The Regulatory Week in Review: January 20, 2017
IN THE NEWS
- The U.S. Senate continued to hold hearings for President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees this week, including for the nominees to lead the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Several of the nominees spoke in favor of changing the nature of federal regulation: Scott Pruitt, the nominee for EPA Administrator, reportedly spoke critically of federal environmental regulations and called for states to have more authority, and Betsy DeVos, the nominee for Secretary of Education, suggested moving away from a “one size fits all” approach to education policy.
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) filed a lawsuit against Navient, the nation’s largest servicer of student loans and a former part of Sallie Mae, for allegedly “systematically and illegally failing borrowers at every stage of repayment.” Specifically, the CFPB alleges that Navient put up roadblocks to repayment, including providing bad information, and used deception to prevent borrowers from accessing lower repayments.
- A new final rule from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development lowers the level of lead in a child’s blood which will trigger requirements that providers of federally subsidized housing take action to remediate the presence of lead. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) reportedly said the rule, which sets the threshold at 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood, down from 20 micrograms per deciliter, “will help protect countless children from the harmful, often permanent effects of lead poisoning.”
- The U.S. Department of Interior’s stream protection rule—which was issued in December and set to become effective yesterday, and which was intended to protect streams from the impact of coal mining by requiring that mining permits not be issued unless “the proposed operation would not result in material damage to the hydrologic balance outside the permit area”—was challenged in a suit brought by thirteen states. The states argue that the rule illegally interferes with states’ “primacy” over the regulation of coal mining.
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, along with 15 other federal agencies, issued a final rule that updates the “Common Rule,” a set of regulations on human participation in research. The rule requires consent forms to include a “concise and focused presentation” of the information most relevant to a person’s decision about whether to participate in a study, but does not include a provision from the proposal “that would have required researchers to obtain consent before using a study participant’s non-identified biospecimens.”
- The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Lee v. Tam, a case that considers whether an Asian-American rock band that calls itself “the Slants” can obtain a trademark from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which denied the band’s trademark application on the grounds that the Lanham Act’s disparagement clause bars registration of trademarks that feature “immoral, deceptive, or scandalous matter,” or that “may disparage” certain groups. The case also has direct implications for the ongoing struggle of the Washington Redskins football team to recover its trademark.
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a proposed rule that would require “new light vehicles” to include a “vehicle-to-vehicle” (V2V) safety feature—technology that would allow vehicles to send and receive messages “about a vehicle’s speed, heading, brake status, and other vehicle information” with nearby vehicles. The agency stated that the goal of the requirement is necessary because, absent a rulemaking, “a critical mass of equipped vehicles would take many years to develop” or may never develop.
- The online retailer Amazon reportedly announced that it will participate in a “pilot program” accepting food stamps for online grocery orders, which is being launched by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) through the agency’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Food stamps used through the program reportedly could only be used for the purchase of actual food items, and will not cover “service or delivery charges.” The program will reportedly be “the first time SNAP has accepted online payment for groceries.”
- Resolving a dispute over allegations made by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that Uber misrepresented how much its drivers earn when recruiting new drivers, Uber agreed to pay $20 million in a settlement, which also prohibits the company from misrepresenting drivers’ earnings in the future.
WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK
- In an article for the New York Times Dealbook, Wharton Professor David Zaring wrote that Dodd-Frank had “little to fear from constitutional challenges. Recent federal court decisions finding that both the administrative enforcement strategy used by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and that the structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) were unconstitutional should not be seen as a threat to Dodd-Frank, Zaring argued, because “it is unrealistic to order that these programs be dismantled” and thus “the constitutional law remedies…cannot be taken seriously.”
- The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) published a new study assessing the regulatory burden placed on manufacturers. The study reviewed various parts of the manufacturing business process—such as production, quality control, and human resources—and found that nearly 300,000 “restrictions” are placed on manufacturers by federal regulations. The study also asked manufacturers about the effect of regulation, and reported that large majorities of respondents stated that the regulatory burden has increased over the last several years, and that if that burden were reduced they would “invest the savings on hiring, increased salaries and wages,” and research.