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CRS — Coordinated Party Expenditures in Federal Elections: An Overview (December 8, 2014)

December 17, 2014 Comments off

Coordinated Party Expenditures in Federal Elections: An Overview (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

A provision of federal campaign finance law, codified at 52 U.S.C. §30116(d) (formerly 2 U.S.C. §441a(d)), allows political party committees to make expenditures on behalf of their general election candidates for federal office and specifies limits on such spending. These “coordinated party expenditures” are important not only because they provide financial support to campaigns, but also because parties and campaigns may explicitly discuss how the money is spent. Although they have long been the major source of direct party financial support for campaigns, coordinated expenditures have recently been overshadowed by independent expenditures.

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CRS — Legislation to Facilitate Cybersecurity Information Sharing: Economic Analysis (December 11, 2014)

December 17, 2014 Comments off

Legislation to Facilitate Cybersecurity Information Sharing: Economic Analysis (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Data breaches, such as those at Target, Home Depot, Neiman Marcus, and JPMorgan Chase, affecting financial records of tens of millions of households seem to occur regularly. Companies typically respond by trying to increase their cybersecurity by hiring consultants and purchasing new hardware and software. Policy analysts have suggested that sharing information about these breaches could be an effective and inexpensive part of improving cybersecurity. Firms share information directly on an ad hoc basis and through private-sector, nonprofit organizations such as Information Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISACs) that can analyze and disseminate information.

Firms sometimes do not share information because of perceived legal risks, such as violating privacy or antitrust laws, and economic incentives, such as giving useful information to their competitors. A firm that has been attacked might prefer to keep such information private out of a worry that its sales or stock price will fall. Further, there are no existing mechanisms to reward firms for sharing information. Their competitors can take advantage of the information, but not contribute in turn. This lack of reciprocity, called “free riding” by economists, may discourage firms from sharing. In addition, the information shared may not be applicable to those receiving it, or it might be difficult to apply.

Because firms are reluctant to share information, other firms suffer from vulnerabilities that could be corrected. Further, by not sharing information about effective cybersecurity products and techniques, the size and quality of the market for cybersecurity products suffer.

CRS — Wastewater Treatment: Overview and Background (October 30, 2014)

December 17, 2014 Comments off

Wastewater Treatment: Overview and Background (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Agricultural Law Center)

The Clean Water Act prescribes performance levels to be attained by municipal sewage treatment plants in order to prevent the discharge of harmful wastes into surface waters. The act also provides financial assistance so that communities can construct treatment facilities to comply with the law. The availability of funding for this purpose continues to be a major concern of states and local governments.

This report provides background on municipal wastewater treatment issues, federal treatment requirements and funding, and recent legislative activity. Meeting the nation’s wastewater infrastructure needs efficiently and effectively is likely to remain an issue of considerable interest to policymakers.

Roundup of Congressional Research Service Reports on Federal Government Law/Procedure

December 17, 2014 Comments off

Roundup of Congressional Research Service Reports on Federal Government Law/Procedure (PDFs)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Constitutional Points of Order in the Senate, November 12, 2014

Committee Types and Roles, November 10, 2014

Guide to Individuals Seated on the House Dais, November 10, 2014

CRS — The Committee Markup Process in the House of Representatives (November 28, 2014)

December 17, 2014 Comments off

The Committee Markup Process in the House of Representatives (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

At the beginning of a markup, committee members often make opening statements, usually not exceeding five minutes apiece. The first reading of the text of the bill to be marked up can be waived, either by unanimous consent or by adopting a nondebatable motion. The bill then is read for amendment, one section at a time, with committee members offering their amendments to each section after it is read but before the next section is read. By unanimous consent only, the committee may agree to dispense with the reading of each section, or to consider a bill for amendment by titles or chapters instead of by sections. Also by unanimous consent, the committee may consider the entire bill as having been read and open to amendment at any point.

CRS — Speaking on the House Floor: Gaining Time and Parliamentary Phraseology (November 27, 2014)

December 17, 2014 Comments off

Speaking on the House Floor: Gaining Time and Parliamentary Phraseology (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

House rules and precedents structure Members’ opportunities to speak on the floor about pending legislation. Under some circumstances, Members arrange to speak on legislation by communicating with the leaders of the committee that reported the bill. Sometimes the arrangements can be made on the floor during the debate, and at other times they are made prior to floor consideration. The committee leaders from both sides of the aisle manage the consideration of a bill on the floor, under what is known as controlled time, by allocating the debate time among several Members.

In certain other procedural circumstances, most often when the House is amending legislation under an “open” special rule, legislators instead seek recognition to speak, usually for up to five minutes, directly from the presiding officer. A Member who has been recognized can yield to another during debate but continues to hold the floor; the time used by the Member yielded to is taken from the time allocated to the Member holding the floor.

Measuring Illegal and Legal Corruption in American States: Some Results from the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics Corruption in America Survey

December 16, 2014 Comments off

Measuring Illegal and Legal Corruption in American States: Some Results from the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics Corruption in America Survey
Source: Harvard University (Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics)

Although corruption is not endemic in America as it is in several other countries, it does exist. According to the Justice Department, in the last two decades more than 20,000 public officials and private individuals were convicted for crimes related to corruption and more than 5,000 are awaiting trial, the overwhelming majority of cases having originated in state and local governments.1 Understanding the causes and the consequences of corruption and designing the policies in the fight against it starts with measuring corruption itself. How do we measure corruption, an activity that requires secrecy? The most commonly used measure of corruption in American states comes from the Justice Department’s “Report to Congress on the Activities and Operations of the Public Integrity Section.” These data cover a broad range of crimes from election fraud to wire fraud. The measure, based on the Justice Department data, suffers from several significant problems, however.

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