IN THE NEWS
- The U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019, which prohibits the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) from removing illegal immigrants who came to the country as minors. The Act also provides a pathway for minors to gain permanent status as citizens. Representative Bill Foster (D-Ill.) stated that “this legislation opens a door of opportunity” to immigrants who “have known no other home.” Representative Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), however, reportedly said that the Act “tells an entire generation of illegal immigrants that breaking our laws is rewarded.”
- The U.S. House Judiciary Committee launched a bipartisan investigation into whether large technology companies such as Apple, Google and Facebook are engaging in anticompetitive conduct and whether existing antitrust laws are adequate to protect the public. Citing “growing evidence that a handful of gatekeepers have come to capture control over key arteries of online commerce, content, and communications,” Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) statedthat “it is vital that we investigate the current state of competition in digital markets and the health of the antitrust laws.” Antitrust Subcommittee member Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) expressed support for the investigation, but cautioned against “any predetermined conclusions.”
- DOJ announced that it is opening an investigation into whether to keep, modify, or terminate the longstanding consent decrees that govern how ASCAP and BMI—the two largest performing rights organizations in the United States—license rights to perform musical works in public. The consent decrees, which have been in place for more than 75 years, require ASCAP andBMI to offer licenses to perform musical works on a non-exclusive and non-discriminatory basis and prohibit a range of potentially anticompetitive conduct. In a statement, BMI welcomed the move as “an opportunity to do what BMI has been advocating for years—modernize music licensing.”
- The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration proposed a new pipeline safety authorization bill that would require replacement of aging pipeline infrastructure and would encourage pipeline operators to exceed federal safety standards. The bill’s critics, however, have taken issue with Section 18 of the proposal, which advocates increasing in criminal penalties—including prison sentences—for pipeline protestors. Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.) reportedly called the provision “a clear infringement on the basic right of speech and assembly and a poorly veiled effort to undermine the ability of Native and Indigenous communities to advocate for themselves and their tribal lands.”
- The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed a decision to prohibit hospitals from changing their formula for reimbursing hospitals through Medicaid without going through the proper procedures. Justice Neil Gorsuch held that substantive Medicaid policies cannot be enacted without allowing the public to have notice of and a chance to comment on the proposed changes. In dissent, Justice Breyer argued that the hospital’s Medicaid policy was an interpretative change, not a substantive one, which did not require a notice and comment period.
- The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed a lawsuit filed by Democratic members of the House of Representatives against President Donald J. Trump for reallocating military funding to pay for a border wall. Judge Trevor McFadden emphasized separation of powers concerns before ultimately ruling that he lacked jurisdiction “to take sides in this fight between the House and the President.” He also argued that the House has alternatives to lawsuits, in particular the ability to override a presidential veto with a two-thirds vote.
- The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced new restrictions on travel to Cuba. OFAC’s new regulations prohibit group educational travel to Cuba, and cruise ships, private ships, and private airplanes will no longer be able to dock or land on Cuban soil. Treasury Department Secretary Steven Mnuchin emphasized that the restrictions will “help to keep U.S. dollars out of the hands of Cuban military, intelligence, and security services.”
- A leaked study from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration apparently found evidence of cancer-causing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in domestic meat and dairy products, produce, and packaged food. Reportedly called “forever chemicals,” PFAS apparently accumulate in the body and can also cause organ damage and hormone disruption. In response to the study, the Environmental Working Group called on regulators to expand PFAS monitoring and to ban inclusion of PFAS in food packaging.
- The New York State Assembly passed a law that will prohibit declawing of domestic cats except to address a medical condition that “compromises the cat’s health.” “When we adopt pets they become valued members of our families that provide us with comfort, love and joy,” Speaker of the Assembly Carl Heastie (D) stated, and noted that “there are better alternatives to surgery.” The New York State Veterinary Medical Society had opposed the measure, arguing that declawing should be an option where the cat’s behavior poses a health risk to the owner or after attempts to discourage destructive clawing have failed.
WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK
- In a policy paper, Randal O’Toole of the Cato Institute argues that any new authorization for federal spending on transportation infrastructure must employ strategies to maximize efficiency. O’Toole suggested that Congress should limit infrastructure expenditures to actual transportation revenues so as to avoid increase of the federal debt. O’Toole also argued that state and local transportation authorities must play a more significant role in both revenue building through the levy of user fees and in determining how to spend allocated federal funds.
- A report from Business Roundtable identified regulatory overlap among federal agencies as a major driver of costs for American businesses. Regulatory overlap occurs when multiple agencies exercise regulatory oversight over the same policy area or market activity and can lead to duplicative, inconsistent, or conflicting rules that are difficult and costly for businesses to comply with, accordingto the report. To reduce inefficiency, the report recommended that agencies negotiate interagency agreements to clearly delineate roles and responsibilities. Where overlap is unavoidable, agencies should engage in joint rulemakings and improve communication with industry actors, the report suggested.
- Thomas Fuller, Anjali Singhyi, Mika Gröndahl, and Derek Watkins, in an article published in The New York Times, calculate the economic damage the United States faces by not adopting more stringent building regulations to better protect against earthquakes. The article cites a federal study conducted by the National Institute of Building Sciences which estimates that each year the United States delays the adoption of stricter building codes, the economy incurs costs of an estimated $4.3 billion annually. Ron Hamburger, an American structural engineer, argues that truly damaging earthquakes occur “once every 100 to 200 years,” which discourages builders from incurring additional costs for construction projects.