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Ellen Smith, assistant vice president, represents and informs the Univesity on issues such as financial aid, Medicare and Medicaid, research funds and tax policies as they pertain to higher education.

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 VOL. 23, NO. 20APRIL 10, 1998 

Legislative Update

Albany Delays Budget While Feds Plow Ahead; Students Lobby Again

Assemblyman Ed Sullivan meets with Columbia students Cathy Hung (Dental), Anna Marie Timofte (Barnard) and Jimmy Leung (General Studies) during the students’ recent lobby trip to Albany.


Ahe State legislature is not expected to finish the fiscal year 1999 budget (Apr. 1, 1998–Mar. 31, 1999) until some time this month. For the first time ever, a General Budget Conference Committee and nine subcommittees are meeting to work out their differences.

  Fourteen students and administrators left early on Mar. 31 for the fourth annual student lobby day in Albany. The 80-degree weather did not deter the student lobbyists from meeting with more than 15 legislators and the Acting Commissioner for Higher Education. They pressed their case for funding for graduate and undergraduate TAP, HEOP and dental services and clinics.

  One student discussed a quirk in the law regarding TAP funding for Veterans with Assemblyman Ed Sullivan (Chair of the Assembly Higher Education Committee). Sullivan sent the student to meet with Veterans Affairs Chairman Ronald C. Tocci, who agreed to introduce a bill during the next session of the legislature.

  At the Federal level, the Senate non-binding budget resolution passed a floor vote; no action has yet occurred in the House.

  Federal legislators adjourned last week until after the Easter and Passover holidays. The Senate Commerce Committee agreed to an historic tobacco settlement and an immigration bill was passed by the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on immigration. Copyright in a digital environment was also on the agenda of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. Highlights of Congressional action this week:

  • Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee Chairman Jim Jeffords (R.–Vt.) and ranking member Sen. Ted Kennedy (D.–Mass.) introduced and reported out of committee the Higher Education Reauthorization Act (H.R.6). The legislation is expected to be on the Senate floor by late April. While a number of differences were noted in each of the bills, a key improvement in the Senate bill is the inclusion of Javits portable fellowships for the humanities. Once House and Senate bills are passed, members of each body will meet to work out their differences.

  • The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration approved a bill authored by Senator Spencer Abraham (R.–Mich.). The bill extends an H1-B cap by $30,000 over five years, allowing universities to use non-governmental surveys to calculate wages of non-American researchers and faculty, and allows honorariums for visiting scholars.

  • The Senate Budget Resolution includes a non-binding Sense of the Senate which encourages doubling NIH research over five years and a non-binding Sense of the Senate resolution which calls for a doubling of civilian science and technology spending over the next ten years.

  • Senator John McCain (R.–Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Technology Committee marked up a tobacco bill which allocates some funding to NIH research and some public health programs.

  The Committee also adopted a Sense of the Senate amendment encouraging disbursement of revenue expenditures from the settlement to a wide variety of health, public health and health financing programs. The Committee bill differs with the Senate Budget Resolution which allocates all tobacco settlement money to Medicare.

  For additional information, contact Ellen S. Smith, assistant vice president and director of federal relations, ess9@columbia.edu.