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Minority Serving Institution Digital and Wireless Technology Opportunity Act of 2007

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


MINORITY SERVING INSTITUTION DIGITAL AND WIRELESS TECHNOLOGY OPPORTUNITY ACT OF 2007 -- (House of Representatives - September 04, 2007)

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Mr. HALL of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I rise today on H.R. 694, the Minority Serving Institution Digital and Wireless Technology Opportunity Act of 2007, and I yield myself such time as I may consume.

The legislation has been an initiative of my colleague, Mr. Forbes, for several years and I congratulate him and Representative Towns and my colleague, Representative Johnson, on getting the legislation brought to the floor for a vote.

The bill requires the Secretary to establish a program to provide grants to increase the use of digital and wireless networking technology for institutions of higher education that primarily serve minorities.

Having been on the board of a minority institution in Texas for many years, I like the intent of the legislation and I want to say a few words about it. The grants may be used for training, education and professional development programs to increase the use of digital and wireless technology or to obtain capacity-building technical assistance and distance learning services.

Additionally, the grants may be used to foster the use of digital and wireless networking technology to improve research and education, including scientific mathematics, engineering and technology instruction.

H.R. 694 will help to provide grants to promote crucial development and educational programs for minority-serving institutions. It will help to ensure that minority students will not fall behind in education on critical digital and wireless networking technology. It will also help to ensure access to the technology and the training programs on the use of these technologies.

While I am a longtime supporter of grants to improve education and training on digital and wireless networking technology, and I commend my colleagues on this very important initiative, I would be a little bit remiss if I didn't raise some concerns about the process of bringing this bill up and the price tag associated with it.

The bill was referred to the Committee on Science and Technology in February of this year and received an additional referral to the Committee on Education and Labor in June of this year; yet neither of these committees has had a chance to really review the legislation and to hold hearings and to go through the markup process. I am a strong believer in proper order and the

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important role that committees of jurisdiction play to make improvements to legislation.

In addition to my concerns about the process, I am concerned about the authorization levels in the bill and the fact that it does not contain any opportunities for grants for rural colleges and universities which experience similar equipment shortages and could benefit from the use of distance learning.

The bill authorizes $250 million for fiscal year 2008 and then such sums as may be necessary from 2009 to 2012. There is no CBO score, but I think we can look at the authorization levels and determine that this is a lot of money for a very limited group of institutions.

Despite these feelings and despite these problems, and because of my longtime support of these types of programs, I will be supporting the passage of the bill and will vote for it, but I hope my colleagues on the other side of the aisle will address my concerns and the concerns others have as we move forward.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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