H.R. 5717: Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute Enhancement Act

H.R. 5717

Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute Enhancement Act

Sponsor
Rep. Xavier Becerra

Date
September 28, 2010 (111th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

H.R. 5717 is expected to be considered on the House floor on Tuesday, September 28, 2010, under a suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage.  This legislation was introduced by Rep. Xavier Bercerra (D-CA) on July 13, 2010, and referred to the Committee on House Administration, which held a mark up and reported the bill by voice vote.

Bill Summary

H.R. 5717 would authorize $5 million for the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution to plan, design, and construct a facility on National Zoological Park property in Front Royal, Virginia for the purpose of conducting research and educational programs.  Under the legislation, $1 million would be authorized for both FY 2010 and FY 2011, and an additional $3 million would be authorized for all succeeding fiscal years.

The bill would authorize the Board of Regents to enter into agreements with third parties to provide housing and other services to the participants in the programs.  Under the bill, housing and other services would have to be provided without cost to the Smithsonian, from private donations or fees.  In addition, the Board of Regents would be authorized to plan, design, and construct animal holding facilities on the property if the funding is from a non-federal source.

Background

H.R. 5717 would authorize the renovation of an existing building owned by the Smithsonian Institution in Front Royal, Virginia.  According to House Report 111-612, the building will be expanded to 25,400 feet in order to be used as an education facility consisting of classrooms, laboratories, offices, and support spaces.  The bill would also allow third parties to construct and maintain facilities for housing and food service at no cost to the Smithsonian.  And, according the committee report, the operation and maintenance costs of the renovated and expanded existing facility are to be covered by tuition payments from students attending the educational facility.  

In FY 2010, the Smithsonian Institution received an appropriation of $761 million.  For FY 2011, the president has requested $797 million, an increase of $36 million or 5 percent more than the previous year’s spending level.  Congress has yet to act on the FY 2011 Interior & Environment Appropriations bill which contains funding for the Smithsonian.  In addition to regularly appropriated funds, the Smithsonian received $25 million for facilities repair in the Democrats “stimulus” bill. 

Some Members may be concerned that H.R. 5717 would authorize an addition $5 million in taxpayer funding for Smithsonian facilities.

Cost

According to CBO, H.R. 5717 would cost $5 million over the FY 2011 through FY 2015 period.