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Pendelton Civil Service Act, 1883
is a federal law established in 1883 (signed by President Arthur in the wake of Garfield's assassination by a deranged patronage-seeker) that stipulated that government jobs should be awarded on the basis of merit. The act provided selection of government employees competitive exams, rather than ties to politicians or political affiliation. It also made it illegal to fire or demote government employees for political reasons. To enforce the merit system, the law also created the US Civil Service Commission.
Fugitive Slave Act
(1850) a law that made it a crime to help runaway slaves; allowed for the arrest of escaped slaves in areas where slavery was illegal and required their return to slaveholders
Federal Reserve Act
a 1913 law that set up a system of federal banks and gave government the power to control the money supply
Rule 22
Provides that debate in the Senate could be cut off if two-thirds of the Senators present and voting agreed to a cloture motion
Security and Exchange Act & Commission (SEC)
Law that set up a New Deal agency established to provide a public watchdog against deception and fraud in stock trading
Social Security Act of 1935
Provided old-age pension (retirement), and a program of unemployment insurance (temporary aid to help people who lose jobs to find a new job), and federal welfare program (aid for very poor). Most famous and important legacy of New Deal. Has resulted (along with Medicare) with drastic reduction in poverty among elderly in the US
Wagner Act (1935)
officially "National Labor Relations Act"; established National Labor Relations Board to administer labor laws and union elections; protected the rights of most workers in the private sector to organize labor unions, to engage in collective bargaining, and to take part in strikes and other forms of concerted activity in support of their demands. Highest legislative achievement for unions in US history.
Hatch Act
The 1939 act to prohibit civil servants from taking activist roles in partisan campaigns. This act prohibited federal employees from making political contributions, working for a particular party, or campaigning for a particular candidate.
National Security Act
Passed in 1947 in response to perceived threats from the Soviet Union after WWII. It established the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and National Security Council.
Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956
Largest federal project in U.S. history that created a national network of interstate highways and was the largest federal project in history.
Equal Pay Act of 1963
An amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act, this act requires equal pay for men and women doing equal work.
Civil Rights Act of 1964
This act made racial, religious, and sex discrimination by employers illegal and gave the government the power to enforce all laws governing civil rights, including desegregation of schools and public places.
Voting Rights Act of 1965
a law designed to help end formal and informal barriers to African-American suffrage
Medicare
National Health Insurance program for the elderly and disabled.
Freedom of Information Act (1966)
Provides a system for the public to obtain government records, as long as they do not invade individuals' privacy, reveal trade secrets, or endanger military security.
Open Housing Act of 1968 (Title VIII)
Commonly known as the Fair Housing Act. This act expanded on previous acts, prohibited discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin, and since 1974, gender; since 1988, the act protects people with disabilities and families with children.`
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
an independent federal agency established to coordinate programs aimed at reducing pollution and protecting the environment
Clean Water Act of 1972
The Act that created water quality standards to control pollution, including elimination of point source discharge of pollutants.
Clean Air Act of 1970
Required EPA to develop and enforce regulations to protect the public from airborne contaminants; forced states to follow and make sure the laws for followed in relation to the EPA. States allowed to decide officials for enforcement.
Endangered Species Act
(1973) identifies threatened and endangered species in the U.S., and puts their protection ahead of economic considerations
Title IX of Education Act of 1972
forbids gender discrimination in federally subsidized education programs, including athletics
War Powers Act of 1973
President can send troops immediately, but must report to Congress and power is limited to 60 days
Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act (1974)
In response to the OPEC oil embargo that created lines at filling stations and drove up gas prices, this bill mandated a national speed limit of 55 mph to help cut fuel consumption; states had to agree to limit or risk losing federal funding
Federal Election Campaign Act
First major federal law (1971) to regulate federal elections. Created Federal Election Commission (FEC). Required disclosure of sources of campaign funds (transparency), set limits on contributions to candidates (individuals = $1000, PACs = $5000), spending limits for candidates, limits on independent expenditures.
Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974
Law passed by Congress to exert more control over the executive branch on how the President spends money allocated by Congress
Education of All Handicapped Children Act of 1975
act that established the right of all children to a free and appropriate education, regardless of handicapping condition
Tax Reform Act of 1986 (TRA '86)
Sweeping tax reform legislation that lowered tax rates and sought to eliminate many of the loopholes in the tax laws.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Legislation passed in 1990 that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. Under this Act, discrimination against a disabled person is illegal in employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications and government activities.
Motor Voter Act of 1993
Tried to increase voter turnout by allowing voter registration at same time as getting or renewing driver's license. Increased the registration rate, but not the voter turnout rate (people still apathetic or not motivated to vote)
Clinton Tax Plan (1993)
A federal law enacted by 103rd United States congress and signed into law by President Clinton. It created 36 percent and 39.6 income tax rates for individuals in the top 1.2% of the wage earners.It created a 35 percent income tax rate for corporations. The cap on Medicare taxes was repealed. Transportation fuels taxes were raised by 4.3 cents per gallon. The taxable portion of Social Security benefits was raised. The phase-out of the personal exemption and limit on itemized deductions were permanently extended. Part IV Section 14131: Expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and added inflation adjustments.

In other words: tax cuts for middle and lower-class families but not upper-class people.
Contract with America (1994)
Newt Gingrich (Republican congressman) planned for success of Republican party in upcoming election by pledging tax cuts, congressional term limits, tougher crime laws, balanced budget amendment, popular reforms &c.
North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
Agreement signed by the United States, Canada, and Mexico in 1992 to form the largest free trade zone in the world.
Welfare Reform Act of 1996
This act established the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program in place of the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program and tightened Medicaid eligibility requirements. This greatly reduced the width of welfare, and imposed strict employment requirements on the states.
Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act
Banned soft money donations to political parties (loophole from FECA); also imposed restrictions on 527 independent expenditures (issue ads only, not direct advocacy for a candidate). Declared unconstitutional by Citizens United case. Also known as McCain-Feingold Act.
Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act
Also known as Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Act, this act mandates maximum allowable deficits until 1991 when the budget should balance. It was abandoned in 1991.
Affordable Care Act
law passed in 2010 to expand access to insurance, address cost reduction and affordability, improve the quality of healthcare, and introduce the Patient's Bill of Rights