Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX-21) announced in a statement shared on Twitter on November 2 that he will not seek re-election in 2018 for his seat representing the 21st district of Texas. Representative Smith has served as a member of Congress since 1987, and will complete his six-year term as Chairman of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology at the end of the 115th Congress, which will conclude on January 3, 2019.
On November 14 the House of Representatives passed legislation that would reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for five more years, while making several operational changes. According to the Office of Management and Budget, the NFIP is not fiscally sustainable in its present form, and is currently set to expire on December 8.
The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a hearing on November 30 to discuss a draft bill to promote timely geothermal energy exploration under federal leases, and three other bills related to geologic mapping and hazards research, monitoring, and response.
In response to the catastrophic wildfires in 2017 thus far, and the escalating costs of battling fire-related damages, Congress is fielding legislation to promote forest management techniques that would return resilience to overgrown, fire-prone forested lands.
The devastating 2017 hurricane season has prompted Congress to take action in recent months, with a number of committee hearings held in both chambers and new legislation introduced relating to natural disaster preparedness and response.
On November 13, President Donald Trump nominated Dr. Tim Petty to be Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Water and Science, with direction to oversee the U.S. Geological Survey and the Bureau of Reclamation. On November 2, the Senate confirmed by voice vote three previous nominees to serve at the Department of Energy: Steven Winberg as Assistant Secretary of Energy (Fossil Energy), Mark Wesley Menezes as Under Secretary of Energy, and Paul Dabbar as Under Secretary for Science.
The U.S. Global Change Research Program released a draft of the highly-anticipated Fourth National Climate Assessment for public comment on November 3. The NCA is a quadrennial scientific assessment, which analyzes the impacts of both human-induced and natural global climate change, mandated by Congress in the Global Change Research Act of 1990.
On November 8, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources introduced reconciliation legislation, fulfilling instructions in the fiscal year 2018 budget resolution for the committee to provide legislative recommendations to the Senate Committee on the Budget that would result in $1 billion in new revenue over ten years to offset federal tax cuts.
On November 16, the House of Representatives passed H.R.1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, introduced by Representative Kevin Brady (R-TX-8). Generally, the bill restructures the tax code with fewer tax brackets and repeals or modifies a number of provisions. The House bill would repeal Sec. 117(d)(5) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code, which allows for the tax exemption of tuition waivers for graduate students serving as teaching and research assistants. If the provision was to become law, student taxable income would include both the graduate assistant stipend and the value of the tuition waiver.