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As a member of Congress, I have a unique opportunity to help shape the science and technology policies in America and the world today. North Carolina is fortunate to be home to some of the most technology savvy companies and research universities in the entire country and is well positioned to be a significant force in the global economy of the 21st Century.

I am proud to be a member of the moderate New Democrat Coalition and to support the its e-genda 2.0 initiative. Since its founding in 1997, the New Democrat Coalition has been recognized as a leader on high-tech issues and has worked to find common sense solutions to address the challenges of the New Economy.

I am also honored to have been given the highest rating for supporting important technology related legislation in Congress by the Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC), an advocacy group for the nation's leading high-tech and Internet companies.

Math and Science Education

I have been proud to take a leading role on the Science Committee in advocating legislative initiatives for the improvement of math and science education in elementary and secondary schools. Early in the 107th Congress the Science Committee introduced two bills, H.R. 1858, National Mathematics and Science Partnerships Act and H.R. 100, National Science Education Act in an effort to improve math and science education in our Nation's schools and universities. The Math and Science Partnerships Act (H.R. 1858), proposed by President Bush, provides for the establishment of mathematics and science
education partnership programs between institutions of higher education and local school districts to improve the instruction of elementary and secondary science education.

H.R.1858 includes my amendment for the improvement of pre-college teacher training in math and science education. This legislation will address policy issues that are of vital importance to North Carolina and our nation. We need quality math and science instruction in our K-12 classrooms. My provision in the bill will ensure that improving the training of math and science teachers remains an important national priority. Quality instruction is the key to helping students learn in these critical fields. The action taken on this bill will make a real difference for our children and will put America on the road toward a higher standing in the world of math and science. If America is to improve its public schools, initiatives to improve math and science instruction and learning must become a priority of education reform. I am pleased that my input to the bill takes several steps in that direction.

The National Science Education Act (H.R. 100) provides grants to colleges and universities to train math and science master teachers and assist elementary and secondary schools to design and implement master teacher programs. Overall, the bills will provide improved teacher training, reform curriculum and standards, and create novel programs to reach underserved populations. Appropriated at $160 million the National Science Foundation (NSF) will implement Math and Science Partnerships that will enable universities and businesses to provide more help to school districts. The programs will create new scholars to attract top college junior and senior math and science majors into teaching; and establish four new university centers for research into teaching and learning. The Department of Education (DoEd) will be appropriated $12.5 million to establish programs to help train master teachers and to provide research opportunities for pre-college students. These bills will bring more support to our K-12 science and math teachers, their students and their schools. Both bills have been approved by the House and await action by the Senate.

Inland Flooding

As you may know, the U.S. House Science Committee, which has jurisdiction over the National Weather Service (NWS) and weather-related issues. The people of North Carolina are all too familiar with the death and devastation that severe weather can bring, and serving on the Science Committee allows me the opportunity to address weather-related problems.

For example, our state often suffers from the heavy rains that hurricanes and tropical storms bring to our state. In 1999, Hurricane Floyd killed forty-eight of our citizens. Almost all of them lived hundreds of miles from the coast and died from flooding. That is why I introduced H.R. 2486. Current methods for predicting whether a storm will produce heavy flooding are insufficient and flood warnings have tragically proven inadequate. My bill will authorizes $5.75 million over five years to provide the necessary resources to not only enhance the science of flood prediction, but also develop an improved flood-warning index that can save lives. The bill has already been approved by the Science Subcommittee on Environment, Technology & Standards and is currently awaiting a vote in the full Science Committee.

Digital Signature

During the 106th Congress, I joined with my colleagues in the New Democrat Coalition to support legislation that ensures consumers and businesses know that the digitally signed and electronically transmitted contracts they enter into are valid, binding, and treated the same as paper-based transactions. Further, I support the development of a consistent and predictable national framework of rules governing the use of digital signatures. I voted in favor of H.R. 1714, the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act and supported an amendment offered by the New Democrats that enhanced consumer protection provisions in the bill.

North Carolina's High Tech Future

To better understand the needs of the Second Congressional District, I surveyed schools and universities to compile the Science, Mathematics and Technology Education: The Etheridge Action Agenda for North Carolina's High Tech Future. It's a comprehensive report on how well students are being prepared to meet the challenges in this technological era in the Second Congressional District and outlines an action agenda for those areas in need of improvement. This report has been provided to educators and educational policy makers throughout the Second Congressional District and used in a congressional hearing of the U.S. House Science Committee.

Biotechnology

Growing up on a farm in Johnston County, the most advanced technology we had was a plow, a mule and a truck. These days, many farmers are at the forefront of the technology explosion. Dairy farmers are using electric milking devices. Row crop farmers are using Global Positioning System satellites to determine the precise amount of fertilizer and crop protection agents to use. And many have weather radar systems as advanced as our local TV stations.

In an effort to promote the benefits of biotechnology to the public, farmer, and the future of global food production, I convened a Biotechnology Roundtable of farmers, university researchers, policy makers, and local biotechnology companies last August. The panel made the following recommendations to promote the use of biotechnology in agriculture:

  • Develop Rapid Response Teams comprised of industry officials, farmers and agri-business leaders, policy makers and scientists to respond to negative publicity related to biotechnology in agriculture.
  • Treat the concerns of the opponents of biotechnology with respect and respond to their concerns with sound science and research.
  • Promote the benefits and safety of bio-enhanced foods to policy makers and elected officials.
  • Create biotechnology education initiatives at the university level.
  • Build public acceptance by building trust in the technology.
  • Educate the public on the safety and benefits of biotechnology through continuing current consumer education campaign, including brochures, print, radio and television advertising.

First in Flight

During the 106th Congress, I introduced H.R. 1754, a bill to require the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to develop an educational curriculum in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the first powered flight. By emphasizing the history of flight and the scientific discoveries by individuals like the Wright Brothers and organizations like NASA, we can motivate children to develop an interest in science and mathematics. This legislation passed the U.S. House and Senate as a part of the FY 2000-2002 NASA Authorization Bill and was signed into law by President Clinton on November 1, 2000.

 

   
   
   
   

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