Gov: Public Policy

public-policy     Public policy refers to government actions or programs designed to achieve certain goals. Creating public policy is a multistep process. Government officials, policy experts, political parties, interest groups, and concerned citizens all take part in policymaking.

The first step is to identify problems and issues that need to be addressed. A crisis can bring an issue to public attention or public officials can also raise awareness of an issue.

Government officials cannot address all the problems facing the nation at any one time. They have to make choices, selecting the issues that seem most critical and setting others aside. Agenda setting requires officials to decide which issues should be part of the public agenda, or set of public priorities. Political parties and interest groups often play a role in setting the public agenda. Parties help by placing issues on their platforms, thus making those items a priority for the candidates they elect. Interest groups do the same by lobbying for certain issues.

Once an issue is on the public agenda, government officials work on formulating a policy to address it. This step may take place within any branch of government. Legislatures make policy by passing laws or statutes. Executive officials or agencies make policy by setting new rules and regulations. The judicial system can influence policy through court decisions and rulings.

Many policies are formulated as legislation. These bills must first pass through legislatures to become law. This process often results in substantial revisions. A policy proposal may be changed to gain the support of a majority of legislators. Or it may be modified to avoid legal challenges or a threatened veto by a governor or president.

After a policy is adopted, it must be implemented. Usually, implementation is assigned to a specific government agency. That agency then becomes responsible for making the new policy work.

The final step in the policy process is evaluation. Government officials and concerned interest groups assess whether implemented policies have met their goals. If changes need to be made, the policymaking process begins again.

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