Washington DC Nano News - Is Your Summer Break Over?

Margaret Glass

authored by Margaret Glass, ASTC

Congress’s almost is. And that means a possible decision on the National Nanotechnology Initiative Amendment Act of 2008. Want a refresher on where this Act stands, and what has to happen for reauthorization?

The NNI Amendment Act passed in the House on June 5 with a robust 407-6 vote. On July 16, it was introduced in the Senate, read twice, and referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. The Senate version of the NNI Act, S. 3274, has not progressed nearly as fast as anticipated. The Act was scheduled for markup in a timely fashion - the committee announced on July 24 that it would be considered in an Executive Session on July 31. But the process was preempted on July 29, when Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK and Vice Chair of the Senate Commerce Committee) was indicted on charges that he lied about gifts from an oil company on a Senate disclosure form. His arraignment before a federal grand jury took place on July 31 - instead of the scheduled markup. As required by Senate rules, Stevens has stepped down from the vice chairmanship of this and other committees while his case is pending. You can read more details about the corruption case in Alaskan politics here. So the House and the Senate both took off for summer recess (and the Democratic and Republican Party Conventions) without further action. The Senate is back as of Sept. 2 for a pro forma session only; work will supposedly begin on Sept. 8. The House also reconvenes on Sept. 8. Fall recess for the House is anticipated to begin on Sept. 26; no recess date is published yet for the Senate. It’s probably safe to assume that legislators from both houses who are facing elections will want some campaign time before November. That doesn’t leave a big window to get the NNI Amendment Act to the president’s desk for signature. Because the Senate version contains some differences from its House counterpart, a Conference Committee may have to meet to resolve any differences, and a final version will have to go back to both houses for approval before it finally lands in the White House. Meanwhile, industry rolls on, products come on the market, and regulatory decisions are postponed – or are they? Next week, I’m going to public meeting held by the FDA to "consider developing guidelines" recommended by a Nanotechnology Task Force Report from 2007. Since FDA jurisdiction covers many items with which consumers are likely to have direct contact (like foods and food additives, cosmetics, dietary supplements, animal drugs and feeds, human drugs and biologics, and medical devices), this promises to be interesting. Stay tuned!