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Products Liability: A Legal Overview
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School Choice: Current Legislation
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Clean Air Act Issues in the 108th Congress
Clean air issues were discussed at length in the 107th Congress, but legislation was not enacted, leaving the same issues for possible consideration in the 108th. The most prominent air quality issues discussed in this report are; the controversy over EPA’s proposed changes to the New Source Review (NSR) requirements, Clear Skies / Multi-Pollutant Legislation, gasoline additive MTBE, Conformity of Transportation Plans and SIPs Deadlines for Achieving the Ozone Air Quality Standard.
The Higher Education Act: Reauthorization Status and Issues
This report discusses the funding authorizations for programs in the Higher Education Act (HEA). This legislation, administered by the U.S. Department of Education (ED), authorizes the federal government’s major student aid programs, as well as other significant initiatives.
Campaign Finance Regulation Under the First Amendment: Buckley v. Valeo and its Supreme Court Progeny
This report first discusses the critical holdings enunciated bythe SupremeCourt in Buckley, including those: upholding reasonable contribution limits, striking down expenditure limits, upholding disclosure reporting requirements, and upholding the system of voluntary presidential election expenditure limitations linked with public financing. It then examines the Court’s extension of Buckley in fifteen subsequent cases, evaluating them in three regulatory contexts: contribution limits (California Medical Association v. FEC; Citizens Against Rent Control v. Berkeley; Nixon v. Shrink Missouri Government PAC; FEC v. Beaumont), expenditure limits (First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti; FEC v. Massachusetts Citizens for Life; Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce; FEC v. National Right to Work; Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Committee (Colorado I) v. FEC; FEC v. Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Committee (Colorado II); FEC v. Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee; FEC v. National Conservative Political Action Committee), and disclosure requirements (Buckley v. American Constitutional Law Foundation; Brown v. Socialist Workers ‘74 Campaign Committee; FEC v. Akins; McIntrye v. Ohio Elections Commission).
Remedies Available to Victims of Identity Theft
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Association Health Plans, Health Marts and the Small Group Market for Health Insurance
An estimated 41.2 million people were without health insurance in 2001. Legislation under consideration by the 108th and earlier Congresses is intended to assist small employers in offering health insurance as a benefit to their workers. A new bill, H.R. 4281, introduced on May 5, 2004, The Small Business Health Fairness Act of 2003 (H.R. 6601s. 545), and a number of bills from the earlier Congresses include provisions creating new groups for small firms to join or encouraging the growth of existing groups so that small employers can band together to offer coverage to their employees.
Brownfields and Superfund Issues in the 108th Congress
The Superfund program for cleaning up the nation’s worst hazardous waste sites was created by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980, or CERCLA (P.L. 96-510, as amended). This report discusses recent development and background issues, superfund issues, revenue issues, comprehensive reauthorization, and legislation regarding superfund program.
Crime Control: The Federal Response
Under the federal system in the United States, the states and localities traditionally have held the major responsibility for prevention and control of crime and maintenance of order. For most of the Republic’s history, “police powers” in the broad sense were reserved to the states under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution. Many still hold that view, but others see a string of court decisions in recent decades as providing the basis for a far more active federal role. Several bills are discussed in this report that address issues related to crime, juvenile justice, and Congress’ evolving role in crime legislation.
Energy Efficiency: Budget, Oil Conservation, and Electricity Conservation Issues
In the 108th Congress, debate over energy efficiency programs has focused on budget, oil, natural gas, and electricity issues, and provisions in the omnibus energy policy bill, S. 2095, H.R. 6, and S. 14/S. 1149. The Bush Administration’s FY2005 budget request for the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Energy Efficiency Program sought $875.9 million, including $543.9 for R&D and $332.0 million for grants. In the first session, the omnibus energy bill (H.R. 6) had several significant tax and regulatory measures for energy efficiency. It did not pass the Senate due to concerns about cost and an MTBE “safe harbor” provision.
The Role of Risk Analysis and Risk Management in Environmental Protection
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Clean Water Act Issues in the 108th Congress
In this report several other Clean Water Act issues are likely to receive congressional attention, through oversight hearings and possibly in legislative proposals. Among the topics of interest is whether and how the Administration will revise the current program for restoration of pollution-impaired waters (the Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL program), in view of controversy over regulatory changes made during the Clinton Administration and continuing disagreement among states, cities, industry, and environmental advocates about program effectiveness and efficiency.
Electronic Banking: The Check Truncation Issue
If all checks were replaced by electronic transactions, the exact cost savings would still be unknown, because estimates of the cost of using a check and the number of checks written each year remain in dispute. Consequently, estimates of cost savings range from $1.4 billion annually for truncation alone to $68 billion for replacing checks with electronic payments. A significant part of the savings comes from eliminating the handling, sorting, and physically transporting of checks to the paying bank. To clear checks electronically, banks must negotiate processing agreements thatmake it unnecessary to physically present the paper check. Since the benefits are not uniformly dispersed among the participants, banks have found it difficult to obtain these agreements, thus constraining the widespread adoption of electronic check clearing.
Mining on Federal Lands
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Naming Post Offices Through Legislation
This report describes how the practice of naming post offices through public law originated and how it is commonly done today. House and Senate practices for approving such legislation, and procedures followed by the U.S. Postal Service in organizing a dedication ceremony, are also described.
Safe Drinking Water Act: Implementation and Issues
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Broadband Internet Access: Background and Issues
From a public policy perspective, the goals are to ensure that broadband deployment is timely, that industry competes fairly, and that service is provided to all sectors and geographical locations of American society. The federal government -- through Congress and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) -- is seeking to ensure fair competition among the players so that broadband will be available and affordable in a timely manner to all Americans who want it. While the FCC's position is not to intervene at this time, some assert that legislation is necessary to ensure fair competition and timely broadband deployment. One proposal would ease certain legal restrictions and requirements, imposed by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, on incumbent telephone companies who provide high speed data (broadband) access. Another proposal would compel cable companies to provide "open access" to competing Internet service providers.
Medical Malpractice Liability Reform: Legal Issues and Fifty-State Survey of Caps on Punitive Damages and Noneconomic Damages
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Satellite Television: Provisions of SHVIA and LOCAL, and Continuing Issues
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Water Quality: Implementing the Clean Water Act
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Welfare Reform: An Issue Overview
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Child Support Enforcement: New Reforms and Potential Issues
This report describes several aspects of the revised CSE program and discusses three issues that probably will be reexamined by the 107th Congress — CSE financing, parental access by noncustodial parents, and distribution of support payments.
The Hatch-Waxman Act: Proposed Legislative Changes Affecting Pharmaceutical Patents
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Iraq: Weapons Programs, U.N. Requirements, and U.S. Policy
No Description Available.
Caribbean Basin Interim Trade Program: CBI/NAFTA Parity
The entry into force, on January 1, 1994, of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has eliminated the advantage that the beneficiaries of the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (CBERA) and related provisions of the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) had enjoyed in trade with the United States relative to Mexico, and gave Mexico an increasingly significant competitive edge over the CBERA countries. The scheduled further implementation of the NAFTA would have resulted in a substantial advantage to Mexico over the CBERA countries and vitiate in part the purpose of the CBERA.
Exempting Food and Agriculture Products from U.S. Economic Sanctions: Status and Implementation
Falling agricultural exports and declining commodity prices led farm groups and agribusiness firms to urge the 106th Congress to pass legislation exempting foods and agricultural commodities from U.S. economic sanctions against certain countries. In completing action on the FY2001 agriculture appropriations bill, Congress codified the lifting of unilateral sanctions on commercial sales of food, agricultural commodities, medicine, and medical products to Iran, Libya, North Korea, and Sudan, and extended this policy to apply to Cuba (Title IX of H.R. 5426, as enacted by P.L. 106-387; Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000). Related provisions place financing and licensing conditions on sales to these countries. Those that apply to Cuba, though, are permanent and more restrictive than for the other countries. Other provisions give Congress the authority in the future to veto a President's proposal to impose a sanction on the sale of agricultural or medical products.
SCHIP Financing Issues for the 108th Congress
No Description Available.
Estate Tax Legislation in the 108th Congress
Under provisions of the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA, P.L. 107-16, enacted June 7, 2001), the estate tax is scheduled to be repealed in 2010 but reinstated in 2011. All tax cut provisions of EGTRRA are scheduled to sunset on December 31, 2010. This report tracks actions in the 108th Congress to permanently repeal the estate tax or to retain but alter the tax.
Medicare: Beneficiary Cost-Sharing Under Proposed Prescription Drug Benefits
This report provides background on how the cost-sharing and premium provisions under each bill would affect the amount that a beneficiary pays annually for prescription drugs. In addition, this report gives examples of how annual cost-sharing would differ for beneficiaries with various levels of total prescription drug spending in 2006 under the plans.
Child Pornography: Constitutional Principles and Federal Statutes
The Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996, P.L. 104-208, 110 Stat. 3009- 26, added a definition of “child pornography” that include visual depictions of what appears to be a minor engaging in explicit sexual conduct, even if no actual minor was used in producing the depiction. On April 16, 2002, in Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition, the Supreme Court held this provision unconstitutional to the extent that it prohibited pictures that were not produced with actual minors. (This case is discussed under “Section 2256,” below.) In response to Ashcroft, bills were introduced in the House and Senate that would continue to ban some child pornography that was produced without an actual minor; on June 25, 2002, the House passed one such bill: H.R. 4623, 107th Congress.
"Junk E-mail": An Overview of Issues and Legislation Concerning Unsolicited Commercial Electronic Mail ("Spam")
Unsolicited commercial e-mail (UCE), also called “spam” or “junk e-mail,” aggravates many computer users. Not only can spam be a nuisance, but its cost may be passed on to consumers through higher charges from Internet service providers who must upgrade their systems to handle the traffic. Also, some spam involves fraud, or includes adult-oriented material that offends recipients or that parents want to protect their children from seeing. Proponents of UCE insist it is a legitimate marketing technique that is protected by the First Amendment. While 34 states have anti-spam laws, there is no federal law specifically concerning spam. Nine “antispam” bills are pending in the 108th Congress: H.R. 1933 (Lofgren), H.R. 2214 (Burr-Tauzin-Sensenbrenner), H.R. 2515 (Wilson), S. 563 (Dayton), S. 877 (Burns-Wyden), S. 1052 (Nelson-FL), S. 1231 (Schumer), S. 1293 (Hatch), and S. 1327 (Corzine). Tables providing brief “side-by-side” comparisons of the bills are included in this report.
Missing and Exploited Children: Overview and Policy Concerns
This report presents an overview of two national incidence studies prepared by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) to determine annually the number of reported missing and recovered children in the nation. It also discusses the AMBER Alert System created to help recover reported missing children, legislation introduced in the 108th Congresses to address the missing children issue, and questions that remain regarding concerns about missing children.
Obscenity and Indecency: Constitutional Principles and Federal Statutes
No Description Available.
Child Welfare Issues in the 108th Congress
The purpose of this report is to present a number of generally less broad legislative proposals related to child welfare financing have been introduced in the 108th Congress. Additional child welfare-related proposals designed to improve services, promote timely placement of children across state lines, and for other purposes, are described in this report.
Class Actions and Proposed Reform in the 108th Congress: Class Action Fairness Act of 2003
The report discusses the consumer class action bill of rights in each proposal contains safeguards which provide for judicial scrutiny of coupon and other non-cash settlements, protection against a proposed settlement that would result in a net loss to a class member, protection against discrimination based upon geographic location, and prohibition on a class representative receiving a greater share of the award.
Federal Credit Reform: Implementation of the Changed Budgetary Treatment of Direct Loans and Loan Guarantees
No Description Available.
The Hatch-Waxman Act: Proposed Legislative Changes Affecting Pharmaceutical Patents
No Description Available.
Campaign Finance: Issues Before the U.S. Supreme Court in McConnell v. FEC
This report provides a summary of the issues presented by 12 groups of appellants in their jurisdictional statements in 2003. Shortly after the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA), P.L. 107-155 (H.R. 2356, 107th Cong.) was enacted in March 2002 (also known as the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform legislation), Senator Mitch McConnell and others filed suit in U.S. District Court for D.C. against the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) arguing that provisions of the law are unconstitutional. Ultimately, eleven suits challenging BCRA were brought by more than 80 plaintiffs and consolidated into one lead case, McConnell v. FEC. On May 2, 2003, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued its decision in McConnell v. FEC, No. 02-CV-0582 striking down some key provisions of the law as unconstitutional, but on May 19, it issued a stay of its ruling, which leaves BCRA, as enacted, in effect until the Supreme Court issues a decision. (For information about the decision, see CRS Report RS21511, Campaign Finance: Brief Overview of McConnell v. FEC.) Under the BCRA expedited review provision, the court's decision will be reviewed directly by the U.S. Supreme Court, which scheduled oral argument for September 8, 2003.
The Law of the Sea Convention and U.S. Policy
No Description Available.
Energy Tax Incentives: A Comparison of the Senate Finance Committee Bill (S.1149) and the House Bill (H.R.6)
The 108th Congress is considering two major bills to provide tax incentives to increase the supply of, and reduce the demand for, fossil fuels and electricity: S.1149, the Energy Tax Incentives Act of 2003, approved by the Senate Finance Committee (SFC) on April 2, 2003 (superseding S. 597), and H.R. 6, introduced as H.R. 1531 and approved by the House on April 11, 2003, by a vote of 247-175.
Medicare Prescription Drug and Reform Legislation
This report describes the major features of S. 1, as ordered reported, and the measure to be considered by the House Ways and Means Committee, H.R. 2473, as ordered reported.
Strategic Petroleum Reserve
No Description Available.
Country-of-Origin Labeling for Foods
Federal law requires most imports, including many food items, to bear labels informing the “ultimate purchaser” of their country of origin. Meats, produce, and several other raw agricultural products generally have been exempt. The omnibus farm law (P.L. 107-171) signed on May 13, 2002, contains a requirement that many retailers provide, starting on September 30, 2004, country-of-origin labeling (COOL) on fresh fruits and vegetables, red meats, seafood, and peanuts. The program is voluntary until then. USDA on October 8, 2002, issued guidelines for the voluntary labeling program.
Fact Sheet on Congressional Tax Proposals in the 108th Congress
This report discusses the President, House and Senate tax proposals. Beyond the comprehensive tax proposals, both the House and the Senate have considered a range of targeted tax proposals. One of the first tax-related measures considered during the 108th Congress would provide tax reductions to armed services personnel. Congress has also initiated reconsideration of legislation not completed in the 107th Congress: tax incentives for charitable giving deductions, pension diversification, energy taxation, and tax shelters.
"Junk E-mail": An Overview of Issues and Legislation Concerning Unsolicited Commercial Electronic Mail ("Spam")
Unsolicited commercial e-mail (UCE), also called “spam” or “junk e-mail,” aggravates many computer users. Not only can spam be a nuisance, but its cost may be passed on to consumers through higher charges from Internet service providers who must upgrade their systems to handle the traffic. Proponents of UCE insist it is a legitimate marketing technique and protected by the First Amendment. While 33 states have anti-spam laws, there is no federal law. Six bills addressing the spam issue are pending in the 108th Congress: H.R. 1933 (Lofgren), H.R. 2214 (Burr-Tauzin-Sensenbrenner), S. 563 (Dayton), S. 877 (Burns-Wyden), S. 1052 (Nelson-FL), and S. 1231 (Schumer). Spam on wireless devices such as cell phones is discussed in CRS Report RL31636, Wireless Privacy: Availability of Location Information for Telemarketing.
Tax Cut Bills in 2003: A Comparison
No Description Available.
Estate Tax Legislation in the 108th Congress
Under provisions of the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA, P.L. 107-16, enacted June 7, 2001), the estate tax is scheduled to be repealed in 2010 but reinstated in 2011. All tax cut provisions of EGTRRA are scheduled to sunset on December 31, 2010. This report tracks actions in the 108th Congress to permanently repeal the estate tax or to retain but alter the tax.
Immigration: Legislative Issues on Nonimmigrant Professional Specialty (H-1B) Workers
No Description Available.
Medicare: Beneficiary Cost-Sharing Under Proposed Prescription Drug Benefits
This report examines these proposals as well as the “Medicare Rx Drug Benefit and Discount Act of 2003,” which was introduced by Representative Charles Rangel, the ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee. Specifically, this report provides background on how the cost-sharing and premium provisions under each bill would affect the amount that a beneficiary pays annually for prescription drugs.
Public Printing Reform: Issues and Actions
No Description Available.