When the new Congress convenes in January, Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) will chair the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. Smith will replace Ralph Hall (R-TX) who has chaired the committee since January 2011.
Running against Smith were former Science Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA). Smith was selected by the House Republican Steering Committee, and approved by House Republican Members. In commenting on his selection, Smith stated:
“As Chairman of the Science Committee, I will be an advocate for America’s innovators by promoting legislation that encourages scientific discoveries, space exploration, and the application of new technologies to expand our economy and create jobs for American workers. “Over 80% of the Committee’s $39 billion budget touches on research and development. We can’t have innovation without research and development. And the purpose of the Science Committee is to encourage the R&D that leads to new innovations. “The Science Committee can play an exciting part in the discoveries of science, the exploration of space and the development of new technologies. I appreciate the confidence of my colleagues and look forward to chairing the Committee next Congress.”
Smith now serves as the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. He was born in 1947, and has a degree from Yale University and a law degree from Southern Methodist University. He has served thirteen terms in the House, serving on the Science Committee during his complete tenure. Smith represents the 21st District, and has offices in San Antonio, Austin, and Kerrville. Smith also serves on the House Homeland Security Committee. Interest group ratings for the representative are available here. A year ago Smith received a “policymaker of the year” in technology award for his work on a bipartisan overhaul of the nation’s patent law.
A chairman largely determines the agenda and approach his committee will take. Smith’s congressional website offers his views on a number of issues of interest to the physics community:
Science and Technology:
“Technology is the key that will unlock a brighter future for us all. As a Member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, I am committed to ensuring that innovation continues to expand and enrich our lives without harming our privacy or security.
“Science and technology are critical to national security, economic strength, and quality health care. We must make the necessary investments in basic research and science education to ensure that the United States remains the world’s leader in technology and innovation.
“The technology industry drives our economy, both in Texas and nationally. Technological marvels that once shocked us now seem routine. With the recognition that technology plays an increasingly important role in our lives, my legislative agenda includes a heavy emphasis on science and technology issues. We must ensure that policies designed to promote the tech industry are advanced.”
“By exploring and researching space, NASA is critical to the economic competitiveness of the United States. It is important to provide funding for NASA to conduct scientific research and develop new technology.
“With proper funding, NASA will also be able to continue a robust research program in space science, earth science, and aeronautics.
“As a member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, I have supported measures to expand, refine, and improve NASA. I will continue to be a strong advocate for space sciences and other advanced space research efforts.”
“Like many Americans, I am concerned about the environment. The Earth has undergone tremendous change in the past and is experiencing similar change now. Climate change has the potential to impact agriculture, ecosystems, sea levels, weather patterns, and human health.
“It is our responsibility to take steps to improve the quality of our land, water and air for ourselves and for future generations. We can do this by developing and expanding clean energy technologies, relying less on foreign oil, and utilizing a common sense approach to conservation.
“As a member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, I am committed to ensuring that we rely on good science to guide our strategies in dealing with the environment.
“I introduced renewable energy legislation that was included in H.R. 6, the “Energy Independence and Security Act.” This legislation, which became law on December 19, 2007, creates incentives for Plug-In Hybrid Electric vehicles, creates a grant program for solar demonstrations and public-private partnerships, expands the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), increases corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards, and requires increased energy efficiency standards for consumer appliances.
“I am a cosponsor of H.R. 445, the ‘Heavy Duty Hybrid Vehicle Research, Development, and Demonstration Act.’ This legislation establishes a competitive grant program to advance research and development for advanced heavy duty hybrid vehicles. This legislation passed the House on September 9, 2009, and now awaits action in the Senate.
“I have championed solar technology development in Texas. The U.S. Department of Energy has selected the City of Austin (2007) and the City of San Antonio (2008) as two of the first 25 cities to be awarded a Solar America Cities grant.
“These technologies can help provide a cleaner environment for our children while at the same time reducing our dependence on foreign oil.”
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Education:
“As a member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, I believe that science and technology education are critical to our nation's future. “Science and technology are critical to national security, economic strength, and quality health care. We must make the necessary investments in basic research and science education to ensure that the United States remains the world’s leader in technology and innovation.
“I support students’ involvement in the sciences and believe young people should be encouraged to study in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). That is why I have supported legislation such as the ‘College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2008,’ which helps make college more affordable for all individuals and expands college access and support for low-income and minority students and individuals entering the fields of math and science. This legislation also strengthens our workforce and our competitiveness.
“I also supported the America COMPETES Act of 2007, which provides students, teachers, businesses and workers the tools to compete in the 21st century economy. To compete in today’s high-tech global economy we need to encourage innovation, foster creativity and promote a talented workforce. This is a critical challenge facing our country. The America COMPETES Act offers incentives for students to pursue careers in math and science and ensures American classrooms are filled with highly qualified teachers. These measures ensure the next generations of Americans are prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.”