Perhaps the Senate is not as deliberate a body as I thought. On Thursday (7/31) the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee is set to "mark-up" S. 3274, the bill that would complete the next step in reauthorizing the National Nanotechnology Initiative. It is possible that the Committee will also vote the measure to the full Senate for further consideration. Remember, I suggested that if the Senate did not act quickly enough, the NNI was in danger of expiring entirely.
The Senate version of the re-authorization includes $1.5 billion for the NNI (up from the current $1.49 billion), create a coordinator for "Societal Dimensions of Nanotechnology" (a White House level post), and earmark $76 million for environmental, health, and safety research.
Critics of the bill, and the House counterpart, H.R. 5490, suggest that none of the measures are enough to adequately address the risks and concerns nanotechnology may pose. It is important to note that should the Senate’s version pass that chamber, a Conference Committee will have to meet to resolve the differences in a final version.
I maintain that the NNI re-authorization is a necessary step in continuing our development of both the nanotechnology sector and the potential regulations addressing the concerns. Without levying an opinion as to whether the critics of the bill are correct, some NNI is better than no NNI. Given the number of federal agencies that have nanotechnology oversight authority (EPA, FDA, OSHA, DOE, DOD, et al), an oversight organization assuring that at least some consistency is obtained is crucial.
If you’d like to go watch the legislation in the maker, the Senate Committee will conduct the mark-up on July 31, at 10:00 AM in the Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253.
Check back for results of the mark-up and next steps.