The Regulatory Week in Review: May 27, 2016

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The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on executive overreach in federal regulations, Senator Mike Lee introduced the Regulatory Budget Act, and more…

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IN THE NEWS

  • As a part of his initiative to reassert the powers granted to Congress by the Constitution, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced the Regulatory Budget Act. The bill would aim to cut regulatory funding by requiring Congress to vote on the regulatory costs each agency is allowed to impose on the economy—it has been praised by many on the right, including Neil Siefring of FreedomWorks who called it necessary to “combat[ting] the regulatory state.”
  • The House passed a bill, supported mainly by Republicans, that would roll back environmental regulations on pesticides—a move that the bill’s sponsor Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH) applauded for its reduction of “duplicative” and “unnecessary” regulation, but which the White House characterized as harmful to the environment and unnecessary because federal and state agencies already have the needed authorities to responds to Zika, though it did not explicitly threaten to veto the bill.
  • In a victory for the broadcast media industry, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit struck down Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations that had limited the ability of station owners to enter into so-called joint sales agreements—the FCC reportedly argued that the ban was necessary to prevent companies from circumventing its rules barring ownership of more than two broadcast stations in one area, but the court held that the FCC had failed to show that the existing rules were in the “public interest,” therefore justifying an expansion of those rules.
  • The Department of Labor (DOL) filed its third lawsuit against Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. in less than a year, alleging that the company systematically discriminated against women in its hiring practices at one of its processing facilities—in response to DOL’s complaint that the company violated anti-discrimination requirements of Executive Order 11246 that apply to government contractors, the world’s second-largest poultry producer reportedly characterized the DOL’s statistical analyses as “misguided” and insisted that it is an equal opportunity employer.
  • As part of the Obama Administration’s policies to fight obesity, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finalized a rule to update nutrition labels so that calorie counts and serving sizes are displayed in larger type and added sugars are listed on a separate line— changes which are intended to make it easier for consumers to make informed decisions about their eating choices, and which are supported by First Lady Michelle Obama and other public health advocates, but criticized by the sugar industry.
  • The U.S. Senate unanimously passed legislation that will codify new rights for survivors of sexual assault—including the right to have evidence such as rape kits preserved for 20 years or until the state statute of limitations expires, and to be informed of the results of forensics tests—that is supported by advocates for sexual assault victims, although they acknowledge that work remains to be done, including testing the backlog of hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits across the country.

WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK

  • Writing for the Brookings Institution’s Tech Tank blog, Mohit Kaushal and Margaret Darling argued for turning healthcare data into a public utility. The pair called the private, for-profit system that currently dominates healthcare data administration “scattered and inaccessible,” and suggested that making healthcare data a public utility would help to foster the digital healthcare coordination that a 2013 study shows a majority of Americans support. They highlighted the 21st Century Cures Act as a piece of legislation that would promote innovation in healthcare, and urged government agencies to “build an interoperable infrastructure and to open up and facilitate access to valuable data.”
  • The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a new report that reviewed staff errors committed at the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) between 2009 and 2014, concluding that the agency had erroneously held 152 prisoners beyond their release dates for a total of 8,917 days—the mistakes cost the agency nearly $670,000, not including additional litigation and settlement expenses, and the OIG emphasized that although the Bureau’s error rate was low overall, untimely releases can cause “significant and irreparable” damage to inmates.
  • Cato Unbound is featuring a debate all month on the administrative state. In the lead essay, “Farewell to the Administrative State,” Philip Wallach, a senior fellow at Brookings, discusses a “rising skepticism” about the administrative state, criticizes both the populist and libertarian approaches to limiting administrative power, and writes that moving “our government’s center of gravity out of the administrative state will require” that Congress do the work of “incremental legislating, even when it is unglamorous.”