The Regulatory Week in Review: February 24, 2017
IN THE NEWS
- The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Department of Education (DoED) withdrew two guidance letters which those agencies had issued to educational institutions in 2015 and 2016, informing them that Title IX required schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom corresponding to their gender identity. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that the guidance documents did not “contain sufficient legal analysis” or sufficiently explain how the statutory interpretation at the basis of the guidance letters—that the term “sex” means gender identity rather than biological sex—is consistent with the statute.
- The U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution under the Congressional Review Act to eliminate the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s (HHS) rule that deals with federal grants for family planning services under Title X. The rule from the Obama Administration amended “eligibility requirements” to ensure that recipients of Title X funding cannot discriminate against a service provider for anything “other than its ability to provide Title X services.” If passed by the U.S. Senate and signed by President Trump, revocation of the rule could potentially have implications for family planning clinics like Planned Parenthood that receive some of their federal funding from Title X.
- The U.S. Senate confirmed Scott Pruitt to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), following a contentious hearing process in which Senate Democrats sought unsuccessfully to delay a final vote on Pruitt. Critics have reportedly expressed concern about Pruitt’s connections to the fossil fuel industry and his past legal battles with the EPA, but according to the agency’s web page Pruitt believes in “promoting and protecting a strong and healthy environment” and “that EPA is vital to that mission.”
- In a letter to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers requested that the agency reverse a decision made in the last month of the Obama administration to finalize standards—first proposed as part of a 2012 rulemaking—for greenhouse gas emissions from cars for model years 2022-2025, arguing that the agency acted improperly by failing to undertake a “robust” midterm evaluation before finalizing the standards.
- The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) reportedly joined a lawsuit against health insurance company UnitedHealth Group over an alleged scheme—centered around the Medicare Advantage program, which offers health plans through private companies—to overcharge Medicare. UnitedHealth Group reportedly denied the allegations, stating that the company is “confident we complied with the program rules,” but DOJ reportedly said that the scheme could have resulted in overcharges of as much as “hundreds of millions” of dollars.
- The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Office of Engineering and Technology authorized the first used of LTE-U—a fourth generation mobile Internet standard that allows traffic to be moved to unlicensed airwaves on the 5GHz spectrum, which was previously used only by WiFi and Bluetooth. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai praised the decision to allow Ericsson and Nokia to sell devices that use LTE-U as “a significant advance in wireless innovation and a big win for wireless consumers.”
- Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) John Kelly reportedly pledged that the military would not be used to deport undocumented immigrants. Kelly, who reportedly said there will be “no use of military force in immigration,” made this pledge only a few hours after President Trump reportedly referred to his push to increase deportations a “military operation.”
WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK
- Writing for The New York Times Upshot, Yale Professor Robert Shiller asserts that President Trump’s 2-for-1 executive order is “wrongheaded,” even though it has “backing in some behavioral economics and business circles.” While there is a problem “involving the need for incentives to get the level and tone of regulation right,” Shiller writes, “the world is far too complex to make it possible to count up regulations meaningfully and impose a two-for-one rule.”
- In a recent article in The Boston Globe, Janelle Nanos spoke with members of the Greater Boston tech industry about the impact of uncertainty regarding the future of H-1B visas on their businesses. In the article, David Mendels, the CEO of Brightcove, argues that in the already competitive Boston hiring market, where large tech firms like Google snatch up many graduates of schools like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, foreign workers are an important staffing source. Mendels worries that President Donald Trump’s emphasis on hiring American workers could lead to a scale back of the H-1B visa program and greater hiring difficulties for mid-sized tech companies.