WHAT'S NEW, Friday, 11 August 1989 Washington, DC
ALLAN BROMLEY WAS OFFICIALLY CONFIRMED AS THE DIRECTOR
Office of Science and Technology Policy in a late night session
just one day before the Senate recessed. The pro forma vote came
without discussion. Bromley was already serving as Assistant to
the President, which does not require Senate confirmation, but he
was keeping a very discrete profile. As if he didn't have enough
to do, a GAO report examining last year's computer virus episode,
released just two weeks ago, recommends that the responsibility
for computer network security be given to OSTP. Despite the high
expectations, however, Bromley must first rebuild an office that
was moribund in the last years of the Reagan Administration.
. CONGRESSIONAL HEARINGS ON THE PAPERWORK REDUCTION ACT,
is up for reauthorization, provided a forum for the critics of
the Office of Management and Budget. The PRA gives OMB control
over the collection and dissemination of government information.
OMB has used that authority to make less government information
available to fewer people. OMB has been particularly inventive
in avoiding dissemination of electronic information; in January
agencies were told not to disseminate "value-added" electronic
information. Translation: search and retrieval software required
to access a CD-ROM database cannot be included on the disc. That
is equivalent to insisting that reports be issued without titles,
page numbers, or table of contents. Congress must act by 30 Sep.
3. PICKLE PANEL PREPARES PLAN for Unrelated Business Income Tax!
Tax exempt organizations, including churches, universities and
scientific societies, do not currently pay taxes on secondary
income, such as advertisements in scientific journals. There have
been attempts to tap this $5B keg before, but raids on schools
and churches are politically risky. Alas, since new taxes are
taboo, revisions of the tax code, including UBIT, are the only
game left. Last week, Rep. Pickle (D-TX), Chairman of the Ways
and Means Oversight Subcommittee, instructed members to prepare
UBIT proposals. One effect could be to devastate magazines, such
as Science and Physics Today, published by exempt organizations.
4. AN $18M PORK-BARREL PROJECT AT THE UNIVERSITY OF WEST VIRGINIA
was apparently scuttled when West Virginia's own Senator, Robert
Byrd, withdrew his support. The powerful Appropriations Committee
Chairman reacted angrily to the discovery that the University had
hired Cassidy Associates, the lobbying firm that invented post
industrial pork, to promote the project in Congress. Byrd thought
he was elected to do that. Pork-barrel projects at several other
universities represented by Cassidy were also sunk by the wave
Byrd generated. Byrd also introduced a bill to curb the influence
of pork-barrel lobbyists, which was quickly passed by the Senate.
It was a major setback for the high-flying Cassidy firm, whose
university clients include the University of Utah, which has not
given up on a request to Congress for a $25M cold fusion center.