Monday, November 24, 2014

MASFAA Federal Issues Update

(by David Vikander, MASFAA Federal Issues Chair)

Federal Midterm Elections

NASFAA has provided a policy update at some of the recent state association conferences in the region. To summarize briefly, the federal midterm elections resulted in the GOP taking control of the Senate, which will result in a shift from the current state of Congress going into the 114th Congress, which will be in effect during the final two years of Barack Obama's presidency. The GOP also increased the majority in the House of Representatives, which is the largest since 1928. The change will result in structural leadership and committee membership changes in both chambers. Some of the high-profile members of Congress who will not be returning are Bishop-NY, Hagen-NC, Harken-IA, Miller-CA, and McKeon-CA.

State Elections Update

In the state by state elections, the GOP control both the House and the Senate in 24 states across the nation. The GOP control 66 of 99 state legislatures. It is possible that this change will result in further reductions in higher education spending at the state levels. Seven states are controlled by the Democrats, which is the fewest since the Civil War. New investments in higher education are unlikely and the GOP will likely stall the College Ranking System.

Click here for interactive map from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

GOP 5 Pillars

The GOP released its 5 "Pillars of a Renewed Majority," which can help determine what their highest priorities will be in the 114th Congress:
  1. Tax Code
  2. Spending Reduction
  3. Legal System
  4. Regulatory System
  5. Education
Reauthorization Update
To briefly summarize, there were several efforts at reauthorization by the 113th Congress this summer, which will need to be introduced to the new Congress, likely in piecemeal before coming together at some point. If you recall, there was a Harkin bill that was over 700 pages. Alexander and Bennet proposed a bi-partisan bill called the FAST Act that focused on FAFSA simplification, and then the House GOP proposed a bill. We could see little action during the lame duck session of Congress on reauthorization. Harkin may try to push his bill through*, but it is unlikely to move. We could see real movement on reauthorization in March or April 2015. Full reauthorization at that point is unlikely in 2015, but will be active discussion.

*Since this post was originally drafted, NASFAA policy and federal relations staff posted a policy update, titled "Senate HELP Committee Introduces Final Higher Education Affordability Act Reauthorization Bill."

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