Federal Election Commission: Membership and Policymaking Quorum, In Brief

Federal Election Commission: Membership and Policymaking Quorum, In Brief. Congressional Research Service. R. Sam Garrett.  Updated September 5, 2019

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is the nation’s civil campaign finance regulator. The agency ensures that campaign fundraising and spending is publicly reported; that those regulated by the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) and by commission regulations comply and have access to guidance; and that publicly financed presidential campaigns receive funding.  As of August 31, 2019, the Federal Election Commission is operating without a policymaking quorum. FECA requires that at least four of six commissioners agree to undertake many of the agency’s key policymaking duties. As of August 31, 2019, three of six commissioners remain in office, after the fourth remaining commissioner resigned. Also as of this writing, one commission nomination is pending in the Senate.  This CRS report briefly explains the kinds of actions that FECA precludes when a quorum is not possible because fewer than four FEC members are in office. This episode marks the second quorum loss in the agency’s history—the first occurred for six months in 2008—leaving the commission unable to hold hearings, issue rules, and enforce campaign finance law and regulation. The agency remains open for business with remaining commissioners and regular staff, but new policy decisions and enforcement actions cannot be advanced or finalized.

[PDF format, 11 pages].


Employment, Education, and the Time Use of American Youth

Employment, Education, and the Time Use of American Youth. Brookings Institution. Lauren Bauer et al.  September 5, 2019

The labor force participation rate is a key measure of economic health. While the decline in prime-age workers’ labor force participation receives much attention from policymakers, it is far outpaced by the decline in participation among younger workers. In this analysis we show how changing employment and school enrollment patterns have contributed to declining labor force participation among youth, aged 16 to 24. Youth today are not disengaged; rather, declines in youth labor force participation primarily reflect a long-term but accelerating shift toward schooling and spending more time on education-related activities. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 26 pages].

Trust and Distrust in America

Trust and Distrust in America. Pew Research Center. Lee Rainie, Scott Keeter And Andrew Perrin. July 22, 2019.

Many Americans think declining trust in the government and in each other makes it harder to solve key problems. They have a wealth of ideas about what’s gone wrong and how to fix it

Trust is an essential elixir for public life and neighborly relations, and when Americans think about trust these days, they worry. Two-thirds of adults think other Americans have little or no confidence in the federal government. Majorities believe the public’s confidence in the U.S. government and in each other is shrinking, and most believe a shortage of trust in government and in other citizens makes it harder to solve some of the nation’s key problems.

As a result, many think it is necessary to clean up the trust environment: 68% say it is very important to repair the public’s level of confidence in the federal government, and 58% say the same about improving confidence in fellow Americans. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 84 pages].

Emergency Assistance for Agricultural Land Rehabilitation

Emergency Assistance for Agricultural Land Rehabilitation. Congressional Research Service. Megan Stubbs. Updated June 11, 2019

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers several permanently authorized programs to help producers recover from natural disasters. Most of these programs offer financial assistance to producers for a loss in the production of crops or livestock. In addition to the production assistance programs, USDA also has several permanent disaster assistance programs that help producers repair damaged crop and forest land following natural disasters. These programs offer financial and technical assistance to producers to repair, restore, and mitigate damage on private land. These emergency agricultural land assistance programs include the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP), the Emergency Forest Restoration Program (EFRP), and the Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) program. In addition to these programs, USDA also has flexibility in administering other programs that allow for support and repair of damaged cropland in the event of an emergency.

[PDF format, 17 pages].

States of Change: How Demographic Change is Transforming the Republican and Democratic Parties

States of Change: How Demographic Change is Transforming the Republican and Democratic Parties. Brookings Institution. Rob Griffin, William H. Frey, and Ruy Teixeira. July 1, 2019

Demographics are not destiny, but steady and predictable changes to the electorate play an important role in defining the landscape of American politics. Most demographic groups have a political lean, so a group increasing or decreasing in size over time will tend to benefit one party or type of politics over another. The most well-known example is the growth of the nonwhite population in the United States, which—since nonwhites tend to lean heavily Democratic—is typically viewed as tilting the electoral terrain somewhat toward the Democrats over time as well as increasing the weight of nonwhite voters within the Democratic Party over time. But other changes are important, such as the decline of noncollege educated voters, particularly whites; the aging of the adult population; and the rise of new generations to replace older ones.

In this report, the authors will explore the effect of these changes on the demographic composition of the electorate and, especially, on the composition of the two major political parties. Reflecting the latter focus, this analysis will not focus on how many individuals from a given demographic group voted or will likely vote for the Democratic or Republican candidate in a particular election. Rather, it focuses on how many people who voted or are likely to vote for the Democratic or Republican candidate in a particular election belong to a given demographic group. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 53 pages].

Supporting Students with High-Incidence Disabilities in U.S. Schools: National Findings from the American Educator Panels

Supporting Students with High-Incidence Disabilities in U.S. Schools: National Findings from the American Educator Panels.  RAND Corporation. Laura Stelitano, Rachel Perera, William R. Johnston. June 27, 2019.

The extent to which students with high-incidence disabilities (SWDs) are afforded effective and specialized instruction depends, in large part, upon the support their teachers receive. Certain teacher supports are essential for effectively serving SWDs, including a supportive school culture, collaboration and planning time, resources and training, and access to data and tools for using data. In this report, we explore the extent to which these supports are available to general and special educators, based on the results of the Measurement, Learning, and Improvement Survey to the RAND American Teacher Panel, a survey administered to a nationally representative sample of teachers. While research has established the importance of these supports, little is known about teachers’ access to them on the nationwide level and about how school-level factors (such as grade levels served, percentage of minority students, and poverty level) influence the prevalence of teacher supports. Overall, teachers’ access to support for serving SWDs varied by type of support, teacher role, and school level. General educators and teachers at the high school level were significantly less likely to report having sufficient access to support. Planning and release time were among the supports least often deemed sufficient by both general and special educators. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 24 pages].

Understanding the Effects of the US Stress Tests

Understanding the Effects of the US Stress Tests. Brookings Institution. Donald Kohn and Nellie Liang.  July 11, 2019

Concurrent stress tests—testing all major banks with the same macroeconomic and market scenarios at the same time—were a key innovation growing out of the financial crisis of 2007-09. Their original intent in 2009 was to identify the capital needed by banks to continue functioning in a deep recession and require them to raise the capital, from private sources or the government, to support the economy. The stress tests have evolved considerably since 2009, but the underlying rationale remains to assure that major banks can continue to supply credit to households and businesses in circumstances of deep economic and financial distress. The tests allow policymakers to assess the adequacy of capital buffers and to require remediation when necessary through modifications to institutions’ capital plans. They are a strong microprudential tool, with important macroprudential elements.

In this paper, Donald Kohn and Nellie Liang of the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at Brookings focused on assessing some of the effects of this new prudential tool as implemented in the United States, and contributing to the Federal Reserve Board’s review of its supervisory stress tests. They analyzed the data that are publicly disclosed about the stress tests for their implications for bank capital requirements and risk management, and marshaled the evidence from existing studies on the effects of stress tests on credit rather than undertaking new efforts. In addition, they interviewed a number of people knowledgeable about the stress tests to get their views on their effects. These included current and former supervisors and Federal Reserve economists (some of whom are now at consultancies advising banks on stress tests or at interest groups), current and former bankers involved in the stress tests at the banks, and other interested observers. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 30 pages].