The objectives of this report are four-fold: first, to outline briefly the historical and inherent tension between secrecy and transparency in the congressional process; second, to review several common and recurring secrecy/transparency issues that emerged again with the 2011 formation of the Joint Select Deficit Reduction Committee; third, to identify various lawmaking stages typically imbued with closed door activities; and fourth, to close with several summary observations.
This report discusses the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) proposal to invoke the "Fifth Special Measure" on the Chinese Bank of Dandong for its alleged role in funding and and processing transactions for North Korea's weapons programs.
This legal sidebar discusses a proposal in North Dakota that would amend the state constitution to address the right to life. If adopted, the North Dakota constitution would state: "The inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected."
This report describes the regulatory framework for permitting the use of unmanned vehicles and the potential rulemaking that will occur over the next few years. It also discusses theories of takings and property torts as they relate to drone flights over or near private property and the privacy interests implicated by drone surveillance conducted by private actors and the potential countervailing First Amendment rights to gather and receive news. Finally, this report explores possible congressional responses to these privacy concerns, discusses how the FAA has approached these concerns, and identifies additional potential legal issues.
This report addresses several options considered by Congress to address the financing needs of local communities for wastewater and drinking water infrastructure projects and to decrease or close the gap between available funds and projected needs.
This report provides background information on EPA regulatory activity during the Obama Administration. It examines major or controversial regulatory actions taken by or under development at EPA from January 2009 to late 2016, providing details on the regulatory action itself, presenting an estimated timeline for completion of rules not yet promulgated (including identification of related court or statutory deadlines), and, in general, providing EPA's estimates of costs and benefits, where available.
This report discusses the FY2014 budget proposal that outlines a set of proposals, framed as the termination of tax preferences, that would potentially increase the taxes paid by the oil and natural gas industries, especially those of the independent producers.
This report describes and compares the drug- and crime-related policy restrictions contained in selected federal programs that provide assistance to low-income individuals and families: the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps), and the three primary federal housing assistance programs (the public housing program, the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, and the project-based Section 8 rental assistance program).
This report provides an overview of the elements of federal criminal money laundering statutes and the sanctions imposed for their violation. It includes an extensive overview and analysis of elements as well as legal attributes and consequences of violating various federal criminal statues related to money laundering, most specifically 18 U.S.C. § 1956, 1957, and 1952. The end of the report provides text of the statutes discussed, citations of state money laundering and money transmission statutes, and a list federal predicate offenses with their accompanying maximum terms of imprisonment.
This report is the first two reports in a series discussing the Federal Communication Commission's proposal to reclassify broadband Internet access services and modify or eliminate "net neutrality" regulations. Various legal aspects of the debate and classification of telecommunications are discussed.
The 111th Congress is considering legislation (S. 707 and H.R. 1722) to foster the development of telework in executive agencies of the federal government. Legislation to augment telework in executive agencies of the federal government is currently pending in the 111th Congress. S. 707, the Telework Enhancement Act of 2009, and H.R. 1722, the Telework Improvements Act of 2010, were introduced on March 25, 2009, by Senator Daniel Akaka and Representative John Sarbanes, respectively. This report presents a side-by-side comparison of the provisions of S. 707, as reported, and H.R. 1722, as ordered to be reported.
This report gives and overview of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 and discusses policy issues related to it. Congress passed the Act following several high-profile train accidents; it mandates positive train control (PTC) on many passenger and freight railroads by December 31, 2015.
This report discusses the retirement systems in place for federal employees including the Civil Service Retirement System (for employees hired before 1984) and the Federal Employees' Retirement System (for employees hired in 1984 or later). Both programs require participants to contribute toward the cost of their pensions through a payroll tax. This report also summarizes relevant legislation in the 113th Congress that would make significant changes to federal benefits and financing, including H.J.Res. 59, S. 18, S. 1678, and H.R. 3639.
This report begins by providing background on the economic rationale for energy market interventions; it highlights various market failures production and consumption of energy, and discusses possible interventions. The report concludes with an analysis of the current status of energy tax policy.
This report provides background on, and analysis of, significant legal issues surrounding the same-sex marriage debate. It begins by providing background on the constitutional principles that are often invoked in attempting to invalidate same-sex marriage bans--namely, equal protection and due process guarantees. Then, it discusses key cases that led to the existing circuit split on the constitutionality of state same-sex marriage bans. Finally, this report explains the central issues in the circuit split and analyzes how the Supreme Court might resolve them on appeal.
This report offers a listing and brief description of legal provisions that require or authorize the imposition of some form of economic sanction against countries, companies, persons, or entities that violate U.S. nonproliferation norms. For each provision, information is included on what triggers the imposition of sanctions, their duration, what authority the President has to delay or abstain from imposing sanctions, and what authority the President has to waive the imposition of sanctions.
This report briefly discusses the permissible proprietary trading activities of commercial banks and their subsidiaries under current law. It then analyzes the Volcker Rule proposals under the House- and Senate-passed financial reform bills and under the Conference Report, which would limit the ability of commercial banking institutions and their affiliated companies and subsidiaries to engage in trading unrelated to customer needs and investing in and sponsoring hedge funds or private equity funds.
This report focuses on unaccompanied alien children as asylum seekers. To bring clarity to the unique policies toward unaccompanied children, this report compares their treatment to that of unauthorized adults and families with children in the specific contexts of asylum and expedited removal.
The change in Russia's trade status will require legislation to lift the restrictions of Title IV of the Trade Act of 1974 as they apply to Russia, which includes the “freedom-of-emigration” requirements of the Jackson-Vanik amendment. The process for Russia's accession has been completed. As a result, Members of the 112th Congress confront the issue of whether to grant Russia permanent normal trade relations (PNTR).
This report is divided into three major sections analyzing Cuba's political and economic environment, U.S. policy, and selected issues in U.S.-Cuban relations. Legislative initiatives in the 114th Congress are noted throughout the report, and four appendixes provide a listing of enacted measures, bills receiving some action in 2015, bills seeing action in 2016, and additional bills and resolution this Congress.
This report discusses federal efforts to assist local law enforcement in adult missing persons cases. It discusses demographics and record keeping of missing adults and unidentified remains; federally-funded databases that are used to track data on missing adults and unidentified individuals; federal programs and initiatives to assist in locating missing adults, including funding data; and issues regarding the federal role in missing adult cases.
This report summarizes provisions of selected legislation - enacted and proposed - that address oil spill policy issues raised after the April 20, 2010, explosion and resulting oil spill at the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico. This report focuses primarily on oil spill policy matters that concern prevention, preparedness, response, and the liability and compensation framework.
This report provides background on current International Criminal Court (ICC) cases and examines issues raised by the ICC's actions in Africa, including the potential deterrence of future abuses and the potential impact on African peace processes.
This report provides an overview of Iran's foreign policy, which has been a subject of numerous congressional hearings and of sanctions and other legislation for many years. The report analyzes Iranian foreign policy as a whole and by region. The regional analysis discusses those countries where Iranian policy is of U.S. concern.
This report covers the recent background of the Exon-Florio provision with special regards to issues faced in the 112th Congress. The Exon-Florio provision grants the President the authority to block proposed or pending foreign acquisitions of “persons engaged in interstate commerce in the United States” that threaten to impair the national security.
This report addresses three overarching questions to provide legal context for the debate concerning the appropriate level of force police officers should wield: (1) what are the constitutional rules governing an officer's use of force; (2) what role has Congress played in providing a remedy for a violation of these rules; and (3) what are the potential reforms to these rules and remedies?
Permits issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers authorize various types of development projects in wetlands and other waters of the United States. The Corps' regulatory process involves two types of permits: general permits for actions by private landowners that are similar in nature and will likely have a minor effect on wetlands, and individual permits for more significant actions. The Corps uses general permits to minimize the burden of its regulatory program: they authorize landowners to proceed with a project without the time-consuming need to obtain standard individual permits in advance. About 90% of the Corps' regulatory workload is processed in the form of general permits.
This report discusses the recently finalized Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that attempts to ensure that Iran's nuclear program can be used for purely peaceful purposes, in exchange for a broad suspension of U.S., European Union (EU), and United Nations sanctions.
This report discusses a recent ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in the case of "United States v. Grant" that prohibits the use of "de facto" life sentences without possibility of parole (created by sentencing juveniles to prison terms longer than the average lifespan or that would end after they reached the typical retirement age) for juvenile offenders who have a reasonable potential for rehabilitation. The report also discusses previous decisions related to this issue and the split among appeals court over the proper application of the Eighth Amendment to juvenile sentencing restrictions.
This report discusses the reasons that Iran is considered a threat to U.S. security, including Iran's nuclear program, involvement with terrorist organizations, and involvement with neighboring countries' local governments. It also discusses ways in which the U.S. hopes to modify Iran's behavior with sanctions, and the effectiveness of these sanctions.
The United States has led the international community in imposing economic sanctions on Iran, in an effort to change the government of that country's support of acts of international terrorism, poor human rights record, weapons and missile development and acquisition, role in regional instability, and development of a nuclear program. This report identifies the legislative bases for sanctions imposed on Iran, and the nature of the authority to waive or lift those restrictions.
This report focuses on oil spills in U.S. coastal waters. The first section highlights background issues, including oil spill statistics and potential environmental impacts. The second section discusses the legal framework that governs oil spill prevention and response. The third section examines the threat of future oil spills in coastal waters and whether response personnel are prepared to respond to a major spill.
This report discusses the territorial claims in East Asia that underlie the growing tensions, U.S. interests that are at stake, factors that may be driving the growing tensions, and possible options for Congress to consider.
The principal federal program to aid municipal wastewater treatment plant construction is authorized in the Clean Water Act (CWA). In appropriations legislation, funding for EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) wastewater assistance is contained in the measure providing funds for the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies. This report summarizes, in chronological order, congressional activity to fund items in the State and Tribal Assistance Grants (STAG) account since 1987.
This report discusses the current issues in Burma (Myanmar) in regards to political prisoners and the resulting U.S. sanctions against the nation. It includes an introduction and definitions; information about current estimates of prisoners and prisoner releases; the relation of political prisoners, parliamentary elections and national reconciliation; and U.S. sanctions and U.S. efforts regarding political prisoners, as well as relevant issues for Congress to consider.
The Obama Administration identifies Iran as a major threat to U.S. national security interests. The sense of imminent crisis with Iran which greeted the beginning of 2012 follows three years in which the Obama Administration first offered Iran's leaders consistent and sustained engagement in exchange for limits to its nuclear program but, since 2010, has emphasized pressuring Iran through economic sanctions. This report discusses the effects of economic sanctions against Iran; support to the Iranian democracy movement; and opposition against Iranian human rights violations and Iranian support for Syrian human rights violations.
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