Fintech: Overview of Innovative Financial Technology and Selected Policy Issues. Congressional Research Service. David W. Perkins. April 28, 2020
Advances in technology allow for innovation in the ways businesses and individuals perform financial activities. The development of financial technology—commonly referred to as fintech—is the subject of great interest for the public and policymakers. Fintech innovations could potentially improve the efficiency of the financial system and financial outcomes for businesses and consumers. However, the new technology could pose certain risks, potentially leading to unanticipated financial losses or other harmful outcomes. Policymakers designed many of the financial laws and regulations intended to foster innovation and mitigate risks before the most recent technological changes. This raises questions concerning whether the existing legal and regulatory frameworks, when applied to fintech, effectively protect against harm without unduly hindering beneficial technologies’ development.
[PDF format, 44 pages].
Data Flows, Online Privacy, and Trade Policy. Congressional Research Service. Rachel F. Fefer. Updated March 26, 2020
“Cross-border data flows” refers to the movement or transfer of information between computer servers across national borders. Such data flows enable people to transmit information for online communication, track global supply chains, share research, provide cross-border services, and support technological innovation.
Ensuring open cross-border data flows has been an objective of Congress in recent trade agreements and in broader U.S. international trade policy. The free flow of personal data, however, has raised security and privacy concerns. U.S. trade policy has traditionally sought to balance the need for cross-border data flows, which often include personal data, with online privacy and security. Some stakeholders, including some Members of Congress, believe that U.S. policy should better protect personal data privacy and security, and have introduced legislation to set a national policy. Other policymakers and analysts are concerned about increasing foreign barriers to U.S. digital trade, including data flows.
[PDF format, 28 pages].
The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS): An Overview. Congressional Research Service. Kelsi Bracmort. Updated April 14, 2020
The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requires U.S. transportation fuel to contain a minimum volume of renewable fuel. The RFS—established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-58; EPAct05) and expanded in 2007 by the Energy Independence and Security Act (P.L. 110-140; EISA)—began with 4 billion gallons of renewable fuel in 2006 and is scheduled to ascend to 36 billion gallons in 2022. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has statutory authority to determine the volume amounts fter 2022.
The total renewable fuel statutory target consists of both conventional biofuel and advanced biofuel. Since 2014, the total renewable fuel statutory target has not been met, with the advanced biofuel portion falling below the statutory target by a relatively large margin since 2015. Going forward, it appears unlikely that the United States will meet the total renewable fuel target as outlined in statute.
[PDF format, 17 pages].
Campaign and Election Security Policy: Overview and Recent Developments for Congress. Congressional Research Service. R. Sam Garrett, Sarah J. Eckman, Karen L. Shanton. January 2, 2020
In the United States, state, territorial, and local governments are responsible for most aspects of selecting and securing election systems and equipment. Foreign interference during the 2016 election cycle—and widely reported to be an ongoing threat—has renewed congressional attention to campaign and election security and raised new questions about the nature and extent of the federal government’s role in this policy area.
This report provides congressional readers with a resource for understanding campaign and election security policy. This includes discussion of the federal government’s roles; state or territorial responsibilities for election administration and election security; an overview of potentially relevant federal statutes and agencies; and highlights of recent congressional policy debates. The report summarizes related legislation that has advanced beyond introduction during the 116th Congress. It also poses questions for consideration as the House and Senate examine whether or how to pursue legislation, oversight, or appropriations.
[PDF format, 42 pages].
Commercial privacy protection and competition law have long been jointly regulated by a single authority – the FTC – in the US. Though managed separately, both types of law have at their heart a desire to protect consumers. Antitrust law tries to ensure that consumers’ ability to choose between products is not restricted by anti-competitive acts. In the US, commercial privacy is protected through consumer protection law, which tries to ensure that consumers’ ability to choose between products is not restricted by misleading information. [Note: contains copyrighted material].
[PDF format, 28 pages].
The POWER Initiative: Energy Transition as Economic Development. Congressional Research Service. Michael H. Cecire. November 20, 2019
With the decline of the U.S. coal industry, managing the economic effects of energy transition has become a priority for the federal government. The Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative, and the broader POWER Plus Plan of which it was a part, represent the U.S. government’s efforts to ease the economic effects of energy transition in coal industry-dependent communities in the United States, and especially in Appalachia. Launched in 2015 by the Obama Administration as a multi-agency effort utilizing various existing programs, the POWER Plus plan received partial backing through appropriations for Fiscal Year 2016 (FY2016) to the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Economic Development Administration, and for abandoned mine land reclamation.
Unemployment Insurance: Programs and Benefits. Congressional Research Service. Julie M. Whittaker, Katelin P. Isaacs. October 18, 2019
Certain benefits may be available to unemployed workers to provide them with income support during a spell of unemployment. The cornerstone of this income support is the joint federal-state Unemployment Compensation (UC) program, which may provide income support through the payment of UC benefits for up to a maximum of 26 weeks in most states. Other programs that may provide workers with income support are more specialized. They may target special groups of workers, be automatically triggered by certain economic conditions, be temporarily created by Congress with a set expiration date, or target typically ineligible workers through a disaster declaration.
[PDF format, 19 pages].
The Outdoor Recreation Economy. Congressional Research Service. Anne A. Riddle. October 22, 2019
Congress plays an overarching role in shaping outdoor recreation throughout the nation through legislation and oversight. As Congress continues to debate outdoor recreation issues—including provision of federal resources, planning efforts, and funding—data on the size, distribution, and relative importance of the outdoor recreation economy may inform these debates. Both historical and recent legislative and executive efforts centered on outdoor recreation have identified the economic importance of outdoor recreation. In 2016, Congress passed the Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act (P.L. 114-249), which directed the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) in the Department of Commerce to create an account that would measure the outdoor recreation economy. BEA released the first official Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account (ORSA) statistics in September 2018 and updated them in September 2019.
[PDF format, 20 pages].
Issues in Autonomous Vehicle Testing and Deployment. Congressional Research Service. Bill Canis. November 27, 2019
Autonomous vehicles have the potential to bring major improvements in highway safety. Motor vehicle crashes caused an estimated 37,133 fatalities in 2017; a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has shown that 94% of crashes are due to human errors. For this reason, federal oversight of the testing and deployment of autonomous vehicles has been of considerable interest to Congress. In the 115th Congress, autonomous vehicle legislation passed the House as H.R. 3388, the SELF DRIVE Act, and a separate bill, S. 1885, the AV START Act, was reported from a Senate committee. Neither bill was enacted. In the 116th Congress, interest in autonomous vehicles remains strong, but similar comprehensive legislative proposals have not been introduced. The America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act, S. 2302, which has been reported by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, would encourage research and development of infrastructure that could accommodate new technologies such as autonomous vehicles.
[PDF format, 25 pages].
Tax Issues Relating to Charitable Contributions and Organizations. Congressional Research Service. Jane G. Gravelle, Donald J. Marples, Molly F. Sherlock. September 19, 2019
The federal government supports the charitable sector by providing charitable organizations and donors with favorable tax treatment. Individuals itemizing deductions may claim a tax deduction for charitable contributions. Estates can make charitable bequests. Corporations can deduct charitable contributions before computing income taxes. Further, earnings on funds held by charitable organizations and used for a related charitable purpose are exempt from tax. In FY2019, projected tax subsidies for charities, not including the value of the tax exemption on earnings of charities or the estate tax deduction, totaled $51.8 billion. If investment income of nonprofits were taxed at the 35% corporate tax rate in 2015, revenue collected is estimated at $26.7 billion (this amount excludes religious organizations). The cost of deducting bequests on estates is estimated at $4 billion to $5 billion.
[PDF format, 52 pages].