Government Relations Update June 2018
Starks Nominated to Replace Clyburn at FCC
The president has nominated Geoffrey Starks to replace outgoing Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Mignon Clyburn. Clyburn, who announced that she would step down in April, was appointed by President Obama and confirmed to her post by the Senate in 2009. Starks currently serves as an assistant bureau chief of the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau. The bureau is responsible for enforcement of the Communications Act as well as rules and orders issued by the Commission, with a focus on consumer protection, encouraging competition, and ensuring public safety. Should he be confirmed, Starks would serve out the remainder of Clyburn’s current term, set to end June 30, 2022. A confirmation vote has not yet been scheduled but is expected in July.
Farm Bill Passes Both House and Senate
Both the House and Senate have now passed the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2), which provides funding for broadband buildout in rural areas. After being voted down in May by the House, the Farm Bill was finally passed by votes of 213-211 in the House and 86-11 in the Senate. The Senate’s version contained some notable differences; as a result, the two versions of the bill will have to be reconciled by a conference committee before being sent back to both bodies of Congress for a vote on final passage. This process may include changes to sections of the bill focused on rural broadband buildout.
Appropriations Bills Advance in Congress
The House and Senate Appropriations Committees each have passed versions of all 12 appropriations bills, sending them to the floor of each chamber for a vote on initial passage. These bills provide funding for the FCC, National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and many science and broadband priorities across a variety of other federal agencies. This paves the way for the completion of the FY2019 appropriations process ahead of the October 1 deadline. In addition to the progress made at the committee level, three of the bills were packaged together in a so-called “mini-bus” and passed by both houses. This bill, the Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act of 2019 (H.R. 5895), passed the House 235-179 and the Senate 86-5, providing funding for the Department of Energy, including $80 million for its network, ESnet. A conference committee has been established to work out differences between the versions passed by each house. Once that process is complete, the finalized bill will be sent back to each body for final passage, and one quarter of the FY2019 funding process will be complete.