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The Civics Glossary B
Balance of trade - the net difference between the value of American exports and imports. If the country has exported more than it has imported, then the United States has a positive or favorable balance of trade. If the country has imported more than it has exported, then it has a negative or unfavorable balance of trade.
Bill - a form or draft of a proposed law presented to a legislature. In the federal government, if a bill is passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate, it is presented to the President. If the president signs it or does nothing for ten days, it becomes a law. If the bill is vetoed, then it cannot become a law unless the Congress overrides the veto.
Bill of attainder - legislative act declaring that a person is guilty of a crime and setting punishment without the benefit of a formal trial. The Constitution forbids the federal government (Article I, Section 9, clause 3) and the state governments (Article I, Section 10, clause 1) from passing bills of attainder.
Boston Tea Party - Pre-Revolutionary War protest against the British Tea Act (1773), which placed a tax on tea. On December 16, 1773, a number of Bostonian patriots, dressed as Mohawks, boarded three British ships and dumped 342 chests of tea, worth about $75,000, into Boston Harbor.
Briefs - documents given to a court by the attorneys trying a case. These documents contain summaries of the issues in the case, the laws relevant to the case, and the arguments which support the position taken by the attorney on behalf of his or her client.
British Bill of Rights (1689) - established basic principles of constitutional government in Britain; including Parliament's supremacy over the monarchy, the right to have a jury trial, and the prohibition of excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment. Along with the Petition of Right 629) and the Act of Settlement (1701), this law helped shape the British constitutional system.
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) - founded in 1972, it is one of the agencies of the Department of the Treasury. It is responsible for administering and enforcing federal laws on firearms and explosives; as well as laws dealing with the production, use, and distribution of alcohol and tobacco.
Bureau of Economic Analysis - part of the Department of Commerce. bureau collects, analyzes and publishes data to help examine the state of the national economy. It issues reports on the gross national product (GNP), which is the dollar value of all the goods and services produced in an economy in a year.
Bureau of Engraving and Printing - founded in 1862, it is one of the agencies of the Department of the Treasury. It designs, engraves, and prints all paper money, treasury bonds and notes, as well postage stamps, food coupons ("food stamps"), and other official federal financial items.
Bureau of Indian Affairs - founded in 1824 as part of the War Department, and moved to the Department of the Interior in 1849. The bureau administers social assistance programs, including education and public health, for Native Americans, especially those living on or near reservations.
Bureau of Land Management - founded in 1946, part of the Department of the Interior. This bureau is responsible for controlling and managing the over 300 million acres of public lands; largely owned by the federal government and located in the Far West and Alaska. The bureau also manages timber, oil, gas, minerals, rangeland, recreation, and other resources from public lands. It leases and sometimes sells public lands, and leases the Outer Continental Shelf lands for exploration and development of resources such as oil and gas.
Bureau of Reclamation - fully established in 1923, part of the Department of the Interior. The bureau builds and operates water projects aimed at reclaiming arid and semiarid lands in western states. Most projects have several purposes, including: water conservation, storage, and irrigation; hydroelectric power generation; flood control; municipal and industrial water supply; navigation; and outdoor recreation.
Bureau of the Census - established as a permanent office in 1902, part of the Department of Commerce. The bureau takes a census of the population every ten years, as the Constitution requires for the purpose of determining the distribution of seats in the House of Representatives. In addition, the bureau collects, analyzes and publishes a variety of statistical studies on the people and economy of the nation.
Bureaucracy - a large, complex administrative structure. Such structures exist in organizations such as governments and businesses. The executive branch of the federal government has a complex bureaucracy, with a hierarchy of bureaus and agencies.
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