Attempts to Use Congressional Review Act for Proposed Rules Threaten All Public Safeguards

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has recently taken an unprecedented action by introducing a joint resolution to disapprove of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposed greenhouse gas emissions limits for new power plants. Through the resolution, McConnell is attempting to utilize the accelerated legislative procedures provided in the Congressional Review Act, even though the law was designed only for reviewing final agency rules.

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Making the Grade: Access to Information Scorecard 2014

A building block of American democracy is the idea that as citizens, we have a right to information about how our government works and what it does in our name. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requires federal agencies to promptly respond to public requests for information unless disclosure of the requested information would harm a protected interest. Unfortunately, since its passage in 1966 and reform in 1974, federal agencies have failed to implement the law consistently, which can make it challenging for citizens to gain access to public information as the law guarantees.

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Report Card Finds Federal Agencies Still Struggling to Implement the Freedom of Information Act -- 48 Years After Passage

On March 10, the Center for Effective Government released a report card grading federal agencies on their implementation of the Freedom of Information Act. The overall results were disappointing: no agency earned a top overall grade of an A, and half received failing grades. The good news is that in each of the three performance areas we investigated, at least one agency earned an A.

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Re-Imagining Government: Affordable Banking

For the last 30 years, various political leaders have launched efforts to "Reinvent Government." Done in the name of making government more efficient, these initiatives have most often centered on reducing the size of the government workforce, by handing over to the for-profit sector services that have long been provided by government employees. The goal was to save money, but all too often, unintended consequences have included a troubling lack of accountability and deteriorating public services.

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E-Gov Spotlight: Product Safety Site Helps Protect Children, Families

In August 2008, six-month-old Kennedy Brotherton Jones died when her head got trapped in her bassinet. Her parents later learned that another child had died in the same way in the same model of bassinet a year earlier. That death had been reported to federal product safety authorities, but the danger had not been communicated to the public – including Kennedy’s parents. Today, a government website provides information that can help prevent future tragedies.

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House Republicans Return to Attacking Public Health and Environmental Protections

This week, the House of Representatives will vote on a series of anti-regulatory proposals during a campaign targeting important public health and environmental safeguards. While House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has dubbed the campaign #StopGovtAbuse Week, the proposed legislation is in fact designed to delay or halt the rulemaking process by adding time-consuming and redundant procedural hurdles, by providing regulated industries additional opportunities to delay the process, and by stripping away the public's right to petition agencies when they fail to act.

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Communities Continue to Call for Stronger Protections as Chemical Incidents Rise

As the number of chemical disasters and injuries continues to mount in 2014, evidence shows that the risks that chemical facilities present to the local communities in which they are located are greater than many residents previously understood. The Center for Effective Government has created a set of maps, showing how close many of these facilities are to schools and hospitals. The maps are helping communities press for new oversight, safer chemicals, and stronger enforcement of existing standards to prevent future disasters.

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State Department Report Acknowledges Climate Change Impacts of Keystone XL

On Jan. 31, the U.S. Department of State published its long-awaited Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the Keystone XL pipeline, which acknowledges, for the first time, that the proposed pipeline could contribute to climate change. On Feb. 3, communities and groups across the country organized over 200 local vigils in 44 states and Washington, DC to let President Obama know the risks that the pipeline will bring. The final EIS report does not provide any recommendations on the pipeline but will be used to develop a recommendation from the State Department and in the president's final decision on the pipeline.

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President Obama's Use of His Executive Power: Facts vs. Hyperbole

President Obama has issued 168 executive orders since taking office in January 2009, fewer than any president in office during the past 100 years besides George H. W. Bush. Yet conservative commentators continue to complain that this president has exceeded his executive power. Challenges to the president's executive power are on the rise following his State of the Union address on Jan. 28 when he vowed to take whatever unilateral action he can to ensure our government operates in the best interests of our citizens. "Wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that's what I'm going to do," the president declared.

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Is the Federal Civilian Workforce Really Growing? Some Important Context

Congress's investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), recently released its latest analysis of the executive branch's civilian government workforce, and it shows a modest increase between 2004 to 2012. However, the GAO's analysis does not take into account workforce reductions of around 70,000 in 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). When the 28,000 full-time equivalent reductions from 2011 to 2012 are included, there has been a contraction of the federal civilian workforce of around 100,000 in the last three years.1 The report also leaves out significant context, which might lead readers to draw somewhat different conclusions about how the federal workforce has changed over time.

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