news feature
December 19, 2008




KU professor part of executive order proposal from progressive group
by Bruce Rodgers

The Obama transition team has been bombarded with lists of things the President-elect should do once he takes office in January. One list of “top ten things Obama needs to do” bouncing around the Internet includes increasing federal taxes on guns and ammunition, and to tax religious organizations that discriminate in hiring — both, of which, have “court battle” written all over them.

More thought out is a proposal from the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) of seven executive orders President Obama could issue during his first 100 days in office. The Maryland-based nonprofit think tank, founded in 2002, relies on a nationwide network of member scholars organized in committees that “work in Issue Groups organized around four issues areas: Achieving a New Progressive Agenda, Clean Science, Government Accountability and Corporate Liability and Accountability.”

Kansas University law professor Robert L. Glicksman is a CPR member scholar and also on the seven-member CPR Board of Directors. Glicksman said he was asked to join and was involved in creating the CPR.

“The organization is attractive to me because it supports thoughtful government action and reform to advance protection of the public health and the environment,” Glicksman stated in an email.

“CPR supports both private and public sector decisions that result in improved protection of consumers, public health and safety, and the environment.”

The CPR report titled “Protecting Public Health and the Environment by the Stroke of a Pen: Seven Executive Orders for the President’s First 100 Days” was co-edited by Glicksman. Issued in early November, the report was circulated to members and staff in Congress, other advocacy groups in addition to Obama’s transition team.

In a press release from KU News, Glicksman said the report has two things in common.

“First, they are all areas that cry out for a different policy direction that provides greater protection for public health, safety and the environment than currently exists or that creates greater opportunities for public input into governmental policymaking processes.

“Second, they all involve areas in which the president can achieve the results we suggest by acting unilaterally through the issuance of executive orders. No congressional participation is necessary…”

Using the executive order process, said Glicksman in the email, allows the President to act quickly “without having to run the gauntlet of the legislative process.”

Matthew Freeman, a spokesperson for the Center for Progressive Reform, said in an email that some of the items “are specifically in response to actions by the Bush administration that was accomplished by Executive Order or less formal means.” Freeman added that the CPR “certainly tried” to influence the Bush administration’s regulatory agenda, however with the incoming Obama administration, “It’s our first chance to focus on agenda-setting for that unique period in an administration’s life.”

The CPR proposed executive orders would:

  • (Climate Change) Require all federal agencies to measure, report and reduce their carbon footprints.
  • (Climate Change) Direct all federal agencies to consider the climate change-related implications of their actions as part of their obligations under the National Environmental Protection Act.
  • (Protecting Children from Toxics) Require all federal agencies to develop plans implementing an affirmative agenda to protect children from toxics, to account for the unique attributes of children when conducting risk assessments, and to stop discounting prospective benefits for children and future generations when conducting cost-benefit analyses.
  • (Environmental Justice) Clarify key terminology for understanding environmental justice issues and require all federal agencies to conduct meaningful analyses of the environmental justice impacts of their actions, undertake steps to ameliorate environmental injustices, and commit to carrying out an affirmative environmental agenda.
  • (Transparency in Government) Restore the presumption of disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act, limit the ability of agencies to avoid the transparency provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, and introduce greater transparency into the regulatory review process conducted by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.
  • (Victims’ Right to Sue) Establish a strong presumption against federal agency preemption of more protective state health and environmental laws, and institute a rigorous procedure for agencies to follow in order to overcome that presumption.
  • (Public Lands) Establish the goal of ecological integrity as the baseline for making public land management decisions, revoke two Bush-era Executive Orders that improperly prioritized the goals of energy development over the statutory goals of sustainable land use, and broaden opportunities for public participation in land management decisions.

Freeman from the CPR said the organization has not heard from the Obama team and does not know how the administration will proceed after January 20, the date when Barack Obama is sworn in as president.

Glicksman stresses that the CPR also supports the use of legislation to address these issues, and “The (executive) orders we propose do not directly affect activities conducted by individuals or businesses in the private sector.”

Bruce Rodgers can be contacted at


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