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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E-Gov Spotlight: Informing the Public about Air Quality

During the week of Jan. 20, the air quality in Utah's Salt Lake City region and parts of California hit red-alert status – meaning that the air was unhealthy for everyone and was especially harmful to sensitive groups like children, the elderly, and those with chronic respiratory conditions like asthma. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) forecasts and posts air quality levels in an easy, color-coded format on a website called AIRNow.

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State of the Union: What the President Should Say about Inequality and Fiscal Policy

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a "bully pulpit" as "a public office or position of authority that provides its occupant with an outstanding opportunity to speak out on any issue." President Theodore Roosevelt was the first to call the White House a bully pulpit, and he and other heads of the executive branch have used it as a platform to raise the profile of various issues and push forward an agenda for change. The most regular, high-profile instance of highlighting priority issues is the annual "State of the Union" address (President Franklin Delano Roosevelt first called it that in 1934), where the president addresses a joint session of Congress huddled together in the House chamber.

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Open Government Prospects in 2014

As we look ahead through the new year, a number of major open government issues will almost certainly become the center of policy debates and offer opportunities for improving transparency. This article presents the top open government issues we believe are most likely to garner the most time and attention of Washington policymakers. And, since every year offers surprises, we also offer a quick list of the most likely "wild card" issues that may emerge in 2014.

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Expiring Help for the Unemployed or Expiring Tax Breaks: What Will Congress Extend?

December was a tough month for those down on their luck. More than a million long-term unemployed workers, having already been out of work for at least six months, saw their unemployment insurance abruptly cut off. Just weeks before this happened, federal food assistance for children, seniors, and people with disabilities was reduced. Job growth was anemic, and the unemployment rate fell because many people simply stopped looking for work (and so moved from "unemployed" to "out of the labor market").

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Rules to Watch (and Wait) for in 2014

Just before Thanksgiving, the White House quietly released the 2013 Unified Agenda, which contains information on a broad range of upcoming regulatory actions, as well as agencies’ regulatory plans detailing the most important significant regulatory and deregulatory actions they expect to propose or finalize during the coming year. On Jan. 7, agencies published in the Federal Register their regulatory flexibility agendas describing a subset of regulatory actions under development that may have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. While some important health and safety rules are slated to move forward, the Unified Agenda indicates that many long-awaited actions will not advance as proposed or final rules this year.

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Austerity Politics: Automatic Spending Cuts, a Government Shutdown, Job Loss, and Record Corporate Profits

2013 opened with the economy poised on the edge of "the fiscal cliff," and on that cliff was a sign reading, "Manufactured in Washington D.C." How did we start the year on a ledge, land in a shutdown in October, and scramble to a mini-deal in December? Since it all goes back to the Budget Control Act passed in August of 2011, a short recap may be in order.

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