The Supreme Court addresses transgender rights, a coalition of states challenge EPA’s methane regulations, and more…
IN THE NEWS
- After the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit recently affirmed a federal district court order requiring a Virginia school board to allow a transgender student who was born biologically as a female but who identifies as male to use the school’s boy’s bathroom, the U.S. Supreme Court stepped into the fray, issuing a 5-3 order staying the district court’s preliminary injunction pending further review by the Court—a move that some say may indicate the Court’s skepticism of the Obama Administration’s recently issued guidance advising school districts that Title IX, which bans schools that receive federal money from discriminating based on a student’s sex, includes protection of a student’s transgender status.
- Fourteen states filed suit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), challenging the agency’s recently issued rules designed to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas industry—rules that EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy had previously explained would allow “industry to continue to grow” while also providing “a vital source of energy for Americans” and protecting public health, but which West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who led the suit, characterized as an “example of unlawful federal overreach” that will negatively impact “jobs and working families” and that are unnecessary given that the industry had already voluntarily reduced methane emissions to a 30-year low.
- New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill that legalizes daily fantasy sports in New York State by categorizing such games as a “game of skill,” bringing an end to a longtime legal saga between the State and daily fantasy sports operators DraftKings and FanDuel after State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman had aggressively pursued legal action against what he considered to be “illegal gambling” companies last year and had brought the industry’s operations in the State to an effective halt until Governor Cuomo’s most recent move.
- The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) released guidance requiring that federal agencies take into account climate change in their mandated analyses of the effects of proposed agency actions under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)—a move that the Obama Administration stated represents a “big step in the Administration’s effort to . . . identify opportunities to build climate resilience,” but which House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) asserted would “result in significant new litigation exposure that will slow or block most every major activity requiring NEPA approval.”
- In a blow to the Federal Election Commission’s (FEC) prohibition on political committees using the names of candidates in their web page and social media titles, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit unanimously ruled that the political committee Pursuing America’s Greatness—which had supported Governor Mike Huckabee’s failed presidential run and had named a Facebook page and website “I Like Mike Huckabee”—should have been granted its sought-after preliminary injunction from the FEC’s rule, holding that, as applied to Pursuing America’s Greatness, the prohibition constituted a “content-based ban on speech that likely violates the First Amendment.”
- In an assessment of the body-worn camera policies of major police departments across the country, legislative advocacy organization the Leadership Conference published a Policy Scorecard that evaluated police departments’ policies according to eight criteria—including whether the departments’ respective policies curbed officer discretion on when to record, limited retention of footage, and protected footage from tampering, among other factors—and concluded that although no department satisfied all of the Leadership Conference’s recommended criteria, it was “pleased to find examples of strong policy language currently in use for nearly all of our criteria.”
- New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that New York’s Public Service Commission approved a Clean Energy Standard that will require 50 percent of the State’s electricity to come from renewable energy sources by 2030 and that requires utility companies to subsidize the state’s nuclear power plants—a mandate that Governor Cuomo’s office called “the most comprehensive and ambitious clean energy mandate in the state’s history,” and which, in the face of the ever-growing and “very real threat” posed by climate change, will make New York a “national leader in the clean energy economy.”
- Expanding on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) final rule issued earlier this year permitting the operation of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy announced several actions aimed at promoting the use and integration of UAS, including $35 million in research funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) as well as a variety of U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) initiatives aimed at capitalizing on UAS technology in government operations.