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Agriculture: Prospective Issues for Congress

Description: A number of issues affecting U.S. agriculture could receive attention during the 109th Congress. Some are related to new initiatives or to unfinished legislation from the 108th Congress; others have been the focus of ongoing congressional oversight. Although the current (2002) farm bill (P.L. 107-171) generally does not expire until 2007, the agriculture committees could begin hearings on a new measure as early as 2005. The farm bill spells out the types and levels of benefits provided to producers and landowners under commodity price support and conservation programs, both of which could receive close scrutiny in the coming year as lawmakers seek ways to control federal spending. Other concerns include agroterrorism, food safety, and animal and plant diseases (e.g., “mad cow” disease); interest in multilateral and bilateral trade negotiations; the rising cost of energy on farms; environmental issues; and a number of agricultural marketing matters.
Date: January 3, 2005
Creator: Becker, Geoffrey S.

Bank and Thrift Deposit Insurance Premiums: The Record from 1934-2004

Description: Since federal deposit insurance first came into being in the mid-1930s, commercial banks and savings associations (thrifts) have paid premiums into government insurance reserves to cover losses due to financial institution failures. Banks and thrifts have come to offer similar services and the government has standardized insurance premiums for the two institutions to reflect their competition. Deposit insurance premiums have been the subject of legislation several times over recent years including measures passed by the House. Most banks and thrifts pay essentially no premiums, but the potential for future assessments continues to drive “reform” legislation. This report provides the rationale and amounts of assessments since federal deposit insurance began and will be updated annually.
Date: January 3, 2005
Creator: Miles, Barbara L. & Jackson, William D.

Child Care Reauthorization: A Side-by-Side Comparison of Child Care Provisions in House and Senate Versions of H.R. 4, S. 880, and Current Law

Description: This report discuses the legislative action to reauthorize child care legislation that expired at the end of FY2002. The Child care reauthorization” is composed of two parts: legislation to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act and legislation to extend mandatory funding appropriated under Section 418 of the Social Security Act.
Date: January 3, 2005
Creator: Gish, Melinda

Clean Air Act Issues in the 109th Congress

Description: This report discusses major decisions on clean air issues facing the courts and the executive branch in 2006. One focus will be EPA's recent proposal to strengthen air quality standards for fine particles. Other issues of continuing interest are EPA's 2005 decisions limiting interstate transport of air pollution and establishing cap-and-trade systems for emissions from coal fired power plants, and the agency's proposed changes to New Source Review.
Date: January 3, 2005
Creator: McCarthy, James E.

The Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA)

Description: On August 5, 2004, the United States, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic signed the Dominican Republic- Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement, or the DR-CAFTA. The DR-CAFTA was negotiated as a regional agreement in which all parties would be subject to the “the same set of obligations and commitments,” but with each country defining its own separate schedules for market access. It is a comprehensive and reciprocal trade agreement, which distinguishes it from the unilateral preferential trade arrangement between the United States and these countries as part of the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI), as amended. It liberalizes trade in goods, services, government procurement, intellectual property, investment, and addresses labor and environment issues.
Date: January 3, 2005
Creator: Hornbeck, J. F.

Estate and Gift Taxes: Economic Issues

Description: The Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA, P.L. 107-16) repeals the estate tax in 2010. During the phase-out period, the new law increases the exempt amount to $3.5 million by 2009 ($1.5 million in 2005), lowers the top rate to 45% by 2007 (the top rate in 2005 is 47%), and repeals the federal credit for state death taxes in 2005. The federal gift tax remains though the rate is reduced to the top personal income tax rate (35% in 2005). After repeal of the estate tax, carryover basis replaces step-up in basis for assets transferred at death. The legislation includes an exemption from carryover basis for capital gains of $1.3 million (and an additional $3 million for a surviving spouse). However, the estate tax provision in EGTRRA automatically sunsets December 31, 2010.
Date: January 3, 2005
Creator: Gravelle, Jane G. & Maguire, Steven

Flag Protection: A Brief History and Summary of Recent Supreme Court Decisions and Proposed Constitutional Amendment

Description: This report gives a brief history of the flag protection issue, from the enactment of the Flag Protection Act in 1968 through current consideration of a constitutional amendment. A second part briefly summarizes the two decisions of the United States Supreme Court -- Texas v. Johnson and United States v. Eichman -- that struck down the state and federal flag protection statutes as applied in the context punishing expressive conduct.
Date: January 3, 2005
Creator: Luckey, John

A Free Trade Area of the Americas: Major Policy Issues and Status of Negotiations

Description: In 1994, 34 Western Hemisphere nations met at the first Summit of the Americas, envisioning a plan for completing a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) by January 1, 2005. Nine years later, the third draft text of the agreement was presented at the November 2003 Miami trade ministerial. The Ministerial Declaration, negotiated largely by the two co-chairs, Brazil and the United States, took the FTAA in a new direction, away from the comprehensive, single undertaking principle, toward a two-tier framework comprising a set of “common rights and obligations” for all countries, augmented by voluntary plurilateral arrangements with country benefits related to commitments. A follow-up meeting in early 2004 in Puebla, Mexico was unable to clarify this concept, highlighting the deep differences that remained between the United States and Brazil. FTAA talks subsequently stalled and the original January 1, 2005 deadline was missed. In the meantime, both Brazil and the United States are pursuing subregional trade pacts that may further complicate the negotiation process. Talks between Brazil and the United States may resume in early 2005, but it is still unclear if significant progress can be made on the FTAA this year.
Date: January 3, 2005
Creator: Hornbeck, J. F.

Grants Work in a Congressional Office

Description: Report discussing grants requests for federal funds made to members of Congress by their constituents. It provides a general overview, information provided to constituents about grant funding, letters of support for grant seekers, federal assistance opportunities, proposal writing, following up on requests, announcements of grant awards, foundations and corporate grants, and additional grant-related resources.
Date: January 3, 2005
Creator: Gerli, Merete F.