House Republicans Return to Attacking Public Health and Environmental Protections

This week, the House of Representatives will vote on a series of anti-regulatory proposals during a campaign targeting important public health and environmental safeguards. While House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has dubbed the campaign #StopGovtAbuse Week, the proposed legislation is in fact designed to delay or halt the rulemaking process by adding time-consuming and redundant procedural hurdles, by providing regulated industries additional opportunities to delay the process, and by stripping away the public’s right to petition agencies when they fail to act.

We have seen many of these proposals before. However, during Cantor’s week of damaging bills, four anti-regulatory proposals introduced over the past year will be re-introduced as one piece of legislation with a new title, the Achieving Less Excess in Regulation and Requiring Transparency (ALERRT) Act (H.R. 2804). A separate vote will be taken on the Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act of 2013 (H.R. 899). Continue reading “House Republicans Return to Attacking Public Health and Environmental Protections”

Is the Federal Civilian Workforce Really Growing? Some Important Context

Congress’s investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), recently released its latest analysis of the executive branch’s civilian government workforce, and it shows a modest increase between 2004 to 2012. However, the GAO’s analysis does not take into account workforce reductions of around 70,000 in 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). When the 28,000 full-time equivalent reductions from 2011 to 2012 are included, there has been a contraction of the federal civilian workforce of around 100,000 in the last three years.1 The report also leaves out significant context, which might lead readers to draw somewhat different conclusions about how the federal workforce has changed over time.

While the report makes it clear that only three agencies are responsible for the lion’s share of growth, significant context is missing, namely: longer-term trends suggest a different picture of public-sector growth, and for-profit federal contract employees are not counted in these numbers. In particular, the picture can change significantly when contractors are included. One also has to dive into GAO’s report to discover that most of the modest federal civilian workforce growth occurred between 2007 and 2009 and that numerous government agencies shrunk. Continue reading “Is the Federal Civilian Workforce Really Growing? Some Important Context”

Environmental Protections Threatened by Sequestration and Funding Cuts

Federal agencies have started feeling the impact of the across-the-board spending cuts, known as sequestration, that went into effect March 1. Plans to furlough employees and cut programs are underway at many of the agencies charged with issuing and enforcing public health and safety standards. For the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), these additional funding cuts will further drain already decreasing resources and impair the agency’s ability to protect our air, water, and health. Continue reading “Environmental Protections Threatened by Sequestration and Funding Cuts”