”

H.R. 3389, To amend the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980 to permit Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards to be made to nonprofit organizations

Sponsored by Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC) and Rep. Melissa Hart (R-PA), H.R. 3389 would add the category of “Non-Profit” to the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.  The Baldrige National Quality Award was established in 1987 by Congress, and is named for Malcolm Baldrige, who served as Secretary of Commerce from 1981-1987.  The award that bears his name promotes quality awareness by recognizing U.S. organizations for their achievements in quality and performance.  Over 300 volunteer quality experts judge the applicants through a rigorous process that includes site visits and interviews.

The five existing categories to which non-profit has been added are: manufacturing, service, small business, education, and health care.  The category of non-profit includes federal, state, and local government; private not-for-profit organizations, and quasi-public organizations created by legislative authority such as municipal utilities and credit unions. 

Rep. Miller stated, “The Baldrige Awards have been remarkably effective in focusing on criteria for excellence and the best practices in achieving excellence.  Government agencies, religious organizations, trade and professional associations and other non-profit organizations will benefit greatly from competing for Baldrige Awards.”

“In the spirit of recognizing and inspiring organizations to higher quality standards, we should include non-profits in the prestigious Baldrige Award.  I am honored that two of the manufacturing recipients – Medrad, Inc., a leading provider of medical imaging, and Westinghouse Electric Corporation Commercial Nuclear Fuel Division, the first manufacturing recipient of the award – are headquartered in Pennsylvania’s Fourth District,” added Rep. Hart.

“The extension of the Baldrige award to non-profits will enhance quality management in these types of organizations by injecting the spirit of friendly competition into the community. I am certain that we will see some impressive award recipients in the non-profit category in the years to come, and they will do their part in spreading the word on the value and importance of quality management to their peers,” said Chairman Boehlert.

Kenneth E. Case, President of the American Society for Quality stated, “This is a great day for the not-for-profit sector in America.  Now that the Baldrige expansion provisions have been reported out of the House Science Committee, I feel confident that the bill will soon pass in the U.S. House and Senate.  Then this sector will at last be able to enjoy the many benefits offered by the Baldrige Award program.  Many organizations have worked to make this happen.  We’re grateful to Chairman  Boehlert and Chairman Ehlers for moving the bill through the committee and to Reps. Miller and Hart for introducing the legislation.”

H.Con.Res. 189, Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the International Geophysical Year (IGY) and supporting an International Geophysical Year-2 (IGY-2) in 2007-08

The 50th anniversary of the IGY of 1957-58 is rapidly approaching.  The IGY was the largest cooperative international scientific endeavor undertaken to that date, involving more than 60,000 scientists from 66 nations.   H.Con.Res. 189, introduced by Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO), endorses the concept of a worldwide IGY-2 for 2007-2008.  It also directs the National Science Foundation Director and the Administrator of NASA, in association with the National Academy of Sciences and other relevant governmental and nongovernmental organizations, to initiate interagency and international inquiries and discussions that explore the opportunities for a worldwide IGY-2.  In addition, those stakeholders are directed to submit to Congress a report detailing the steps needed to carry out IGY-2 in 2007-2008.

“My resolution calls for a worldwide program of activities to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the most successful global scientific endeavor in human history – the International Geophysical Year of 1957-58, whose legacy is still felt today in the areas of satellite communications, modern weather forecasting, and modern natural disaster prediction and management,” said Rep. Udall.  “My resolution calls for an ‘IGY-2’ that would be even more extensive in its global reach and more comprehensive in its research and applications.  I am pleased that my colleagues have joined me today to promote this initiative in support of modern science and international scientific cooperation.”

The Committee accepted an amendment offered by Mr. Udall extending the date by which the report must be submitted to Congress to six months after the date of enactment.

Information on all the bills and amendments can be found on the Science Committee website at http://www.house.gov/science/hearings/full04/index.htm