The Regulatory Week in Review: November 11, 2016
IN THE NEWS
- Voters in several states passed ballot initiatives during Tuesday’s election expanding the legalization of marijuana use, contributing to a national trend in favor of legalization that began with Colorado’s legalization of the drug in 2012. California, Massachusetts, and Nevada passed measures allowing for recreational use. Montana, North Dakota, Florida, and Arkansas also expanded access to marijuana used for medicinal purposes. As more Americans have expressed approval for legalization of marijuana in recent years, the debate has gained prominence across the states and in the U.S. Congress.
- Several states voted to increase their minimum wages. Arizona, Colorado, Washington, and Maine all passed ballot measures to increase their minimum wages to $12 or more per hour by 2020. Additionally, a ballot measure in South Dakota that would have lowered the minimum wage for “non-tipped employees under 18” was easily defeated. The measures come after the two presidential candidates discussed the minimum wage earlier in the election cycle, and as many localities across the country have tried to address issues related to employee compensation.
- Of two state ballot measures that would have created universal background checks for private firearm sales, the measure in Nevada was narrowly approved while a similar measure in Maine was narrowly rejected. A California ballot measure to ban the possession of large-capacity magazines passed, and Washington approved an “extreme risk protection order” that creates a judicial process by which law enforcement officers and family members can seek to keep those who are a threat to themselves and others from possessing guns.
- Nebraska voted to reinstate the death penalty—which was abolished by the Nebraska state legislature in May 2015—and Oklahoma, where the death penalty is already legal, voted to amend the Oklahoma Constitution to prevent the death penalty from being declared a cruel and unusual punishment. Meanwhile, a California ballot measure to replace capital punishment sentences for murder with a sentence of life without parole failed to pass.
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a proposed rejection of requests from fuel refiners to modify the Renewable Fuel Standard program. The refiners requested that the responsibility for compliance with the program’s ethanol mandate be shifted away from them, but in its proposed denial, EPA stated that it “[does] not believe that the petitioners have demonstrated that changing the point of obligation would likely result in increased use of renewable fuels.” EPA is soliciting public comment on the proposed denial.
- The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) finalized a rule that creates a new leasing program for renewable energy on public lands that codifies aspects of BLM’s existing “Smart from the Start” policy and which, via financial incentives and a competitive leasing program, is designed to support renewable energy development on lands with “the highest generation potential and fewest resource conflicts.”
- A federal judge denied the request of Airbnb and HomeAway—both online home-sharing services—for an injunction against a San Francisco ordinance which makes collecting a fee for “the rental of an unregistered unit” in the city a misdemeanor. Although rejecting the companies’ various legal arguments, the judge nonetheless expressed concern that the city hadn’t created a verification system that the companies could use to ascertain a property’s registration status. He scheduled a future conference to further consider that issue. An Airbnb spokesperson reportedly said that the company “want[s] to work with the city to fix the broken system,” but San Francisco Supervisor David Campos reportedly countered that Airbnb hadn’t been willing to work with the city in the past to craft appropriate regulations.
- Monterey County, California voted to pass Measure Z, which bans the use of hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas, and places other limits on oil and natural gas extraction. The ballot measure, which passed by a 56 to 44 percent margin, makes Monterey County the sixth county in California to ban fracking, and the first county with a significant oil industry presence to do so. Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute reportedly hailed it as “David beat[ing] Goliath,” but opponents of the measure allegedly warned it could negatively impact local jobs.
WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK
- Writing for Forbes, Clyde Wayne Crews of the Competitive Enterprise Institute outlined how President-elect Donald Trump can fast-track deregulation and wealth creation. Pointing to the approach taken by the Reagan Administration, Crews argues that executive action will be key to deregulation, but said that legislative action, such as “eliminating agencies and rolling back their powers,” will also be needed. Further, Crews argues that rules that are “costly or controversial” should require approval from Congress before they are implemented.
- A recent report by Ariel Rabkin, a Visiting Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, assesses various new initiatives at urban school systems aimed at bolstering computer science education for students—including in New York, San Francisco, and Chicago. Rabkin reviewed the programs’ goals, designs, funding levels, and other attributes, and concluded that implementing computer science programs in smaller school districts might “pose considerable challenges,” even as larger districts will likely have an “unusually easy time” funding and staffing such programs. Moreover, Rabkin stated that college application and high school graduation requirements place insufficient weight on computer science education.
- Writing in the New York Times, Coral Davenport discussed the implications of a Donald Trump presidency for climate change policy both domestically and internationally. According to the article, Trump is likely to “substantially slow or weaken the enforcement” of President Obama’s regulations to reduce carbon emissions, and to choose not to fulfill the United States’ obligations under the Paris Climate Agreement. If that happens, it could make other countries less likely to fulfill their obligations under the Agreement.