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Policy Outsider

Author: Rockefeller Institute

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Policy Outsider from the Rockefeller Institute of Government takes you outside the halls of power to understand how decisions of law and policy shape our everyday lives.
38 Episodes
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On May 8, in response to an executive order from President Biden, the Department of Justice proposed a new rule to limit the proliferation of "ghost guns," or firearms that do not have a unique serial number. On the latest episode of Policy Outsider, Rockefeller Institute Project Coordinator Nicholas Simons explains what is in the new rule, how it may impact the use of ghost guns, and the next steps for finalizing the rule. The episode also covers Simons' recent policy brief, "Ghost Guns: A Haunting New Reality," and provides background on what ghost guns are, their increasing prevalence in law enforcement seizures, and what policymakers at the state level are doing to clarify and strengthen policy surrounding their use.
New York State will legalize adult-use recreational marijuana. On the latest episode of Policy Outsider, Rockefeller Institute Director of Operations and Fellow Heather Trela breaks down what is in the 77,529 word marijuana legalization bill and, importantly, what is not in the bill. Trela, a federalism expert turned marijuana policy maven, brings valuable context to the discussion, comparing revenue structure, social justice provisions, and other logistical considerations in New York's legislation to the 14 other states that have already legalized recreational marijuana.
On the latest episode of Policy Outsider, Rockefeller Institute Deputy Director of Research Laura Rabinow discusses her recent research examining the capacity of the Environmental Protection Agency to support the Biden administration's ambitious climate and environmental goals following regulatory and administrative changes at the agency under the Trump administration and years of staffing and budget declines.
On the latest episode of Policy Outsider, Rockefeller Institute Nathan Fellow Rebecca Natow joins host, Alex Morse, to discuss her latest analysis examining the retirement of US Senator and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chair Lamar Alexander, the role of the HELP Committee in setting congressional agendas and actions in higher education, and the likely choice for next Senate HELP Committee chair in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
The Rockefeller Institute recently examined ballot initiatives in Oregon and Washington DC that would decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms ("magic mushrooms"). In this episode of Policy Outsider, guest Heather Trela, director of operations and fellow at the Institute, provides an update on the outcome of magic mushroom and marijuana ballot initiatives, discusses how the liberalization of marijuana throughout the US provided a blueprint for magic mushroom advocates, and shares where cities, states, and the federal government might be headed with drug policy.
In this episode of Policy Outsider, Rockefeller Institute researchers and fellows share remarks on the important policy issues facing the winner of the presidential election. Researchers in economic development, education, climate, gun policy, and healthcare present some of the key questions, concerns, and policy challenges that lie before the nation and consider the approach the next presidential administration may take to address them. Guests: Laura Schultz, executive director of research at the Rockefeller Institute Brian Backstrom, director of educational policy studies at the Rockefeller Institute Laura Rabinow, deputy director of research at the Rockefeller Institute Joe Popcun, director of policy and practice at the Rockefeller Institute Michael Gusmano, fellow at the Rockefeller Institute
Under the Trump administration, the agencies and processes of the federal bureaucracy—i.e. the "Administrative State"—have been targeted for deconstruction and reorganization. In this episode of Policy Outsider, Rockefeller Institute Fellow and Professor at Daemen College Lisa Parshall discusses the Trump administration's approach to governing, including how presidents have limited the power and scale of the federal bureaucracy and how this administration has challenged presidential and administrative norms.
COVID-19 has raised many questions about voting in the 2020 election: how do we keep poll workers and voters safe during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic? What changes can be made to make voting more accessible? What are some of the challenges voters still face? In this episode of Policy Outsider, guests Laura Bierman, executive director of the League of Women Voters (LWV) of New York State, and Jennifer Wilson, LWV legislative director, discuss changes made to voting procedures for the 2020 election and the work of LWV to expand and ensure voting access. The conversation also covers how Boards of Election across New York State are responding to the pandemic, including operational changes made to protect voters and poll workers.
The United States Postal Service (USPS) has a long history of technological innovation. It is, and has been, central to the project of democracy in the US, enabling the growth and free exchange of newspapers and information and connecting citizens to each other across the nation's expanse. In this episode of Policy Outsider, guest David Hochfelder, associate professor at the University at Albany, explains the Postal Service's mandate to provide "universal service," explores the Postal Service's history of innovation, and offers potential new uses for the USPS infrastructure that would satisfy its mandate.
In this episode of Policy Outsider, Rockefeller Institute Fellows and members of the Institute's award winning Stories from Sullivan research team Patricia Strach, Katie Zuber, and Elizabeth Pérez-Chiqués discuss what has happened to substance-use treatment access and effectiveness during COVID-19. The episode presents audio clips from interviews conducted by the researchers with treatment providers and workers on the frontline followed by discussions of the researchers' impressions and findings. The episode also features an introduction by State University of New York Chancellor and former Rockefeller Institute President Jim Malatras who provides background on the Institute’s opioid crisis research which began during his time as president.
The traditional model of criminal justice in the US isolates those who commit criminal acts from both survivors and society and the social support networks that could support their healing and re-integration. At the same time, those who suffer harm are often left without closure and understanding about the harm that took place. On the latest episode of Policy Outsider, guest Jenifer Lee-Gonyea, fellow at the Rockefeller Institute and associate professor of criminology at Mount Saint Mary's College, discusses the restorative model of criminal justice. Restorative justice approaches harm as an opportunity to engage in inclusive healing for those who experienced harm and those who caused it through mediation, honest dialogue, and accountability. The episode also examines restorative justice as policy at various levels of government and how the tools could be used to address broader societal ills, such as persistent racial injustice.
Ep. 27. Back to School

Ep. 27. Back to School

2020-09-0825:10

As students return to school amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, school districts are using different models to balance instructional and safety needs ranging from fully in-person to fully remote with a spectrum of hybrid approaches in between. On this episode of Policy Outsider, Brian Backstrom, director of education policy studies at the Rockefeller Institute, and Leigh Wedenoja, senior policy analyst at the Rockefeller Institute, highlight various instructional models and discuss how parents and caregivers can prepare for a school year of uncertainty. The discussion of parent strategies will focus on access to and effective use of technology, communicating with teachers and administrators, helping students develop socio-emotional and social skills in a non-standard environment, and highlighting resources for parents who have children who are at home full- or part-time
On the latest episode of Policy Outsider, guest Robert J. Spitzer, a distinguished service professor at SUNY Cortland and member of the Rockefeller Institute of Government’s Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium, speaks with Consortium Executive Director Joe Popcun about recent developments in firearm policy and politics. Over the past five months, the COVID-19 pandemic has completely and suddenly upended the lives and livelihoods of many Americans, generating fear, anxiety, and uncertainty across the country. In the midst of this crisis, there has been a record increase in gun sales and a reported increase in shootings and firearm-involved deaths. At the same time, the police-involved death of George Floyd ignited civil unrest and hundreds of protests calling for police reform and social justice. Spitzer discusses New York Attorney General Letitia James’ lawsuit against the NRA and how that affects the battle between gun safety/control advocates and guns rights advocates. In recent years, several large, national not-for-profit advocacy organizations pushing for stricter gun regulations have refined their strategies and built up larger money pools.
On the latest episode of Policy Outsider, guests Joseph Popcun, Rockefeller Institute director of policy and practice, and Nicholas Simons, project coordinator at the Institute, discuss the role of the Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium in finding and developing effective policy to reduce gun violence. A recent surge in shooting incidents following months of coronavirus lockdown in metropolitan areas around New York State. As a cause of death, gun violence receives far less research funding than other leading causes. Lack of federal funding for firearm fatality research over the last twenty years has made it difficult for policymakers to develop targeted, effective policy for reducing gun violence. Popcun and Simons share how the Consortium aims to fill that void by orienting gun violence researchers toward the evidence and data needs of practitioners and policymakers. By focusing attention on gun violence as a policy problem, the Consortium helps state and local governments pursue and execute effective solutions to reduce and prevent firearm-involved homicides, suicides, and injuries.
In a new episode of Policy Outsider, guest Laura Schultz, executive director of research at the Rockefeller Institute of Government, discusses the methods used in the Institute’s Balance of Payments report and how federal economic relief for COVID-19 is likely to impact state balance of payments and rankings. States throughout the nation are grappling with massive budget deficits caused by the economic downturn associated with COVID-19. While states plan for major cutbacks to critical areas like education and infrastructure, relief in the form of an additional federal stimulus bill is being negotiated in Congress. Several of the states hardest hit by the pandemic, such as New York and New Jersey, are Democrat-controlled and the debate over relief funding has become politicized, with relief funding being characterized by some as a “blue state bailout.” But, as policymakers in these states have pointed out, taxpayers in these states give more to the federal government in taxes than their states get back in federal spending—a negative balance of payments—while many “red” states get more in federal spending than they give to the federal government in taxes. Understanding how funding flows among states and the federal government provides important context for evaluating these claims and understanding the potential effects of federal stimulus spending.
In a new episode of Policy Outsider, guest Nicholas Simons, project coordinator at the Rockefeller Institute of Government, discusses how COVID-19 is affecting the 2020 Census and how the U.S. Census Bureau is adjusting its operations to account for disruptions from the pandemic. In mid-March, as governments in the US began responding to the emerging threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, households received detailed information from the Census Bureau on how to respond to the 2020 Census. Shortly thereafter, the Census Bureau temporarily suspended its field operations though collection of responses continues online, by mail, and by phone. Approximately 60% of households, nationally, have completed the Census. In this episode, Simons shares information on the Census Bureau’s adjusted operations, including new deadlines for self-response and nonresponse followup (NRFU) and how extending the timeline for collection efforts will delay the sharing of congressional apportionment counts with states.
On this episode of Policy Outsider, guest Heather Trela, director of operations and fellow at the Rockefeller Institute, discusses how COVID-19 is affecting the marijuana industry and efforts to legalize adult-use recreational marijuana at the state level. Trela discusses how prohibition of marijuana at the federal level means marijuana businesses throughout the nation are ineligible to apply for federal economic small business relief. For businesses in most states that were able to comply with social distancing requirements this may not be an issue. For smaller businesses in Massachusetts, where recreational marijuana dispensaries were closed to prevent an influx of out-of-state customers, the lack of relief may mean closing.
In a new episode of Policy Outsider, guest Anita Murphy, district superintendent at Capital Region BOCES, discusses how school districts and BOCES are sharing resources and working together to continue supporting students through new challenges imposed by the COVID-19 crisis and planning for a variety of budget and instructional uncertainties in the coming academic year. New York State is anticipating a $13.3 billion loss in tax revenue in the economic wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a new round of federal aid for state and local governments is being negotiated in Congress, much uncertainty still remains, and school administrators are preparing for a wide range of budget cuts. School districts that are more reliant on state aid, such as rural districts and poorer urban districts, are preparing for particularly challenging budgets.
On this episode of Policy Outsider, guest Leigh Wedenoja, senior policy analyst at the Institute, outlines existing and future challenges imposed by COVID-19 on students and the education system. Millions of Americans are adjusting to education going suddenly and fully online. The school year will likely finish online and, without a vaccine, schooling will likely be partially or fully online next fall. In this episode, Wedenoja explores how students at all ages will be affected by the disruption to their schooling and how the disruptions of COVID-19 make it difficult to plan for the challenges students are likely to face.
On the latest episode of Policy Outsider, guest Liz Farmer, a fellow at the Future of Labor Research Center, discusses how work-from-home arrangements put in place as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic are likely to increase work-from-home trends and alter business operations.
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