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Government Affairs Update

Federal Relations

The events of September 11th and recent developments involving anthrax have changed the outlook in Washington. Members of both parties in Congress are working together to restrain spending and finish the FY2002 budget quickly, complete antiterrorism and airline safety legislation, and devise a compromise economic stimulus package.

Federal Budget: Because the 2002 fiscal year officially began on October 1, the government is operating on continuing resolutions, which maintain funding at FY2001 levels, until the new budget can be completed. President Bush submitted his budget request last spring; the House and Senate are in the process of determining final spending levels for federal programs. At the time of this report, funding levels for programs of importance to the University are still being determined. However, it appears that the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, and many student aid programs may see increases for FY2002. See the chart BELOW for the current House, Senate and Bush Administration proposed funding levels for Fiscal Year 2002.

Anti-Terrorism Legislation: On October 27, President Bush signed into law an anti-terrorism measure, which resulted from swift compromise across both House and Senate chambers and parties. The following provisions concern research universities:

  • The law slightly modifies the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to allow release of student records--only if approved by a judge--to appropriate federal officials to aid in the investigation of terrorist activity. The officials must indicate how the information from the records would be used.
  • The law authorizes prosecution of any person who knowingly possesses biohazard substances "of a type or in a quantity that, under the circumstances, is not reasonably justified by a prophylactic, protective, bona fide research, or other peaceful purpose." The law also authorizes prosecution of anyone who possesses or receives any select agent if that person is: under indictment for, or has been convicted of, a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than one year; a fugitive from justice; a user of controlled substances; an illegal alien; a national of one of the countries designated by the State Department as supporting terrorism; or someone who was dishonorably discharged from the U.S. military.
  • The law modifies the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to expand the records that may be accessed by the FBI as part of an investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.

Student Visas: Despite much talk in Washington about reform of, or even a moratorium on, the visa program--and particularly student visas-- there has been no action on any legislation addressing these issues.

Instead, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has been working with the higher education community and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to find ways to manage any potential security risk that might be posed by foreign nationals entering the US on student visas. All parties are in agreement that the INS should quickly implement its national tracking system for those utilizing student visas. At the urging of both the higher education community and Senator Feinstein, the compromise anti-terrorism law includes an authorization of $36.8 million to speed up implementation of this system, known as the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. If these funds are provided through the appropriations process, the program is expected to be fully operational in 2002. Legislators have indicated that they will fund program maintenance and administration through a fee charged to all international students.

Additional alternatives to the moratorium proposed by the higher education community include implementing a system for higher education institutions to inform the INS of any foreign students who fail to show up for their classes and instituting a 30-day delay before issuing student visas to allow background checks.

Program

FY2001 funding

President’s FY02 request

Senate FY02 funding

House FY02 funding

National Institutes of Health

$20.35 billion

$23.1 billion

(+ $2.75 billion, 13.5%)

$23.75 billion

(+ $3.4 billion, 16.7%)

$22.85 billion

(+ $2.5 billion, 12.2%)

National Science Foundation

$4.42 billion

$4.47 billion

(+ $56.1 million, 1.3%)

$4.67 billion

(+ $246 million, 5.1%)

$4.84 billion

( $414 million, 9.4%)

National Endowment for the Humanities

$120 million

$120.5 million

(+ .5 million)

$123.5 million

(+ $3.5 million)

$125.5 million

(+ $5.5 million)

Maximum Pell Grant

$3,750

$3,850

(+ $100)

$4,000

(+ $250)

$4,000

(+ $250)

Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need

$31 million

$31 million

(level funding)

$31 million

(level funding)

$31 million (level funding)

Jacob Javits Fellowships

$10 million

$10 million

(level funding)

$10 million

(level funding)

$10 million

(level funding)



Commonwealth Relations

A. Gubernatorial Transition: On October 5, 2001, Lieutenant Governor Mark Schweiker was sworn in as Governor of the Commonwealth following Governor Ridge's resignation to serve as Assistant to the President for Homeland Security. Most of Governor Ridge's senior staff and cabinet officers have indicated they will continue on in the new Administration.

B. Spending Freeze: On October 4, 2001, Governor Ridge announced a freeze of $200 million in state funding for Fiscal Year 2001-02. Included in this funding freeze is a one-percent freeze on every line item in all non-preferred appropriations, including Penn's Commonwealth appropriation. The one-percent reduction will only be implemented in the last quarter of the fiscal year if the Commonwealth determines it to be necessary based on state revenue.

C. State Legislative Reapportionment: On September 25, the bi-partisan Legislative Commission on Reapportionment approved a preliminary reapportionment plan for State House and Senate Districts. The plan includes a recommendation that the entire University campus area be represented by one House member--Representative James Roebuck. Currently Penn is represented by four House members (Representatives Roebuck, James, Horsey, and Oliver). Also, the new plan splits the University area among three Senatorial Districts--Senators Vincent Hughes, Anthony Williams, and Vincent Fumo. Currently, the University is represented primarily by Senator Williams, with a small portion represented by Senator Hughes. Following the announcement of the preliminary reapportionment plan, there is a 30-day period for public review and comment. The plan also can be challenged in court. If the plan stands as proposed, the new districts will take effect on January 1, 2003.

D. Stem Cell Research: Pennsylvania's Abortion Control Act, passed eleven years ago, includes a provision that prohibits "non-therapeutic" experimentation upon any unborn child. This provision has raised the issue of whether embryonic stem cell research is allowable in Pennsylvania, even under the recently announced guidelines by President Bush. The Governor's Office has contacted the major research universities in the state, including Penn, and requested that we provide an assessment of the impact of this state law on research that we are undertaking or may undertake in the future. The Vice Provost for Research has convened an internal working committee to look at this issue. At the request of the Governor's Office, the Office of Commonwealth Relations recently convened a group of Penn researchers and senior state administrative officials to discuss the impact on research activity in this area.

E. Medical Malpractice/Tort Reform: Due to the significant increase in medical malpractice rates faced by hospitals and physicians in the Philadelphia area, Penn has increased its involvement in tort reform efforts at the state level. This initiative includes: (a) grassroots efforts designed to encourage patients and staff to contact legislators; (b) advertising; (c) hosting legislative receptions highlighting this problem; (d) individual meetings between University officials and legislative leadership on this issue; and (e) participating in organized association (Hospital Association of PA/PA Medical Society) activities designed to enact meaningful tort reform. Greater Philadelphia First has formed a committee to examine ways it can assist in the reform efforts. Robert Martin, CEO of the Health System, and Alan Rosenberg, Associate Executive Vice President of Health System Support and Development, sit on the committee. In coordination with HAP and PMS, a physician letter writing campaign and an employee postcard campaign have been launched in support of this critical issue.


City and Community Relations

A. City Council Activity: Several legislative issues have cropped up at the start of Council's legislative session that have divided Council members.

  1. Redistricting: By October 1, City Council members were required by the City Charter to adopt a new redistricting map, redrawing the lines of its 10 districts to ensure equal population in each district based on new US Census figures. The plan, which did not alter the district boundaries within which Penn is located, passed Council by a large margin, but was vetoed by Mayor Street. Because the Charter's deadline has passed, City Council members are not getting paid. They currently are in the process of negotiating a new redistricting plan, which appears to have consensus among council members and the Mayor. The compromise plan will likely be taken up this week.
  2. Neighborhood Transformation Initiative (NTI): With City Council focused on its redistricting plan, it is unlikely that Council will take up Mayor Street's $250 million Neighborhood Transformation Initiative soon. Council President Verna is not expected to introduce the Mayor's legislation until after her own set of hearings on the origins and causes of blight. Two hearings were held October 15-16 and will be followed by a series of community hearings in the neighborhoods.

B. Philadelphia School District: In August, Governor Tom Ridge announced the Commonwealth had engaged Edison Schools, the nation's largest private operator of public schools, to lead an intensive two-month review of the Philadelphia School District's educational and fiscal management. Based on Edison's plan, Governor Mark Schweiker must present Mayor Street options for funding and managing the troubled District by October 31. State takeover is possible if Mayor Street and Governor Schweiker cannot reach agreement on a reform plan by November 30. Edison is expected to propose that it manage the 264-school district, with about 60 of the lowest-performing schools independently operated by "universities, private companies and community groups."

On October 23, the Pennsylvania General Assembly approved legislation that would make it easier for the state to take control of City schools and hire a for-profit firm to manage them. The bill would enable Governor Schweiker to appoint four of five members of a board to govern the city schools, with one named by the Mayor. The body would have direct power to turn the District over to private management, could have taxing authority, and would stay in place well past the election of a governor in November 2002 with some members serving for seven years. Governor Schweiker plans to propose spending an additional $150 million a year to educate Philadelphia schoolchildren. A tax on city residents may be imposed by the State if the City balks at providing their share of these additional funds.

--Carol R. Scheman,
Vice President for Government, Community and Public Affairs


Almanac, Vol. 48, No. 10, October 30, 2001

ISSUE HIGHLIGHTS:

Tuesday,
October 30, 2001
Volume 48 Number 10
www.upenn.edu/almanac/

The answer is blowing in the wind; Penn agrees to purchase wind-generated electric energy.
The Political Science department has three newly appointed faculty members who have endowed chairs.
As winter weather approaches, the University has energy conservation initiatives ready to be implemented.
Dr. Norma Lang becomes the first woman and the first nurse to win the Codman Award.
The University celebrates 125 Years of Women at Penn, online with web sites and on campus with events.
The Government Affairs Update covers the recent developments in federal, commonwealth and city and community relations.
Volunteer opportunities in November are plentiful, including Shadowing Day and the Thanksgiving Food Drive.
There are two campus blood drives coming up in early November.