Archive for the ‘Federal Legislation’ Category

Government Complexity and the New Federal Healthcare Mandate

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

As a follow up to my last post (“U.S. government operations can be incredibly complex”), I wanted to provide a chart of the new U.S. health care system.  Healthcare represents 17% of the U.S. economy.  Unfortunately, Obamacare was passed with no one having actually read the bill.

Obamacare is modeled on Romneycare, the system in place in Massachusetts since 2006.  In the several years since Romneycare has gone into effect, healthcare costs have soared far beyond the national average.  Massachusetts now has the highest health insurance costs, the highest medical costs, the fastest rising costs and the longest waits for doctors in the nation.

Complexity itself is a major problem in organizational function.  The chart below does not bode well for the nation as a whole.  A larger version of the chart can be accessed here.

Four Excellent Private Resources for Federal Government Information

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

As a follow up to my recent post about federal government resources, I wanted to discuss four useful private resources for accessing federal government information.

GovTrack.us allows one to follow the status of federal legislation using RSS feeds or customized trackers.  One also can research members of Congress, bills and resolutions, roll call votes, the Congressional Record and Congressional committees.

OpenCongress summarizes bills in everyday language and monitors related news.

The libraries of the University of North Carolina at Chapel HIll provide a long list of links to federal websites.  These includes links to the executive, legislative and judicial branches and their respective department, administrations, agencies, commissions, courts, etc.; links to federal laws and regulations; and links to bureaus and agencies providing statistics.

Finally, Project Vote Smart offers biographical information on candidates running for office, as well as their voting records, issue positions, interest group ratings, public statements and campaign finances.

Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

Congress passed, and President Bush signed on October 3, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, H.R. 1424 (the “Act”).  The purposes of the Act are twofold:  It authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury (the “Secretary”) to restore stability and liquidity to the U.S. financial system and to do so in a manner that protects home values, college funds, retirement accounts and life savings; preserves home ownership and promotes jobs and economic growth; maximizes overall returns to American taxpayers; and provides public accountability to the exercise of that authority.

That’s a tall order.  The key provision involves a Troubled Asset Relief Program (“TARP”).  Under this program, the Secretary, through an office of Financial Security that is to be established, may purchase up to $700 billion in financial institution assets.  The assets must be residential or commercial mortgages or securities, obligations or other instruments relating to such mortgages originated on or before March 14, 2008 or other financial instruments that the Treasury determines necessary.  They may be purchased from all U.S. institutions of all sizes, including the licensed U.S. branches and agencies of foreign banks.  The Treasury can manage and sell the assets or enter into financial transactions regarding any purchased asset.

Some other provisions that sought to increase financial stability include an increase in FDIC deposit insurance from $100,000 per account to $250,000 per account until December 31, 2009 and an authorization for the SEC to suspend mark-to-market accounting.

The Act also included a number of unrelated provisions relating to tax relief, tax cut extensions, an R&D tax credit,  tax incentives, mental health and creating environmentally-friendly jobs, among others.

The House Majority Leader, Steny Hoyer, offers a section-by-section summary of the legislation here.

Federal Government Resources

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

It can be very helpful at times to anticipate what the law will be, not what it is.  A change in the laws, rules or regulations affecting your industry can have a dramatic effect, for example, on how your company operates or the success of a transaction or even of your entire business.

Being a member of industry organizations will help keep your company abreast of potential changes in the law.  But given what’s happened in Washington the past week with a proposed bailout or other solution to address the credit crunch in the U.S., tracking legislation directly via the source can be more timely.

To that end, there are some excellent federal resources available online.  The Library of Congress offers Thomas, which provides easy access to federal legislative and other information.  I primarily have used Thomas to search for specific text in Bills under discussion and Committee Reports, but it includes links to access current activity in Congress, Public Laws since 1973, House and Senate roll call votes since 1989, Presidential nominations, and treaties entered into by the U.S. since 1990, among many other options.  Thomas also has links to other House, Senate, Executive and Judicial Branch resources.

Another useful federal resource is USA.gov, the official U.S. gateway to all government information.  There’s so much information that it can be overwhelming, but the U.S. government has done a good job of providing it on the Internet.  In my opinion, their websites are better organized and easier to use than those of many private companies.