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POLSC431: Public Policy Process

Unit 1: Introducing Public Policy Actors and Agendas   Public policies are tools of governments used satisfy certain wants and needs of the citizenry that they cannot effectively satisfy individually or that are better served through collective action.  In contemporary American society, public policies are generally selected and adapted on a case by case basis, and to study the process of public policymaking, it is useful to explore a wide range of particular instances in which polices are debated, created, enacted, paid for, and redesigned.  The initial case studies help to summarize this policy process and to outline the key concepts that underlie the making of public policy in general in modern America.  While the areas in which government, through public polices, has played a role in people’s lives have greatly expanded in the last century, the ideological justification for these polices goes back to the debates over ratification of the constitution and what role government ought to play in American society, as shown in the selection from The Federalist Papers, while debates continue today about what the larger society owes to its members.  These debates inform the ideas and actions of policymakers.
 
Public policy in America is made by an array of actors and institutions that each play a different role in the process of policymaking.  Most public policies are made in Congress (as well as state legislatures and city councils across the country) through the normal legislative process that begins with congressional committees debating the content and language of laws—often guided by lobbyists advocating for particular polices on behalf of specific interest groups.  After being crafted in committee, laws are sent to the full chamber for consideration, and if approved, these legislative public policies are debated again in the other house of Congress, after which a conference committee will settle any differences between the policy visions expressed in the versions of the bill.  The president will then sign the bill and, through the vast bureaucracy of the executive branch, will be responsible for carrying out these policies.  The role of the president in the public policy process, who often spearheads a legislative agenda through the use of the so-called “bully pulpit” afforded him by the media, has expanded greatly in the last century, as has the size of the federal bureaucracy that handles the day-to-day administration of these policies. 
 
The creation of public policies begins with setting the policy agenda, which means selecting which issues are important enough for collective public actions and deciding what approach seems best for dealing with these concerns.  The process of setting the policy agenda includes a wide array of interest groups, including voluntary associations, such as the National Rifle Association (NRA); unions, such as the American Federation of Teachers (AFT); and corporations, such as Microsoft—all of whom may hire lobbyists to advocate to legislatures in favor of particular policies.  The policy agenda may also be influenced by normal political debates between members of different parties who attempt to shape public opinion in favor of their party’s particular public policy planks.  Each of these actors is engaged in any attempt to frame policy problems in such a way that the wider public will support their viewpoint and their goals.

Unit 1 Time Advisory
This unit will take you approximately 12.75 hours to complete. 

☐    Subunit 1.3.25 hours

☐    Subunit 1.2: 4 hours

☐    Subunit 1.2.1: 2 hours

☐    Subunit 1.2.2: 2 hours

☐    Subunit 1.3: 1.5 hours

Unit1 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to: - Discuss and identifyvarious key concepts in the process of American public policy formulation. - Identify vital issues and specific areas of concern for contemporary American policymakers within the broad fields of American energy and transportation policy. - Identify key actors and agencies involved in public policy formulation. - Describe various decision frameworks used by policymakers in formulating public policies. - Identify key debates in contemporary American energy and transportation policy as well as the issues at stake and the arguments advanced by each side of the debate.

1.1 What Is Public Policy?: A Brief Introduction to the Case Study Approach   1.1.1 Key Concepts in the Public Policy Process   - Reading: East Carolina University: Dr. Catherine Smith's “Public Policy Process” Link: East Carolina University: Dr. Catherine Smith's “Public Policy Process” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, read the Key Concepts and Case 1 on the first page, and then click the link for Case 2 and the analysis for Case 2.  These key concepts and cases on food safety and state budgets offer a good introduction to the public policy process.
 
This reading should take approximately 45 minutes to complete.

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1.1.2 The Purpose of Public Policies   - Reading: University of Oklahoma College of Law: James Madison's “The Federalist Number 10” Link: University of Oklahoma College of Law: James Madison's “The Federalist Number 10” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read James Madison’s entire essay, in which he discusses the need for a government to create public goods for all citizens as well as to foster national unity.

 This reading and note-taking should take approximately 1 hour to
complete.   
    
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  • Lecture: MIT: Fundamentals of Public Policy: “What Are Public Policies?” and “Designing Government” Links: MIT: Fundamentals of Public Policy: “What Are Public Policies?” (PDF) and “Designing Government” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Please locate the lecture PDF’s listed above on the linked site and read these entire presentations about the purpose of public policies and the relationship between government and the public.

    These lectures should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.  

1.1.3 Societal Values and Public Policy   - Lecture: Learner.org: Ethics in America: Episode 1: “Do Onto Others” Link: Learner.org: Ethics in America: Episode 1: “Do Onto Others” (Adobe Flash)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, and select  the VoD icon next to “Do Onto Others” to watch this entire video (approximately 59 minutes), in which panel participants discuss community responsibility.
 
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1.2 Who Makes Policy: Institutions and Interest Groups   1.2.1 Roles in the Public Policymaking Process   - Lecture: Learner.org: Democracy in America: Episode 6: “Legislatures,” Episode 7: “The Modern Presidency,” Episode 8: “Bureaucracy,” and Episode 14: “Interest Groups” Links: Learner.org: Democracy in America: Episode 6: “Legislatures” (Adobe Flash), Episode 7: “The Modern Presidency” (Adobe Flash), Episode 8: “Bureaucracy” (Adobe Flash) and Episode 14: “Interest Groups” (Adobe Flash)
 
Instructions: Please click on the links above, select the VoD icon next to each episode to watch it (approximately 29 minutes per video).  These videos discuss various policy actors and groups.
 
Viewing these lectures should take approximately 2 hours to complete.
 
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1.2.2 Interactions between Public Policymaking Groups   - Reading: ThisNation.com: “The Legislative Process,” “Presidential Leadership,” “The Realities of Bureaucracy,” and “Interest Groups” Links: ThisNation.com: “The Legislative Process” (HTML), “Presidential Leadership” (HTML), “The Realities of Bureaucracy” (HTML), and “Interest Groups” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please click on the links above, and read these entire webpages for an introduction to the role that Congress and the president play in creating public policy through the legislative process.  Please also click “Interactive Illustration of the Legislative Process” to explore the related interactive activity.
 
These readings should take approximately 2 hours to complete.
  
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1.3 Which Policies Become Public?: Examining the Policy Agenda   1.3.1 Setting the Public Policy Agenda   - Reading: Ramapo College: Dr. Wayne Hayes': “The Public Policy Cycle: Agenda” Link: Ramapo College: Dr. Wayne Hayes': “The Public Policy Cycle: Agenda” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, select the links under “Agenda Contents,” read each of these webpages, and then follow the links at the bottom to read about other agenda-related topics.

 This reading should take approximately 1 hour to complete.  
     
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1.3.2 Framing Public Policy Problems   - Reading: East Carolina University: Dr. Catherine Smith's: “Framing the Problem” Link: East Carolina University: Dr. Catherine Smith's: “Framing the Problem” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read this entire webpage, which discusses the public policy agenda, and then click the “Learn More about the Purposes and Tasks Involves in Framing a Problem” link.  After reading that entire webpage, click the links on the right for the two scenarios for Purpose A and the two scenarios for Purpose B.
 
Reading and note-taking should take approximately 25-30 minutes to complete.
  
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