New Posts

Feb 8, 2016

Top 400 Taxpayers See Tax Rates Rise, But There’s More to the Story

As Americans were gathering party supplies to greet the New Year, the Internal Revenue Service released their annual report of cumulative tax data reported on the 400 tax r...

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Feb 4, 2016

Chlorine Bleach Plants Needlessly Endanger 63 Million Americans

Chlorine bleach plants across the U.S. put millions of Americans in danger of a chlorine gas release, a substance so toxic it has been used as a chemical weapon. Greenpeace’s new repo...

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Jan 25, 2016

U.S. Industrial Facilities Reported Fewer Toxic Releases in 2014

The Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) data for 2014 is now available. The good news: total toxic releases by reporting facilities decreased by nearly six percent from 2013 levels. Howe...

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Jan 22, 2016

Methane Causes Climate Change. Here's How the President Plans to Cut Emissions by 40-45 Percent.

  UPDATE (Jan. 22, 2016): Today, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released its proposed rule to reduce methane emissions...

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Policy Riders: Bringing Transparency to a Shadowy Legislative Process

Schoolhouse Rock was only partly correct: getting a bill through Congress is just one way to turn proposals into law. Another way to write your policy demands into law is to hide them in the funding bills Congress passes every year to keep the government running. These “policy riders” in appropriations bills are temporary, but they establish new policies just like normal laws. Their use effectively shuts the public out of important policy discussions, and they undermine the openness of the legislative process. To remedy this practice, Congress can take some lessons learned from its reforms of the earmarking process.

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Check Sky for Pigs, Senate Passes Food Safety Bill

After a long and frustrating journey, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act cleared the Senate today in a bipartisan 73-25 vote.

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Commentary: Earmark Ban's Potential Impacts Unclear

Earmarks took center stage during the week of Nov. 15 when congressional Republicans pledged to "ban" the controversial appropriations tool in a bid to answer the supposed call of midterm voters to reform Washington. Long used by members of Congress to guide federal spending toward certain projects, earmarks can be seen by the public as a form of corruption. While proponents of the ban argue that eliminating earmarks is good for both transparency and the budget, critics of the ban argue this is not necessarily the case.

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For-Profits Use Nonprofit Structure to Avoid Earmark Ban

In response to intense criticism of congressional earmarks, House Appropriations Chair David Obey (D-WI) announced a ban on all earmarks to for-profit organizations. These companies and their congressional patrons wasted little time in funneling earmarks to nonprofit organizations in order to circumvent the ban. Using nonprofits to circumvent the ban on earmarks raises questions about the practice itself, as well as the policy of ending all earmarks to for-profit corporations.

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Obama Requests Tool for the Wrong Job

President Obama has proposed to Congress "a new, expedited tool to reduce unnecessary or wasteful spending," lining up on the side of so-called fiscal conservatives to enhance the Executive's ability to force Congress to vote on measures that cut federal spending.

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Obama to Ask for 'Enhanced Rescission Authority'

President Barack Obama

Over the weekend, rumors began trickling out of the administration that President Obama will soon send to Congress a proposal to grant the president greater authority to cut spending out of enacted appropriations bills, called enhanced recession authority. In a Congressional Quarterly article (subscription), which ran on Friday, and a Bureau of National Affairs piece (subscription), which appeared yesterday, an unnamed administration source states that the White House will send the proposal to Capitol Hill before Memorial Day.

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Earmarks: Inherently Bad or Just Broken?

You can always tell when the appropriations season is approaching because, somehow, earmarks, the shadowiest part of the appropriations process, always find a way of sneaking back into the political discourse. True to form, as we wait for Congress' budget resolution, today saw both the Democrats and Republicans announcing their own earmark reform plans. The House Democrats, through Congressman David Obey, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, announced that they would be forbidding earmarks to for-profit organizations. At the same time, House Republican Leader John Boehner announced that his caucus was considering an outright ban on earmarks from House Republicans.

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Congress Accepts Very Few of Obama's Proposed Cuts

U.S. Congress

With the release of his detailed budget information in May, President Obama proposed cutting or scaling back 121 programs that would save the government $17 billion in FY 2010 - a very small first step in getting the budget deficit under control. Yesterday, CongressDaily published an article that examined the degree to which Congress accepted Obama's proposed cuts and the results are underwhelming.

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Committee Would Get Rid of Earmark Requests Because There Wasn't Enough Space

Roll Call ($$) reports that the House ethics committee is looking into connections between earmarks and campaign contributions. The investigation will likely come across a roadblock; documentation may have been destroyed on earmark requests before 2007.

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Hope for Intrepid Earmark Hunters Everywhere


Last week I wrote about the short-sighted decision by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-MN) not to require members to disclosure their earmark requests for the 2009 Transportation reauthorization bill. As I noted, this decision is a step backward in the House on earmark transparency and disclosure - as the Appropriations committees have adopted more strict disclosure protocols for all appropriations bills this year. Despite this setback, there is good news to report this week.

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Resources & Research

Living in the Shadow of Danger: Poverty, Race, and Unequal Chemical Facility Hazards

People of color and people living in poverty, especially poor children of color, are significantly more likely...

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A Tale of Two Retirements: One for CEOs and One for the Rest of Us

The 100 largest CEO retirement funds are worth a combined $4.9 billion, equal to the entire retirement account savings of 41 percent of American fam...

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