Freedom First Society

Issue:  H.R. 5086,  Innovators to Entrepreneurs Act of 2018.  Question: On Motion to Suspend the Rules and Pass, as Amended (2/3 vote required).

Result:  Passed in House, 379 to 16, 33 not voting.  GOP and Democrat selected vote.

Freedom First Society:  H.R. 5086 is a glaring, albeit small, example of the collectivist attitude prevailing in Washington that government must drive our nation’s progress and solve all of society’s problems (to most of which it contributes).  The resulting unconstitutional overreach has created the federal monster that threatens our prosperity and freedom.

H.R. 5086, with the unanimous support of 180 voting House Democrats, authorizes the National Science Foundation to expand its Innovation Corps (“I-Corps”) Program “by offering additional entrepreneurship training to small businesses as they advance toward commercialization.”

We have assigned (good vote) to the Nays and (bad vote) to the Yeas. (P = voted present; ? = not voting; blank = not listed on roll call.)

Bill Summary:  H.R. 5086 authorizes the National Science Foundation to expand its Innovation Corps (“I-Corps) Program.  The following is from the text of H.R. 5086 as passed by the House on April 24, 2018:

      SEC. 2. FINDINGS.

Congress finds the following:

(4) The success of I-Corps in the very early stages of the innovation continuum should be expanded upon by offering additional entrepreneurship training to small businesses as they advance toward commercialization….

Analysis:   The framers of America’s Constitution understood that the proper role of government is to protect our God-given rights (e.g., to life and property).  They knew that to fulfill that role government needed authority, but strictly limited authority or else, as history had shown, government would become a threat to those very rights.

And to help prevent government from becoming too powerful, the framers were careful to separate authorized powers among the various branches and levels of government and especially to limit the new federal government they were establishing.

Unfortunately, today the limits of the Constitution are routinely ignored and the importance of limited government rarely explained.  Indeed, the proponents of big, unlimited government, particularly among politicians and the Establishment media, would have us view Uncle Sam as Santa Claus. But the socialistic “benefits” provided by Big Government carry a heavy price in dollars and liberty. To save both, the federal government must be returned to its proper limited role

Constitutional Authority Statement

For a couple of decades, House rules have required that every bill submitted be accompanied by a statement of constitutional authority.  Since 2011, these statements are supposed to cite “as specifically as practicable the power or powers granted to Congress in the Constitution to enact the bill or joint resolution.”

Originally outside pressure likely inspired these rules, but more recently the House seems to have embraced the rule as a political public relations opportunity to satisfy uninformed voters.

To appear to comply with the requirement, Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL-03), the sponsor of H.R. 5086, stated: “Congress has the power to enact this legislation pursuant to the following: Article I, Section 8, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution.”

Lipinski’s choice, the “General Welfare Clause,” is a typical abuse of the requirement.  As Notre Dame Law School Professor Charles Rice has explained, that clause “does not does not confer on Congress a general power to legislate and regulate for purposes beyond those enumerated in the remaining clauses of Section 8.” (See “Constitutional Camouflage.”)

Supporter Arguments

Having dispensed with constitutional limitations, the supporters of H.R. 5086 argue that this bill helps maximize the return of the huge taxpayer investment in research and that it also allows individuals to use other grant money to fund the expanded federal I-Corps training.

However, the constitutionality of the grant money as well as some of the non-defense research investment should be questioned. Although the proposed expansion of the I-Corps program and clientele is initially minor compared with the total federal overreach, as we see here one unconstitutional program leads to another.  Where will it end?

Moreover, we would dispute the assumption that the federal government should provide the service if the private sector does not.  One of the great freedoms of the free market is the “freedom to fail.” Government programs cannot fail and, if unwarranted, become a perpetual burden on the economy.

Certainly, the greatest scientific breakthroughs, such as in medicine, were not the product of government investment.  (Consider the inability of the socialist and Communist countries to use the power of government to create either scientific breakthroughs or prosperity for their societies.)

Excerpts from Congressional Record (4-24-18) [Emphasis added]:

Representative Daniel Webster (R) FL 11:  “Mr. Speaker, today I ask my colleagues to join me in supporting the  Innovators to Entrepreneurs Act, H.R. 5086.  I thank my friend Daniel Lipinski for introducing the legislation  with me. He is a champion of the time-proven Innovation Corps program,  better known as I-Corps.   This bipartisan piece of legislation is a result of the committee  hearings on the I-Corps program. The Innovation Corps program was  created by the National Science Foundation in 2011 to teach scientists  and engineers how to  turn their laboratory innovations into successful commercial products  and services.  This program assists scientists and engineers in the development of their academic research and equips them to bring that research into the  private market. We have witnessed the wonderful successes of this program in my home State of Florida and across the Nation.

“H.R. 5086 expands the I-Corps program by creating a new course for  commercialization-ready companies. Following the completion of an I-Corps team course, individuals are  eligible for this new course which will help them create, market, and eventually expand their private sector company. Through marketing,  hiring, organizing, and attracting investors, these participants’ success increases dramatically.  The bill breaks down the barriers experienced by current scientists  when attempting to bring their product to market. Additionally, this  bill expands the groups allowed to apply for the I-Corps program and  offers new options for how to initially pay for the course.”

Representative Daniel Lipinski (D) IL 03:  “Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 5086, the Innovators to Entrepreneurs Act of 2018, a bill that I introduced to spur  entrepreneurship and turn American innovation into jobs.   I want to thank the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Webster) for being a  lead cosponsor of this legislation.   This bill expands the National Science Foundation’s highly successful Innovation Corps, or I-Corps, program, which, as my Science, Space, and  Technology Committee colleagues know, I have been a major champion of  since it was first created by NSF in 2011.   In 2016, I led the effort that officially authorized I-Corps. I-Corps  teaches scientists and engineers how to turn their federally funded  laboratory research into successful products and services. The program  has educated more than 1,100 teams, including many women and  underrepresented minorities, and has been linked to over 400 startup  companies….

“I-Corps is a modest investment that leads to a much higher return on our federally funded  research by significantly increasing rates of commercialization and job creation.   Our economy is driven by the ingenuity of our scientists and  engineers, developing innovations today that become tomorrow’s great products; and yet, still only a minority of federally funded research  with commercial potential ever makes it to the marketplace. The I-Corps program helps change that.

But we can do even more, and this bill helps to do that. First, it  helps more people participate in the program. Right now, unless you are a grantee of the NSF or another agency with an I-Corps program, the  training can be difficult to access. This bill will give recipients of  small business grants from any Federal agency the flexibility to pay  for I-Corps with their grant funds. It will also let private citizens  apply and pay out of pocket to participate.   Second, the bill directs NSF to establish a new course as part of the  I-Corps program to teach scientist entrepreneurs how to start and grow  a companyWhile the current I-Corps course does a great job of helping scientists develop innovation and determine whether or not it is  suitable for commercialization, it offers only limited guidance for  what to do after the decision is made to become an entrepreneur.   Skills such as how to write a business plan, hire a team, and attract  investment are taught in business schools, but not in Ph.D. programs.  NSF recognizes that need and has already begun a pilot program to test  curricula for this new course….

“We all know that helping our scientists, engineers, and academics not  only advances our knowledge and understanding of the world, but it also creates jobs and products that fuel our economy, which is a goal that all of us can agree upon.  As a former university professor, I know that it is not something that we teach in Ph.D. programs.”

Representative Lamar Smith (R) TX 21:  “Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 5086, the Innovators to  Entrepreneurs Act….  H.R. 5086authorizes a new I-Corps course for commercial-ready  research ventures that teaches skills involving company organization,  attracting investors, and hiring.   In research labs today lie the seeds for breakthroughs in new fields  like quantum computing, artificial intelligence, and bioengineering.  These breakthroughs will continue to transform our lives and the world  we live in.   Many scientists and engineers are not trained for commercializing  those ideas and did not go to business school or take any business  development classes. I-Corps gives researchers tools to maximize the  taxpayer investment in basic research and to spur innovation.”

Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D) TX 30:  “The societal benefit of research is only realized if the science  successfully makes it out of the laboratory. This does not always  happen, and in fact, the successful commercialization of scientific  advances is largely the exception, rather than the rule.   The path from the laboratory to the market is difficult to navigate.  Many promising ideas are never considered for commercialization, while some researchers invest significant time and money into launching a startup only to realize that there is no market for their innovation.   The commercialization of scientific research is an important driver  of economic growth….

“To maintain our position as the global leader in technological  innovation, we must ensure that we are realizing the full economic  potential of federal investment in research. Other countries have  caught on to research as one of the secrets to our success, and they  are nipping at our heels….

“Since it was established, the I-Corps program has successfully  provided entrepreneurship training to nearly 3,000 individuals at over  200 universities. Combined, I-Corps grantees have raised over $100  million, with $30 million coming from private investors. Grantees have  used the skills and networks they gained from their I-Corps training to  start over 360 companies.”


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