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CRS — Keystone XL Pipeline: Overview and Recent Developments (April 1, 2015)

April 21, 2015 Comments off

Keystone XL Pipeline: Overview and Recent Developments (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL Pipeline would transport oil sands crude from Canada and shale oil produced in North Dakota and Montana to a market hub in Nebraska for further delivery to Gulf Coast refineries. The pipeline would consist of 875 miles of 36-inch pipe with the capacity to transport 830,000 barrels per day. Because it would cross the Canadian-U.S. border, Keystone XL requires a Presidential Permit from the State Department based on a determination that the pipeline would “serve the national interest.” To make its national interest determination (NID), the department considers potential effects on energy security; environmental and cultural resources; the economy; foreign policy, and other factors. Effects on environmental and cultural resources are determined by preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The NID process also provides for public comment and requires the State Department to consult with specific federal agencies.

CRS — Social Media in the House of Representatives: Frequently Asked Questions (April 2, 2015)

April 16, 2015 Comments off

Social Media in the House of Representatives: Frequently Asked Questions (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Recently, the number of Member offices adopting social media as an official communications tool has increased. With the increased use of social media accounts for official representational duties, the House has adopted policies and regulations regarding the creation, content, and use of third-party social media services. This report answers several questions about the regulation of social media accounts in the House of Representatives.

• How does the House define social media?
• How are social media accounts regulated in the House?
• What makes a social media account an official resource?
• Can Members use official funds for social media?
• Is some content prohibited on official social media accounts?
• Do the mass communications regulations apply to social media?

Single European Sky

April 16, 2015 Comments off

Single European Sky
Source: European Parliamentary Research Service

uilding on the achievements of the internal market and the need to cope with growth in air transport and congestion, the European Commission launched the Single European Sky (SES) initiative in 1999. Its core objective is to reform the architecture of air traffic control in the EU in order to meet future capacity and safety needs, through improving the overall performance of air traffic management and air navigation services.

Two SES packages have been adopted: SES I, which set the principal legal framework, and SES II, which aimed at tackling substantial air traffic growth, increasing safety, reducing costs and delays and the impact of air traffic on the environment. Nonetheless, European airspace remains heavily fragmented and SES is experiencing significant delays, in particular in terms of achievement of its performance goals and deployment of its basic elements such as ‘functional airspace blocks’.

In order to speed up its implementation, the Commission undertook a review of the SES legal framework, and in June 2013 presented an SES2+ package. While airline associations welcomed the initiative, trade unions have been much more critical on certain provisions. The European Parliament, which has underlined the need to push ahead with SES implementation, adopted its first reading position on the SES2+ package in March 2014. In December 2014, the outcome of the Transport Council somewhat reduced the ambitions of the Commission’s initial objectives. However, progress on SES2+ remains blocked over the disputed question of its application to Gibraltar airport. The adoption of the package still requires the approval of both the Council and the European Parliament.

EU — Giving Citizens a Say: Commission Report on European Citizens’ Initiatives

April 10, 2015 Comments off

Giving Citizens a Say: Commission Report on European Citizens’ Initiatives
Source: European Commission

In the past three years, an estimated six million Europeans have supported European Citizens’ Initiatives (ECI) and used their voice to bring important causes directly to the attention of European policy makers. Today the European Commission publishes a Report looking at the application of this new tool since its entry into force on 1 April 2012.

The fact that two Citizens’ Initiatives have gone through the full process shows that the Regulation establishing the ECI has been fully implemented. However, the report acknowledges that there is still room to improve the process and identifies a number of possible issues for further discussion with stakeholders and institutions.

Assessing the Political Impact of Immigration as the United Kingdom Heads to the Polls

April 9, 2015 Comments off

Assessing the Political Impact of Immigration as the United Kingdom Heads to the Polls
Source: Migration Policy Institute

Immigration has featured early in the opening week of the United Kingdom’s general election campaign, which officially began on March 30, 2015. Prime Minister David Cameron was pressed on the issue in a televised interview and the Labour Party was criticized for producing campaign mugs emblazoned with pledges to control immigration.

As voters head to the polls on May 7, it remains to be seen how central the often-roiled debate over migration will be in what is a deeply unsettled election year. Immigration is a key political issue, brought about through major changes in immigration patterns over the past two decades, significant policy changes that have failed to reassure the public, and the rise as a political force of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)—which has pressed for a temporary ban on new immigration. Paradoxically, immigration may have less visibility during the general election, given the issue is now political poison for the major parties.

Above all, this election cycle will determine the next stage in a long-running political fight: the question of the United Kingdom’s continued membership in the European Union and a possible voter referendum on the matter. Immigration and Europe have now become entangled in voters’ minds and it is likely that the issue of free movement within the European Union could be the determining factor for many voters in any such referendum.

This article briefly reviews the politics of immigration in the United Kingdom since 2010 before examining whether immigration will impact the election and exploring how immigration politics will develop in the future, particularly in regard to the United Kingdom’s place in Europe.

Ulysses goes to Washington: Political myopia and policy commitment devices

April 8, 2015 Comments off

Ulysses goes to Washington: Political myopia and policy commitment devices
Source: Brookings Institution

Political myopia—often in the form of the lightening quick pace of today’s electoral politics—can threaten the effectiveness of public policy, writes Richard Reeves, as such immediacy can replace long-term time horizons necessary to institute real governmental change.

Reeves asserts that one solution to political myopia lies in “the policy commitment device,” a relationship dynamic that commits policymakers to a longer-term perspective. Reeves utilizes the mythology of Ulysses, who ordered his sailors to tie him to the mast, so that he could hear the song of Sirens without steering his ship to the rocks. For a more modern-day understanding, look to how elected politicians have opted to hand the conduct of monetary policy to an independent central bank. And central banks are just one example of these policy commitment devices, intended to insulate certain areas of policy from immediate political pressure.

Reeves argues that a policy commitment device is a deeply political exercise, as politicians must willingly concede some power in the service of a long-term goal, without undermining the basic elements of representative democracy. There is also a danger of over-commitment: of binding policy too tightly to a particular goal or approach, at the cost of lost flexibility and accountability. But there is certainly scope for assessing the value of some of these new policy commitment devices. Finally, five candidates for such policy commitment devices to avoid political myopia are suggested and discussed in the paper:

  1. A national infrastructure bank
  2. an office of opportunity
  3. a federal minimum wage board
  4. a federal nuclear waste corporation;
  5. and a carbon tax.

A Deep Dive Into Party Affiliation; Sharp Differences by Race, Gender, Generation, Education

April 7, 2015 Comments off

A Deep Dive Into Party Affiliation; Sharp Differences by Race, Gender, Generation, Education
Source: Pew Research Center

Democrats hold advantages in party identification among blacks, Asians, Hispanics, well-educated adults and Millennials. Republicans have leads among whites – particularly white men, those with less education and evangelical Protestants – as well as members of the Silent Generation.

A new analysis of long-term trends in party affiliation among the public provides a detailed portrait of where the parties stand among various groups in the population.

The share of independents in the public, which long ago surpassed the percentages of either Democrats or Republicans, continues to increase. Based on 2014 data, 39% identify as independents, 32% as Democrats and 23% as Republicans. This is the highest percentage of independents in more than 75 years of public opinion polling.

When the partisan leanings of independents are taken into account, 48% either identify as Democrats or lean Democratic; 39% identify as Republicans or lean Republican. The gap in leaned party affiliation has held fairly steady since 2009, when Democrats held a 13-point advantage (50% to 37%).

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