The D.C. Circuit holds that FOIA applies to the private email accounts of federal officials, the Senate passes legislation that would limit GMO labeling, and more…
IN THE NEWS
- In a case concerning whether the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) applies to emails sent by government officials on nongovernmental email servers, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that a conservative think tank could use FOIA to request emails sent by John Holdren, the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, on a private email account, because those emails were still “agency records.”
- The Senate voted 63-30 to pass a bill that would block states from passing laws requiring the labeling of foods that have been genetically modified. The bill, despite being praised by its supporters as a bipartisan effort, received sharp criticism from several Senators, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) who highlighted that this bill comes on the heels of GMO labeling legislation going into effect in Vermont, as well as from members of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), who threw money from the Senate gallery in protest.
- The U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) issued final regulations that will require companies to have safety and environmental protection plans in place before conducting exploratory drilling in the Arctic Ocean off the Alaskan coast. While the American Petroleum Institute cautioned that the rules are unnecessary and “may inhibit innovation,” members of the environmental community—which continues to call for the Obama Administration to put an end to Arctic drilling entirely—praised the rules as “both necessary and long overdue.”
- The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled against the Obama Administration in Central United Life Insurance v. Burwell—the court struck down a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rule that barred the sale of fixed indemnity insurance as a standalone product, and held that consumers must be allowed to buy fixed indemnity insurance despite it falling below the minimum coverage requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
- The U.S. House of Representatives passed, nearly unanimously, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2015 (H.R. 2646)—legislation that would improve the oversight of federal mental health programs in part by creating a new assistant secretary position in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to oversee mental health and substance abuse
- The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a ruling that held that the limit on robocalls imposed on private sector businesses by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) does not apply to the government. The ruling comes as a result of a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision, and held that, as defined by the TCPA, “person” does not include the government, thereby making the robocall limit inapplicable.
WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK
- The most recent issue of the NYU Journal of Legislation and Public Policy features three essays on “the regulatory budget” that question how cost should be taken into account in the regulatory process. While George Washington University Law School Professor Richard Pierce suggests that opponents of cost-benefit analysis “stop tilting at windmills,” Temple University Law School Professor Amy Sinden challenges Professor Pierce’s premise that cost-benefit analysis is as widely embraced among progressives as he suggests. And Susan Dudley, director of the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center, takes a look at how regulatory budgeting is practiced in other countries.
- Writing for The Hill, Tim Devaney discussed the competition between major airlines for the limited number of flights to Cuba. Though geographic and cultural connections have made Florida the most popular point of origin for flights to Cuba, there is quite a bit of competition for a direct flight from Washington, D.C. to Havana, which James Williams of Engage Cuba felt would create a “symbolic connection” between the two capital. Some lawmakers, including Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.), have allegedly joined the fight, pushing for flights to Cuba from their home states.