Congress returned from it’s August recess this week, so it seems like a good moment to review legislation affecting nanotechnology that has been introduced so far in the 111th Congress. Today in Part I we’ll examine legislation introduced in the House of Representatives. Thursday, in Part II, we’ll examine legislation introduced in the Senate.
HR 554, the "National Nanotechnology Initiatives Amendments Act of 2009", was introduced by Rep. Bart Gordon (Dem – TN – 6th Dist) on 01/15/2009 and was passed by the House under suspension of the rules on 02/11/2009. Received in the Senate on 02/12/2009, it was referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation; it has not been reported out of committee and no hearings are currently scheduled.
Major amendments to the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act ( P.L. 108-153 15 USC 7501 et seq) include:
Requiring the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office to " develop and maintain a database accessible by the public of projects funded under the Environmental, Health, and Safety, the Education and Societal Dimensions, and the Nanomanufacturing program component areas, or any successor program component areas, including a description of each project, its source of funding by agency, and its funding history. "
Requires the designation of an Associate Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy as the Coordinator for Societal Dimensions of Nanotechnology. The Coordinator would be tasked with insuring that ethical, legal, environmental and other social concerns with nanotechnology are considered. The Coordinator would also be responsible for convening a panel to develop a research plan for the environmental, health and safety program areas; the plan would be updated on annually.
The Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) would be required to provide grants to establish Nanotechnology Education Partnerships. Nanobusinesses would be part of these Partnerships. The Partnerships would help to prepare secondary school students to pursue college courses in nanotechnology.
The bill would also provide for the establishment of “Industry Liaison Groups” for all industrial sectors that would benefit from nanotechnology applications.
The National Nanotechnology Coordination Office would be required to sponsor a public meeting to (1) solicit views on the relevance and value of nanomanufacturing research, (2) receive recommendations on ways to strengthen research supported by the Nanomanufacturing program and (3) receive recommendations on improving nanomanufacturing facilities.
HR 820, the “Nanotechnology Advancement and New Opportunities Act”, was introduced by Rep. Michael Honda (Dem – CA – 15th Dist) on 02/03/2009 and was referred to the House Committees on Science and Technology, Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means, and Homeland Security. No hearings have been held by any of these committees on this bill and no hearings are currently scheduled. It has not been reported out of any of the committees.
The bill would require the Secretary of Commerce to establish a “Nanomanufacturing Investment Partnership”, but only after and contingent upon the private sector raising $100 million within two years after the bill’s enactment. The Partnership would provide funds, via direct investment, loans or loan guarantees or other unspecified mechanisms, to nanocompanies for pre-commercial research and development that would not be funded by either the private sector or under the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act. Any such funds provided would have to be paid back.
The Secretary of Commerce would also be directed to establish an Advisory Board to assist in determining which nanocompanies would receive funding. The Advisory Board membership would consist of two groups, (1) representatives of those investors who had provided more than $10 million to the Nanomanufacturing Investment Partnership (in short, the stakeholders) and (2) Presidential appointees drawn from government agencies, industry, and academia. This second group would control 60% of the votes on the Advisory Board and thus would really be the ones deciding where the money goes. This would seem to be a flaw in the bill; as we have seen in the recent past and may see again under future administrations, it is possible to politicize government agencies and as currently written, this section of the bill opens up that possibility here. It is possible that the bill may be amended in one of the committees before it is reported out or an amendment may be adopted during floor debates.
The tax code would also be amended by creating tax credits to encourage the purchase of stock in qualified nanotechnology developers, as defined by the bill. Tax credits would also be available to cover up to 50% of the cost of nanotechnology education and training courses and programs.
The Secretary of Commerce would be directed to establish the “Nanotechnology Start Up Advisory Council” with membership drawn from industry, marketing, venture capitalist firms, attorneys, and nanotechnology researchers. The Council’s duty would be to review the business plans of nanotech start up companies, to insure that they were really viable plans.
Other sections of the bill would establish competitive grants to encourage the application of nanotechnologies to solving environmental problems, renewable energy sources, health related uses, and homeland security programs.
The Secretary of Energy would be directed, six months following enactment, to deliver to Congress a report containing a plan to increase interaction on nanotech issues between scientists and engineers at DOE’s national laboratories and informal science education communities with the goal of developing exhibitions for school age children and the general public.
HR 2769, the “Commercializing Small Business Research and Development Act” introduced by Rep. Bobby Bright (Dem – AL -2nd Dist) on 06/09/2009, is not primarily a nanotechnology focused bill. It’s aim is to amend the Small Business Act . Section 4 of the bill is titled “Nanotechnology related research topics and is reprinted in it’s entirety below:
SEC. 4. NANOTECHNOLOGY-RELATED RESEARCH TOPICS.
(a) SBIR- Section 9(g)(3) of the Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 638(g)(3)), as amended, is further amended–
(1) at the end of subparagraph (D) by striking `or’;
(2) at the end of subparagraph (E) by adding `or’; and
(3) by adding at the end the following:
`(F) the national nanotechnology strategic plan required under section 2(c)(4) of the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act (15 U.S.C. 7501(c)(4)) and in subsequent reports issued by the National Science and Technology Council Committee on Technology, focusing on areas of nanotechnology identified in such plan;’.
(b) STTR- Section 9(o)(3) of the Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 638(o)(3)) is amended–
(1) at the end of subparagraph (A) by striking `or’;
(2) at the end of subparagraph (B) by adding `or’; and
(3) by adding at the end the following:
`(C) by the national nanotechnology strategic plan required under section 2(c)(4) of the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act (15 U.S.C. 7501(c)(4)) and in subsequent reports issued by the National Science and Technology Council Committee on Technology, focusing on areas of nanotechnology identified in such plan;’.
HR 2965, the “Enhancing Small Business Research and Innovation Act of 2009”, was introduced by Rep. Jason Altmire (Dem –PA – 4th Dist) on 06/19/2009. The bill would have amended and extended the Small Business Act sections on the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, which include nanobusinesses. HR 2965 was assigned to the House Committees on Small Business and Science and Technology. Both Committees reported the bill with amendments (H. Rept. 111-190 Pt. 1 and H. Rept. 111-190 Pt. 2).
Amended during floor debates, HR 2965 was passed by the House on a vote of 386-41 on 07/08/2009. On 07/09/2009, HR 2965 was received in the Senate, where it was called up for debate on 07/11/2009. The Senate amended HR 2965 by an amendment in the nature of a substitute. This means that the Senate voted to remove the language of the bill following the enacting clause and substituted the language of
S. 1233, the Senate version of the bill. The amended bill was then passed by unanimous consent. The amended bill does have a section (Sec. 206) that briefly treats nanotechnology:
SEC. 206. NANOTECHNOLOGY INITIATIVE.
(a) In General- Section 9 of the Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 638), as amended by this Act, is amended by adding at the end the following:
`(ff) Nanotechnology Initiative- Each Federal agency participating in the SBIR or STTR program shall encourage the submission of applications for support of nanotechnology related projects to such program.’.
(b) Sunset- Effective October 1, 2014, subsection (ff) of the Small Business Act, as added by subsection (a) of this section, is repealed.
The bill was then returned to the calendar.
The House at some time will have to vote again on the amended HR 2695. If the House votes to pass the bill as amended by the Senate, it will be sent on to President Obama for his signature. If the House fails to pass the bill, it will not become law. There is the possibility that the House could further amend the bill and, if it insists on it’s amendment, a Conference Committee will be formed to come up with a compromise bill that both chambers could accept. Considering the popularity of these two programs, the bill in some form is likely to be passed before the end of the 1st Session.
Thursday, we’ll examine the Senate bills.