Wind wars

In this month's ABA Journal appears "The War of Winds," an article on the growing opposition to wind farms. The author states, "Wind power is one of the current darlings of the movement to find alternative energy sources, and in 2008 the United States surpassed Germany as the world's leading producer of electricity generated by wind." The article discusses the adverse health effects of wind turbines claimed by neighboring residents. The primary complaint is noise, but there is also "shadow flicker" when turbine blades chop up sunlight and may cause nausea, and the matter of aesthetics. The article focuses on communities where wind farms have generated contention between supporters for their financial benefits and opponents who claim health liabilities.

Nuisance suits filed against wind energy projects was the subject of the lead article in the October 2009 issue of the California Law Review. Case law is still very limited. The author discusses four cases, only two of which involve large-scale projects, which "leaves advocates of expanded wind energy with unsettled precedent." The author concludes:
If the rights of neighbors are enforced too strictly, or if the public policies in favor of wind turbine development are neglected, then the nuisance mechanism will cease to be a protector of environmental rights and will become an impediment to environmental progress.

The War of Winds, ABA Journal, Feb. 2010

Headwinds to a Clean Energy Future: Nuisance Suits Against Wind Energy Projects in the United States (pdf, 38pp/224kB), California Law Review, Oct. 2009



Comparing health care bills

The RAND Corporation has issued analyses and a comparison of two bills in Congress on health care reform: H.R. 3590 (pdf, 2409pp), and H.R. 3962 (pdf, 2016pp). For the comparison, RAND used its COMPARE microsimulation model, conducted by RAND Health. Estimates of potential effects of each bill were made for coverage (of the uninsured), spending (by the federal government), consumer financial risk (health care spending), and alternate design choices and assumptions (how various provisions of the bills might result in changes in coverage and spending).

Coverage, Spending, and Consumer Financial Risk: How Do the Recent House and Senate Health Care Bills Compare? (pdf, 3pp/116kB), Feb. 16, 2010

Analysis of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590) (pdf, 15pp/232kB), Feb. 16, 2010

Analysis of the Affordable Health Care for America Act (H.R. 3962) (pdf, 15pp/216kB), Jan. 8, 2010



Campaign finance post-Supreme Court

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) has issued a report outlining campaign finance policy options for Congress to consider in response to the Supreme Court's Jan. 21 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. CRS cites two "particularly noteworthy" issues from the decision:
First, corporations (and presumably unions) now appear to be permitted to fund advertising explicitly calling for the election or defeat of federal (or state) candidates. Second, previous restrictions on corporate-funded broadcast ads known as electioneering communications have been eased.
CRS discusses six possible options for Congress:
  • Maintain the status quo
  • Amend the Constitution
  • Enact public financing
  • Provide campaigns or parties with additional access to funds
  • Restrict certain types of expenditures
  • Revisit disclosure or disclaimer requirements

Campaign Finance Policy After Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission: Issues and Options for Congress, R41054 (pdf, 11pp/156kB), from Open CRS, Feb. 1, 2010

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Federal support for school choice

"Education choice exercises a powerful pull on parents of school children" begins a report this week from the Brown Center on Education Policy at Brookings on expanding school choice.

Current types of school choice include residential (choosing a place of residence for a school), magnet schools and other forms of intra-district choice, inter-district choice, charter schools, school vouchers, and virtual (online) education. The report does not favor a particular model but instead advocates for parents to have "the maximum degree of choice among education programs and schools." In order to achieve this, the report recommends federal funding at the school district level and for virtual schooling to increase choice and competition. At the school district level, providing parents with information on schools based on performance is vital. The authors argue for federal aid for "a new generation of web-based tools to support informed choice by parents."

The U. S. Dept of Education (ED) currently offers College Navigator for post-secondary school choice. The report proposes a similar K-12 search engine called School Navigator. Users would enter their preferences and the School Navigator would provide lists of schools not only in the local district but all schools and education programs to which students are entitled to enroll, including charter schools, private schools, and virtual schools.

Expanding Choice in Elementary and Secondary Education: A Report on Rethinking the Federal Role in Education, Feb. 2010
      Report (pdf, 32pp/480kB)
      Executive Summary

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