Budgets Are about Choices

Earlier this month, the city council of Topeka, KS, voted to decriminalize domestic violence in what has become a national-headline-grabbing budget dispute between the city and its county seat, Shawnee. Some are arguing that it's a sad spectacle when a couple of local governments within our nation play jurisdictional games with such a serious issue, but it's important to point out that the standoff didn't have to occur.

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Appropriations Policy Riders: They’re Ba-ack!

Earlier this year, when Congress was finishing the long-overdue budget for fiscal year 2011, the House tried to use the must-pass spending bill to force adoption of dozens of "policy riders." These provisions would have done everything from preventing the regulation of greenhouse gases to prohibiting certain loans to mohair farmers. Fortunately, almost all of them were stripped out of the final bill. However, now, as Congress moves toward finishing the FY 2012 budget, Republicans in the House and Senate are once again attempting to bend the budget process to enact non-budget policies that can't pass on their own merits. Riders have no place in congressional spending bills.

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OIRA Issues Implementation Memo on Retrospective Review Process

A memorandum issued Oct. 26 by the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), Cass Sunstein, instructs federal agencies to submit reports on the implementation of their retrospective review plans for periodically evaluating existing rules. The plans were required by President Obama's Jan. 18 Executive Order 13563, "Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review" (E.O. 13563), and thus far in the process, agencies have largely managed to keep their focus on their main mandate: protecting the public.

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Mine Workers Accuse Massey Energy of "Industrial Homicide"

The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) released a report Oct. 25 accusing Massey Energy, the owner of the Upper Big Branch (UBB) mine in West Virginia, of "industrial homicide" for its role in the April 5, 2010, explosion that killed 29 coal miners.

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Public Meetings of Super Committee Few and Far Between

It's been 48 days since the Super Committee's last public meeting on Sept. 8 (and over a month passed between the Super Committee's second and third public hearings). For those of us who have been watching the Super Committee since day one, eagerly awaiting information on the specifics of its proposal for cutting $1.5 trillion dollars from the federal deficit, 48 days of radio silence not only has us on edge, it also has us questioning the Super Committee's commitment to transparency and the democratic process.

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FDA Investigation Reveals Likely Causes of Listeria Outbreak

In the Oct. 12 edition of The Watcher, we highlighted the multi-state listeriosis outbreak as an example of the high stakes of food safety regulation. Linked to cantaloupes from Colorado-based Jensen Farms, the deadliest foodborne disease outbreak in a decade has now killed 25 people. This week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a report from an investigation conducted in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that reveals some of the factors potentially contributing to the listeria contamination.

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House Coal Ash Bill Is a Threat to Public Health

The House passed by a vote of 267-144 the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act (H.R. 2273), which would require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to defer to states with respect to the regulation of coal combustion residuals, or coal ash, and limit federal oversight. The problem with leaving the regulation of coal ash to the states is that most do not have standards in place to protect against the dangers of uncontrolled coal ash, according to an August report from Earthjustice and the Appalachian Mountain Advocates.

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IRS Enforcement Likely to Take Hit in 2012 Approps

The tax mans taken all my dough / and left me in my stately home / lazing on a sunny afternoon.

Reporting last week in a piece titled, "Bipartisanship lives! And it will likely cost taxpayers money," Suzy Khimm of the Washington Post notes that although Democrats and Republicans are battling over the fiscal year (FY) 2012 budget, "there's one big thing that both parties already agree on: cutting funding for the [Internal Revenue Service (IRS)]." This shortsighted move is likely to end up costing the government money (at a time when every penny is needed) because roughly half of the cuts are coming out of the agency's enforcement budget.

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Senate Currency Bill Saddled with Unrelated Anti-Regulatory Amendments

Some members of the Senate used floor consideration of the Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act of 2011, S. 1619, to push anti-regulatory measures through last-minute amendments. The bill was introduced to curb Chinese currency manipulation, yet it could now be tagged by amendments aimed at delaying or preventing environmental safeguards and obstructing the regulatory process.

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