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Delaware Section Government Affairs Committee Meets with Staff of Senator Chris Coons
John Gavenonis, Delaware Section Councilor
On Thursday, March 10, as part of the ACS Contact Congress initiative, Al Denio, John Gavenonis, and Martha Hollomon of the Delaware Section Government Affairs Committee (GAC) met with Andrew Dinsmore, Projects Assistant for United States Senator Chris Coons, in Senator Coons’s Wilmington office. The group gathered to discuss federal funding for basic research, STEM education, and patent reform, which are all priority areas for ACS policy advocacy. Position statements addressing these topics and others can be found at the ACS website (http://tinyurl.com/acspolicystatements) or by contacting John Gavenonis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One key purpose of the meeting was to introduce the Delaware Section to Senator Coons’s office. However, Andrew indicated that Senator Coons is already familiar with ACS, and so are several of his staff members who previously worked for Senator Kaufman, with whom the Delaware Section has a good relationship.
The ACS members expressed their thanks to Senator Coons for his support of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, which was passed by the Senate on December 17 and was signed into law by President Obama on January 4. This was one of Senator Coons’s first votes after being elected to the Senate in November 2010. [Senator Coons was sworn-in on November 15, 2010 instead of January 3, 2011 since he was elected to fill the remaining 4 years of Vice President Biden’s Senate term.] While the funding authorized in the final legislation was not quite at the levels desired by ACS and other scientific organizations, the legislation still provides a significant increase in funding for basic research at NSF, DOE Office of Science, NIST, and other agencies. More information about the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act can be found at http://delacs.sites.acs.org/apps/forums/topics/show/4012091-president-obama-signs-america-competes-reauthorization-act-of-2010.
The ACS members also thanked Senator Coons for cosponsoring two key bills in the 112th Congress. The Innovate America Act (S.239) provides tax benefits for basic R&D and STEM education. The Patent Reform Act of 2011 (S.23) has a number of key provisions supported by the ACS, including changing the US from a first-to-invent to a first-to-file system, allowing the PTO to set and retain fees it collects, and providing a grace period for inventors who disclose their invention for scientific publication or marketing prior to filing. The Patent Reform Act passed the Senate 95-5 on March 8. Those voting against the bill were Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Michael Crapo (R-ID), James Risch (R-ID), John Ensign (R-NV), and Maria Cantwell (D-WA). [Generally, the software industry is not in favor of this legislation, which explains the “no” votes from states with a strong software industry, such as California and Washington. In many ways, the gaming industry, which is strong in Nevada, operates like the software industry from a patent perspective.] According to an article in the Wall Street Journal on March 9, the House Judiciary Committee, “plans to introduce and vote on its own bill in the coming weeks” and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) indicated that patent reform is on the legislative agenda.
Another important purpose for the meeting was to discuss the importance of maintaining funding for basic research in the FY2011 CR (continuing resolution) and FY2012 budget. The ACS members encouraged Senator Coons to maintain funding for basic R&D in the CR, budget planning, and deficit reduction proposals.
Andrew asked the Delaware Section members for ways that Senator Coons’s office can work with ACS to benefit sustainability and STEM education. He indicated Senator Coons supports ARPA-E and the Delaware Sustainable Chemistry Alliance (DESCA), which comprises a number of Delaware corporations and organizations such as Ashland, DNREC, and University of Delaware. Andrew also discussed Governor Jack Markell’s STEM Council, which is co-chaired by former Senator Kaufman. The Council would appreciate any insight about STEM education that Delaware ACS can share. In addition, Andrew asked if the Delaware Section would be interested in helping to coordinate a Delaware statewide science fair.
The Delaware Section Government Affairs Committee thanks Andrew Dinsmore for taking the time to review policy items of interest to ACS.