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The steady stream of news emerging from the nation’s capital can be overwhelming. NACUBO highlights key actions and provides the status of top higher education business officer concerns.

Administrative Action

Attorney General Revokes Obama-Era Affirmative Action Guidance. On Tuesday, July 3, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the rescission of 24 federal guidance documents, calling them “unnecessary, outdated, inconsistent with existing law, or otherwise improper.” Seven of the documents are related to the use of race in admissions by educational institutions. The guidance documents did not have the force of law but indicated how the federal government, under the Obama administration, would handle complaints about college and university admissions policies, and provided colleges with direction in interpreting various Supreme Court decisions on race and admissions.

Judicial Action

Supreme Court Scales Back Power of Public Unions. On June 27, the Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31 that nonunion workers cannot be compelled to pay fees to public sector unions. The 5-4 decision overruled a more than 40-year-old precedent, stating that requiring government workers who choose not to join a union to finance union activity “violated the free speech rights of nonmembers by compelling them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern.” 

Public sector unions are bracing for a loss of financial support in the wake of the Janus decision. While nonunion public employees will continue to benefit from collectively bargained agreements, they will not be required to pay fees to support the union negotiating on their behalf.

Travel Ban Upheld. The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, upheld the Trump administration’s travel ban, designed to restrict the number of immigrants and visitors into the U.S. from five predominately Muslim countries. The ban had been temporarily in place since last December as the Supreme Court considered the merits of the case; this ruling allows it to be enforced indefinitely.

On Capitol Hill

Senate Appropriators Call for Pell Grant Increase. The appropriations bill that would fund the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services for FY19 cleared a key Senate committee vote on June 28. In the measure, Senate lawmakers approved a $2 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a $100 increase for the maximum Pell Grant award, and continuation of year-round Pell Grants. On the other side of Capitol Hill, the House appropriations committee recently released its draft version of the bill but has yet to act. The House bill would maintain the maximum Pell Grant award at its current level and calls for a $1.25 billion increase in funding for NIH.

Immigration Bills Fail. Two GOP immigration bills recently failed to pass in the House of Representatives. The two bills represented divergent opinions within the Republican party about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program; the more moderate of the two bills, H.R. 6136, contained a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients, which some conservative lawmakers criticized as “amnesty.” The more conservative measure, H.R. 4760, did not include a solution for DACA and included provisions tightening legal immigration. Lawmakers were unable to secure enough votes to pass either measure.

“Tax Reform 2.0.” In a recent public forum, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) discussed ambitions for “Tax Reform 2.0” legislation, suggesting that draft legislation would be released in July to make individual tax cuts permanent and to introduce new retirement savings reforms. President Donald Trump has stated that he would like to drop the corporate rate to 20 percent, from the recently enacted 21 percent. However, the outlook for passage of such a measure in the Senate is, at present, highly unlikely.  

Previous Edition

What Did I Miss in Washington? June 12 – June 25, 2018

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Liz Clark

Vice President, Policy and Research

202.861.2553

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Megan Schneider

Senior Director, Government Affairs

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