Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Latest on the AGI Status

When the Senate will consider legislation containing the American Graduation Initiative (AGI) remains unclear. According to accounts today in the New York Times and Congressional Quarterly, Congressional Democrats are actively considering a plan by which they would pass final health care reform legislation by a process known as budget reconciliation, which would allow the Democrats to pass the legislation in the Senate with only 51 votes. The AGI legislation, which includes several other funding components, is also budget reconciliation legislation. Under the terms of the FY2010 budget, the Senate can pass only one reconciliation bill, so the Senate Democrats must hold the AGI legislation until the health care debate is resolved. Should they choose to use reconciliation to pass health care, it would be joined with the AGI legislation.

The victory of Republican Scott Brown in last week’s special election in Massachusetts for former Senator Edward Kennedy’s seat robbed the Democrats of their filibuster-proof 60-vote majority in the Senate, thereby complicating their strategy for passing health care reform. The Brown victory left Congressional Democrats with two other options in addition to reconciliation to avoid a Senate filibuster on final health care legislation. The House could simply pass the Senate bill and send it to the President for his signature, an option that was rejected by Speaker Pelosi last week because of opposition by some House democrats to certain portions of the Senate bill. The Democrats could also retreat from the larger health care package and fashion smaller-scale legislation that would garner enough Republican support to get 60 votes in the Senate, a tact that some Democrats seem to favor.

For now, though, the reconciliation option is very much in the mix, meaning that the AGI legislation will continue to wait until the reconciliation option is either used or taken off the table. The situation is fluid and once decisions are made, however, action on both the health measure and education bill could occur very quickly.

Friday, January 15, 2010

AACC Urges Senate to Include Education Jobs and Workforce Training Funds in Jobs Bill

As many of you are aware, the House of Representatives passed a jobs bill last month that could greatly benefit community colleges by providing funds for retaining and hiring additional college staff and for workforce training programs. (AACC's summary of that bill can be found on the AACC website).

Yesterday, AACC sent
a letter to the Senate Democratic leadership urging them to include similar provisions in jobs legislation that they plan to introduce soon. Although the jobs bill has not generated a great deal of attention, it stands a reasonable prospect of providing significant financial relief for at least some of our colleges. Despite the abysmal federal budget landscape and the pressures against greater deficit spending, Congress and the Administration are aware of the dire state budget situation, and are further aware that states cannot print money to remedy the situation.

Also, it is important to remember that the jobs legislation provides actual funding. H.R. 4196, the Emergency Community College Financial Stabilization Act, which AACC supports, is an authorization bill that does not provide any money, in and of itself. Therefore, we believe it is best to concentrate efforts at this time on actually securing funds, while working to refine and broaden the base of support for H.R. 4196. Ideally, the community college focus of H.R. 4196 will be reflected in the jobs bill.

Thanks for your attention to this important matter.

David Baime
AACC Senior Vice President of Government Relations and Research

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Latest Webinar Slides on AACC Website

For those of you who could not make it to the January 7 webinar - Community College Federal Legislative Priorities in 2010 - the slides are available on the AACC website .

As you can see in the presentation, 2010 is shaping up to be a very busy year on the legislative front. After the dust settles on health care, the Senate is prepared to move ahead with budget reconciliation legislation containing the American Graduation Initiative. We hope to see action on reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act shortly after that. The jobs bill is now in the mix as well. Immigration and welfare reform, education tax credits, and reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act all remain on the longer-term agenda. And of course, we will continue to advocate for our annual funding priorities.

Happy New Year, and here's to an eventful 2010.