The POWER Initiative: Energy Transition as Economic Development

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. 

Transforming Infrastructure: Frameworks for Bringing the Fourth Industrial Revolution to Infrastructure

Transforming Infrastructure: Frameworks for Bringing the Fourth Industrial Revolution to Infrastructure. World Economic Forum. November 3, 2019.

The technological advances of the Fourth Industrial Revolution have fundamentally altered society in ways both seen and unseen. This digital transformation has changed how people live and work, and everything in between. One area of daily life, however, seems to be largely missing out on this revolution: infrastructure. It remains one of the least digitally transformed sectors of the economy. While individual examples of highly advanced infrastructure systems exist, the sector at large lags behind others in innovation, a fact made all the more apparent by infrastructure’s ubiquity. When the World Economic Forum Global Future Council on Infrastructure gathered for its annual meeting in Dubai in November 2018, it sought to understand why.

As it began to think through solutions, the Council found a situation full of opportunity. Infrastructure is far from being a staid industry devoid of innovation – indeed, new technologies and ideas are flourishing. Integrating these innovations, which could change the way infrastructure is designed, developed and delivered, requires aligning stakeholders, implementing effective strategies and creating fertile enabling environments. This will allow existing innovation into the space and provide opportunities for new ideas.

The Council thus decided to create a guidebook, contained here, that explores major questions about how to bring the Fourth Industrial Revolution to infrastructure. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 32 pages].

Unemployment Insurance: Programs and Benefits

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].

Issues in Autonomous Vehicle Testing and Deployment

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

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].

Registered Apprenticeship: Federal Role and Recent Federal Efforts

Registered Apprenticeship: Federal Role and Recent Federal Efforts. Congressional Research Service. Benjamin Collins. Updated September 25, 2019

Apprenticeship is a workforce development strategy that trains a worker for a specific occupation using a structured combination of paid on-the-job training and related instruction. Increased costs for higher education and possible mismatches between worker skills and employer needs have led to interest in alternative workforce development strategies such as apprenticeship. The primary federal role in supporting apprenticeships is the administration of the registered apprenticeship system. In this system, the federal Department of Labor (DOL) or a DOLrecognized state apprenticeship agency (SAA) is responsible for evaluating apprenticeship programs to determine if they are in compliance with federal regulations related to program design, worker protections, and other criteria. Programs that are in compliance are “registered.” While registration does not trigger any specific federal financial incentives, registered programs may receive preferential consideration in various federal systems and apprentices who complete a registered program receive a nationally-recognized credential.

[PDF format, 18 pages].

The Endangered Species Act and Climate Change: Selected Legal Issues

The Endangered Species Act and Climate Change: Selected Legal Issues. Congressional Research Service. Linda Tsang. September 20, 2019

For more than a decade, federal agencies have grappled with how to address climate change effects when implementing the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA). The ESA aims to protect threatened and endangered fish, wildlife, and plants from extinction. As set forth by Congress, one of the main purposes of the ESA is to “provide a means whereby the ecosystems upon which endangered species and threatened species depend may be conserved.” 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) (collectively, the Services) have acknowledged that the changing climate may threaten the survival of and habitat for some species. As noted by courts and legal scholars, the ESA does not expressly require the Services to consider the effect of climate change in their ESA decisions. However, the ESA and its implementing regulations (1) direct the Services to consider “natural or manmade factors affecting [a species’] continued existence” when determining whether a species should be protected under the ESA; and (2) require the Services to analyze cumulative effects on a species’ survival when analyzing whether federal actions jeopardize a species protected under the Act. The courts and the Services have interpreted these provisions as requiring the Services to consider climate change effects in the ESA decisionmaking process. Various lawsuits have challenged the Services’ interpretation of complex scientific data or models that predict short- and long-term effects from a changing global climate on specific species and their habitats.

[PDF format, 22 pages].