The U.S. and China pledge to sign Paris Climate Agreement, multi-agency rule bans religious groups from discriminating against social services recipients, and more…
IN THE NEWS
- The U.S. and China issued a joint statement in which they pledged to sign the Paris Climate Agreement on Earth Day, April 22—an announcement that the White House called a “critical milestone” for two of the world’s biggest polluters that together account for nearly 40 percent of global emissions, and that was intended to spur other countries into signing the Agreement, which must be signed by 55 countries with 55 percent of global emissions in order to be entered into force.
- A group of federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Department of Education (DOE), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), jointly issued a final rule—referred to as the “religious liberty rule”—that is aimed at preventing faith-based organizations from discriminating against social services recipients through a variety of new requirements, including that these organizations provide notice to recipients of the discrimination ban, separate federally assisted activities from privately funded religious activities, and allow recipients to request an alternative provider if they disagree with the organization’s religious views.
- The Federal Trade Commission (FCC) voted 3-2 along party lines to add Internet services to Lifeline—a program that provides federal subsidies to help defray the costs of communications services for low-income Americans—which the White House and other Lifeline supporters praised as an important step toward increasing Internet access, which many view as a necessary link to education and basic communication, but which its critics have denounced for being a “fiscally irresponsible program” in light of its lack of a firm budget and for not requiring that program participants make a contribution to the cost of service, among other alleged deficiencies.
- In a bid to promote the integrity of the childhood nutrition programs that it administers under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA), the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s (DOA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) issued a proposed rule that would establish criteria for assessing state operators of childhood nutrition programs, and which would impose fines on program operators who “jeopardize the integrity” of school meal programs by violating those criteria.
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued eased guidelines for mifepristone, a pill that ends early pregnancy, by decreasing the number of doctor’s appointments required for women taking the pill from three to two, and allowing women to take the pill further into their pregnancies—a change that abortion rights advocates are calling a victory, and which they assert simply reflects what is already standard medical practice in most states, but which anti-abortion groups have railed against as a politicized move that fails to address what they point to as the drug’s adverse effects, including possible illness and even death.
- Eleven environmental and other groups commenced an action in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), requesting that the court invalidate the agency’s ruling that permits the company, AquaBounty Technologies, to produce genetically engineered salmon, because of what they argue is the FDA’s lack of authority over genetically engineered animals, and because the agency allegedly omitted environmental and other types of risks when it reviewed the company’s application.
- The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced a new policy that raised the altitude at which drone operators can fly their aircraft in almost all U.S. airspace without first obtaining from the agency a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) from 200 to 400 feet—a policy that is intended to drive efficiency within the FAA by streamlining the process for reviewing applications for COAs, and which commercial drone supporters such as the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International have praised, while also continuing to push for faster development in drone regulation that would allow them to operate their drones at even higher altitudes.
WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK
- The Competitive Enterprise Institute sent a letter to Congress urging for a regulatory budget. The Institute argued that a regulatory budget would increase economic growth and reduce the impact of “excessive regulation” on low-income families. Additionally, it advocated for retrospective review every ten years and a requirement that Congress authorize all “major regulations” before they can be implemented.
- A recent U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report examined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) oversight of underground drinking water, which the EPA is required to monitor to ensure it has not been contaminated by oil and gas production wastewater. The GAO report concluded that the EPA should request more particular data and provide additional guidance, among other recommendations, given the EPA’s current lack of uniformity in its monitoring and data collection.