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SW 440: Social Work Policy Analysis

Dr. Karl Johnson

Federal and State Government Resources for Social Work Policies

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Federal Government Resources

General Resources

USA.gov The U.S. Government’s Official Web Portal. Searches more than just the federal govermnet--state, tribal, and local: any government entity that has a web presence. Searching can be limited to a specific domain.

Catalog of Government Publications. Much like a library catalog, but only for government publications. Committee websites (linked down the this page) often leave out large parts of hearings. The published versions will eventually appear here in their entirety.

Govinfo Online resource from the Government Publishing Office. Many resources are available from this site.

  • In particular, the Federal Register. Proposed rules governing federal agencies, final rules, executive orders and other presidential documents, and noticies of scheduled public hearings, are posted daily in this publication. A much more user friendly version of this publication is the Federal Register 2.0.
  • Once any regulation is codified (made official), they are printed in the Code of Federal Regulations, a publication divided into 50 titles that represent broad areas subject to Federal regulation.

Narrower Resources

Congress.gov Provided by the Library of Congress, this resource offers access to legislative information including bills (and their history), public laws, the Congressional Record, House and Senate Committee reports, proposed legislation, roll call votes, etc.

Legislative Tracking via GovTrack, OpenStates, and LegiScan (these also track state legislation). Similar to Congress.gov in that you can track current legislation, but contains additional commentary, and links. Additional tracking resources can be found here via LLRX.com.

Regulations.gov. A resource created in 2003 for the public to easily search for proposed regulations and comment on them. You can sign up for alerts about a specific regulation and subscribe to RSS feeds by agency of newly posted Federal Register notices.

RegInfo.gov. Complimentary to Regulations.gov, but aimed more for federal government agencies. Available here is the "Reg Map", a flowchart showing the informal rulemaking process.

The Unified Agenda "The Unified Agenda provides uniform reporting of data on regulatory and deregulatory activities under development throughout the Federal Government, covering approximately 60 departments, agencies, and commissions. Each edition of the Unified Agenda includes regulatory agendas from all Federal entities that currently have regulations under development or review. Agencies of the United States Congress are not included. Fall editions of the Unified Agenda include The The Regulatory Plan, which presents agency statements of regulatory priorities and additional information about the most significant regulatory activities planned for the coming year."

Legislative Influence Detector. This resource "helps watchdogs turn a mountain of text into digestible insights about the origin and diffusion of policy ideas and the real influence of various lobbying organizations". Also use Follow the Money and Opensecrets. The Sunlight Foundation has a list of tools to track words, money, deleted tweets, influence, etc.

Contacting Your Lawmaker

Contacting the Congress: cheat sheet from Emily Ellsworth detailing how to effectively talk to your member of Congress. Also, from the MSU Extension, Meeting with your legislator: 10 tips to help you prepare for your meeting.

What district (in Michigan) do you live in? Find out here. Or this website, whoismyrepresentative, which is nationwide. GovTrack is another locator. U.S. House: Find your Representative.

State Level: Find Your Legislator.

Social Work Organisations: The National Association of Social Workers has a page on current issues in Congress.

Specific Publications

Assistance Listings (Formerly the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA)). This website provides detailed, public descriptions of federal assistance listings available to State and local governments (including the District of Columbia); federally recognized Indian tribal governments, Territories (and possessions) of the United States; domestic public, quasi- public, and private profit and nonprofit organizations and institutions; specialized groups, and individuals. Once you identify a federal assistance listing that you�re interested in, you can link directly to grant opportunities on Grants.gov or follow up with that specific agency using the contact information provided.

Green Book: Overview of Entitlement Programs The official title is Background Material and Data on Major Programs within the Jurisdiction of the Committee on Ways and Means, but it's commonly referred to as the "Green Book". It provides program descriptions and historical data on a wide variety of social and economic topics, including Social Security, employment, earnings, welfare, child support, health insurance, the elderly, families with children, poverty and taxation. It has become a standard reference work for those interested in the direction of social policy in the United States. It is compiled by the staff of the Committee on Ways and Means of the U.S. House of Representatives. Govinfo contains the Green Book for 1996, 1998, 2000 and 2004.

Census Bureau Not a publication, but the entire webite. Locate and download detailed population data for specific locations or find quick summaries of cities or states. Electronic versions of The Statistical Abstract of the United States (from 1878 to 2011) are available here as are additional data sources (under "data" at the top of the webpage).

Congressional & Executive Branch Resources

Congressional Budget Office The Congressional Budget Office provides objective, nonpartisan economic analyses of pending legislation. Reports are listed by subject area under “Publications”.

Government Accountability Office The Government Accountability Office, also known as the “Congressional Watchdog”, is an independent and nonpartisan office that studies how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars. Reports (such as Welfare Reform or Foster Youth) can be searched by date, topic, or agency. Look under "Reports and Testimony" .

House Committee on Education & the Workforce. This Committee, and its 5 sub-committees, oversees education and workforce programs. Publications and legislative issues related to education and labor can be found at this website, as well as bills sent to this committee for review. The Senate has the Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions.

House Ways & Means Committee. Among their responsibilities is health care. More specifically, aspects "that relate to programs providing payments (from any source) for health care, health delivery systems, or health research. More specifically, the jurisdiction of the Subcommittee on Health shall include bills and matters that relate to the health care programs of the Social Security Act (including titles V, XI (Part B), XVIII, and XIX thereof) and, concurrent with the full Committee, tax credit and deduction provisions of the Internal Revenue Code dealing with health insurance premiums and health care costs."

House and Senate Committees A listing of House and Senate Committees and their materials from Govinfo. It is obvious from some committee titles that work is conducted on issues of social welfare, while for others it is not so obvious. More resources can be found on the committee websites themselves: Senate committee websites and House committee websites.

White House Office of Management and Budget. Within the White House is this office, which "serves the President of the United States in overseeing the implementation of his vision across the Executive Branch", as well as the Office of Regulatory and Information Affairs. Among their responsibilities is to review federal regulations.

Congressional Research Service, the research arm of Congress. These reports provide a background for upcoming legislation or a current topic of interest. There is no one, public source for them. From the Federation of American Scientists (Miscellaneous Topics might be the best place to look there), University of North Texas, Fulltextreports, Every CRS Report, and a new one from Congress.gov.

Department, Agency and Bureau Resources (selected)

Department of Health and Human Services The United States government's principal agency for protecting the health of Americans and providing essential human services. This is the big one; many government agencies related to social work listed below fall under this department.

Administration on Aging Falling under the Department of Health and Human Services, the AoA is one of the nation’s largest providers of home and community based care for older persons.

Administration for Children and Families “Federal agency funding state, territory, local, and tribal organizations to provide family assistance (welfare), child support, child care, Head Start, child welfare, and other programs relating to children and families”. Part of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality This is the lead agency charged with supporting research designed to improve the quality of healthcare, reduce its cost, improve patient safety, decrease medical errors, and broaden access to essential services.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services This is the federal agency that administers Medicare, Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program.

Health Resources and Services Administration Among the goals of this agency are improving public health and health care systems, the elimination of health disparities, and improve health outcomes.

MedlinePLUS Bringing together authoritative information from the National Library of Medicine (NLM), National Institutes of Health (NIH), United States Pharmacopeia Drug Information, and the A.D.A.M Medical Encyclopedia.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Also falling under the NIH umbrella, this agency offers information on a variety of alcohol-related issues and work.

National Institute on Drug Abuse Since 1974, this agency’s mission is to “lead the Nation in bringing the power of science to bear on drug abuse and addiction”.

National Institute of Mental Health Another agency falling under the National Institute of Health (NIH). Since 1946, this agency offers information on clinical trials, funding opportunities and current research, and is tailored to both consumers and practitioners in the field of mental health.

Office of Human Services Policy This agency focuses on welfare, poverty, service delivery issues, data for research, policies affecting children, youth, and families, and economic matters affecting the Department of Health and Human Services.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration This agency was created in 1993 to focus attention, programs, and funding on improving the lives of people with or at risk for mental and substance abuse disorders.

Social Security Online The Social Security Administration.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development This department’s mission is to increase homeownership, support community development and increase access to affordable housing free from discrimination.

State of Michigan Resources

The Michigan Legislature websites allows you to search for specific bills in the currrent session. RSS feeds are available for updates on those you are interested in. There are links to the House and Senate and the committees therein.

The State of Michigan's Official Website. The state Executive Branch contains the bulk of the agencies concerning Social Work, including the Department of Community Health, and the Michigan Rehabilitation Services.

The state also has links concerning Health as well as Education and Children’s Services.

For grants, search for "grants" or "grant opportunities" under the particular Michigan agency, or across all agencies at Michigan.gov.

Michigan Administrative Code. From the Office of Performance & Transformation. This office promotes continuous improvement, uniform understanding, and interagency sychronization across state agencies by leveraging shared purpose, enhanced processes, and empowering people. The rulemaking process is described as well as links to recent and pending rule changes and latest rule activity.

The Michigan Register contains copies of all proposed administrative rules, notices of public hearings on proposed administrative rules, and administrative rules filed with the secretary of state as submitted by Michigan departments and agencies.

Michigan County Social Services Association A "statewide organization whose members are county Department of Human Services board members, directors, district managers, and supervisors." Maintains a watch on proposed legislation in Michigan of a social work nature.

Three think tanks in Michigan: The Mackinac Center "a nonprofit institute that advances the principles of free markets and limited government", the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research (IPPSR) "applies research to pressing public policy issues and builds problem-solving relationships between the academic and policymaker communities", and the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, which for over 100 years has provided "factual, unbiased independent information on significant issues concerning state and local government organization and finance" There are others in the state and they are listed here.

Gongwer News Service. Michigan state government news and political information since 1906. NMU doesn't have a subscription, but you can get a hint at what's happening.

MLive.com--Politics & Elections. The political section of "Michigan's Leading Web Site for News, Information and Community Interaction".

Center for Public Integrity story (November, 2015) on Integrity in Michigan's Government. (not good).

Media Resources

CQ Researcher, a publication from CQ Press. Delves into the background of issues.

Free resources concerning politics: RollCall, Politico, The Hill. And here is a legal dictionary.

And finally, what happens when you find a topic and do some research on the Internet and find a website that also talks about your topic? Who are these people? What is this group? What are they saying? Give the website a closer look (and the sources they cite--if any) with these in mind. There are organizations that are known for fact checking, but arguably there are no unbiased opinions or evaluations:

  • Michigan Campaign Finance Network. "The Michigan Campaign Finance Network is a nonpartisan, nonprofit coalition of organizations and individuals concerned about the influence of money in politics and the need for campaign finance reform in Michigan. MCFN conducts research on campaign contributions and their relationship to election outcomes and issues of public policy, supports access to campaign finance information and develops educational initiatives for the public on the subject of campaign finance reform."
  • FactCheck.org "A nonpartisan, nonprofit “consumer advocate” for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. We monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases. Our goal is to apply the best practices of both journalism and scholarship, and to increase public knowledge and understanding."
  • League of Women Voters . "The leaders you elect make the decisions that affect you – your job, health care, energy costs, security and more. The League helps you to get registered, get to know the candidates and issues, and get out and vote." League of Women Voters of Michigan.
  • PolitiFact. Pulitzer Prize winning resource from the Tampa Bay Tribune. Checked are "statements by members of Congress, state legislators, governors, mayors, the president, cabinet secretaries, lobbyists, people who testify before Congress and anyone else who speaks up in American politics [including campaign promises]. We research their statements and then rate the accuracy on our Truth-O-Meter – True, Mostly True, Half True, Mostly False and False. The most ridiculous falsehoods get our lowest rating, Pants on Fire."
  • MapLight.org.This resource "...illuminates the connection between campaign donations and legislative votes in unprecedented ways. Elected officials collect large sums of money to run their campaigns, and they often pay back campaign contributors with special access and favorable laws" and combines three datasets: bill texts and legislative voting records; supporting and opposing interests for each bill, and; campaign contribution data from the Center for Responsive Politics and the National Institute on Money in State Politics.
  • VoteSmart.org. Every candidate and elected official from President to local government can be easily and instantly accessed through the Voter's Self-Defense System: Voting Records, Biographica & Contact Information, Issue Positions, Interst Group Ratings, Public Statements, and Campaign Finances.
  • PublicAgenda.org. Founded in 1975, their "in-depth, unbiased opinion research bridges this gap as our findings and data, instead of supporting one side or another in a partisan debate, powerfully clarifies public attitudes."
  • Washington Post Fact Checker.
  • NMU has a webpage on "Fake News", which fits in well here.

Need further assistance?
Stop by the Reference Desk for further assistance with any of these sources. You can also contact the Reference Desk through live chat or by phone at 227-2294. You may also contact the Government Documents Librarian, Bruce Sarjeant, at 227-1580.


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