The National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP): Issues in Brief

The National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP): Issues in Brief. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Peter Folger. December 3, 2018

Portions of all 50 states and the District of Columbia are vulnerable to earthquake hazards, although risks vary greatly across the country and within individual states. Alaska is the most earthquake-prone state, experiencing a magnitude 7 earthquake almost every year and a magnitude 8 earthquake every 13 years, on average, since 1900. On December 1, 2018, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck north of Anchorage at 8:29 AM local time, causing extensive damage. Under the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP), four federal agencies have responsibility for long-term earthquake risk reduction: the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). These agencies assess U.S. earthquake hazards, deliver notifications of seismic events, develop measures to reduce earthquake hazards, and conduct research to help reduce overall U.S. vulnerability to earthquakes. Congressional oversight of the NEHRP program encompasses how well the four agencies coordinate their activities to address the earthquake hazard. Better coordination was a concern that led to changes to the program in legislation enacted in 2004 (the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program Reauthorization Act of 2004; P.L. 108-360; 42 U.S.C. 7704).

[PDF format, 15 pages].

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Government Contract Bid Protests: Analysis of Legal Processes and Recent Developments

Government Contract Bid Protests: Analysis of Legal Processes and Recent Developments. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. David H. Carpenter, Moshe Schwartz. November 28, 2018

In FY2017, the federal government obligated approximately $500 billion to procure goods and services. Federal procurement statutes and regulations—notably the Competition in Contracting Act of 1984 (CICA) and the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), the government-wide regulation that generally applies to acquisitions by executive branch agencies—establish largely uniform policies and procedures for how federal executive agencies acquire goods and services. The purpose of these standards is to guide the acquisition system “to deliver on a timely basis the best value product or service to the [government], while maintaining the public’s trust and fulfilling public policy objectives,” such as the promotion of competition. In an effort to advance the transparency, fairness, and integrity of the procurement system, federal law provides mechanisms for contractors to “protest” (i.e., object to) contract awards and solicitations for failing to comply with federal law.

[PDF format, 17 pages].

Introduction to the Legislative Process in the U.S. Congress

Introduction to the Legislative Process in the U.S. Congress. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Valerie Heitshusen. November 15, 2018

This report introduces the main steps through which a bill (or other item of business) may travel in the legislative process—from introduction to committee and floor consideration to possible presidential consideration. However, the process by which a bill can become law is rarely predictable and can vary significantly from bill to bill. In fact, for many bills, the process will not follow the sequence of congressional stages that are often understood to make up the legislative process. This report presents a look at each of the common stages through which a bill may move, but complications and variations abound in practice.

[PDF format, 15 pages].

2018 Midterm Voters: Issues and Political Values

2018 Midterm Voters: Issues and Political Values. Pew Research Center, October 4, 2018.

 Supporters of Republican and Democratic candidates in the upcoming congressional election are deeply divided over the government’s role in ensuring health care, the fairness of the nation’s economic system and views of racial equality in the United States. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

 [PDF format, 21 pages].

Congress’s Power over Courts: Jurisdiction Stripping and the Rule of Klein

Congress’s Power over Courts: Jurisdiction Stripping and the Rule of Klein.  Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Sarah Herman Peck. August 9, 2018

  Article III of the Constitution establishes the judicial branch of the federal government. Notably, it empowers federal courts to hear “cases” and “controversies.” The Constitution further creates a federal judiciary with significant independence, providing federal judges with life tenure and prohibiting diminutions of judges’ salaries. But the Framers also granted Congress the power to regulate the federal courts in numerous ways. For instance, Article III authorizes Congress to determine what classes of “cases” and “controversies” inferior courts have jurisdiction to review. Additionally, Article III’s Exceptions Clause grants Congress the power to make “exceptions” and “regulations” to the Supreme Court’s appellate jurisdiction. Congress sometimes exercises this power by “stripping” federal courts of jurisdiction to hear a class of cases. Congress has gone so far as to eliminate a court’s jurisdiction to review a particular case in the midst of litigation. More generally, Congress may influence judicial resolutions by amending the substantive law underlying particular litigation of interest to the legislature.

 [PDF format, 26 pages].

Flood Resilience and Risk Reduction: Federal Assistance and Programs

Flood Resilience and Risk Reduction: Federal Assistance and Programs.  Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Nicole T. Carter et al. July 25, 2018

 Recent flood disasters have raised congressional and public interest in not only reducing flood risks, but also improving flood resilience, which is the ability to adapt to, withstand, and rapidly recover from floods. In the United States, flood-related responsibilities are shared. States and local governments have significant discretion in land use and development decisions, which can be major factors in determining the vulnerability to and consequence of hurricanes, storms, extreme rainfall, and other flood events. Congress has established various federal programs that may be available to assist U.S. state, local, and territorial entities and tribes in reducing flood risks. Among the most significant federal activities to reduce communities’ flood risks and improve flood resilience are assistance with infrastructure projects (e.g., levees, shore protection) and other flood mitigation activities that save lives and reduce property damage; and mitigation incentives for communities that participate in the National Flood Insurance Program.

 [PDF format, 49 pages].

Agricultural Disaster Assistance

Agricultural Disaster Assistance. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Megan Stubbs. July 26, 2018

 The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers several programs to help farmers recover financially from natural disasters, including drought and floods. All the programs have permanent authorization, and only one requires a federal disaster designation (the emergency loan program). Most programs receive mandatory funding amounts that are “such sums as necessary” and are not subject to annual discretionary appropriations. 

 [PDF format, 16 pages].