House passes Midnight Rules Relief Act, SEC Chair to step down, and more…
IN THE NEWS
- The U.S. House of Representatives passed, by a vote of 240-179 largely along party lines, the Midnight Rules Relief Act, a bill which would amend the Congressional Review Act—a law that currently gives Congress the opportunity to overturn a promulgated “major” regulation, such as those with more than $100 million in annual impacts, by passing a resolution within 60 days of the regulation’s finalization—to allow Congress to, with one vote, overturn all major regulations finalized within the final 60 days of the congressional session.
- Mary Jo White, the Chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) who oversaw over 50 significant rulemakings related to financial regulation and 2,850 enforcement actions, but who has been criticized by progressive groups as being too lenient towards some large banks, announced that she will step down at the end of the Obama administration, two years before the end of her term—a move that will give President-elect Donald Trump the opportunity to appoint a new SEC Chair and may make it easier for him to ease financial regulation.
- The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) finalized the Methane and Waste Prevention Rule, a rule which aims to limit the amount of natural gas, including methane, released into the air by oil and gas operations and which requires oil and gas operations to cut flaring in half by implementing currently available technologies, periodically checking for leaks, and replacing ventilation equipment that releases large amounts of has into the air. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell praised the rule as one that will “save more natural gas to power our nation” and “modernize decades-old standards to keep pace with industry and to ensure a fair return to the American taxpayers for use of a valuable resource.”
- The Obama Administration is reportedly moving to ban the sale of drilling rights for oil and gas in the United States’ Arctic waters, a move which would be a victory for environmentalists—who have reportedly called on President Obama to take action before the end of his presidency due to concerns that President-elect Donald Trump could open more areas to drilling—and a defeat for the oil industry, which has reportedly pushed for greater access to offshore drilling areas beyond the Gulf of Mexico.
- The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a final rule that extends housing protections for LGBT people by extending a 2012 HUD rule requiring that HUD-assisted or HUD-insured housing be made available “without regard to sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status” so that the rule applies to Native American and Native Hawaiian housing that is assisted or insured by HUD.
- Judge Sam Cummings of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas permanently blocked the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) “persuader rule”—which would have altered reporting requirements for employers, their attorneys, and others who consult with employers about union activities, and which was supported by unions as a policy that would increase transparency around so-called “union-busting” activities—in response to a challenge from the National Federation of Independent Business, who characterized the rule as “burdensome” and alleged that it violated employer’s First Amendment rights.
- Judge Ann Aiken of the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon ruled that an environmental lawsuit—filed by a group of young people ranging from ages eight to 19, and alleging that the federal government has failed to adequately address climate change, and in so doing has violated the youth’s constitutional “rights to life, liberty, and property”—can move forward. Judge Aiken noted that the case is “of a different order than the typical environmental case,” because rather than alleging violations of any particular statute, it asserts that neglect by the federal government has “so profoundly damaged our home planet” as to threaten the “plaintiffs’ fundamental constitutional rights to life and liberty.”
- The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) finalized a rule that provides the federal government an exception under the FCC’s rules on automated debt collection calls and allows the federal government to make prerecorded, autodialed calls to borrowers, including those who have received federal student loans, whose debt is delinquent or facing delinquency. The FCC rule does not apply to third parties, who must obtain consent before contacting a borrower using automated messages.
- The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s (DoT) Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) proposed new regulations—issued under the authority of the Federal Alcohol Administration Act, which gives the Treasury Department the authority to regulate the labeling of wine and other alcoholic beverages to prevent “consumer deception”—expanding the list of grape varieties that can be used in labeling American wines, such as “on wine labels and in wine advertisements.”
WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK
- An analysis conducted by Sam Batkins and Dan Goldbeck of the American Action Forum looked at which major rules could be repealed by the incoming Congress using the Congressional Review Act. The analysis found that the next Congress, assuming that President-elect Trump will not veto repeals of regulations, could repeal at least 48 major regulations with regulatory costs estimated at more than $42 billion—including the U.S. Department of Labor’s overtime rule, the Federal Aviation Administration’s rule to regulate drones, and others.
- President-elect Donald Trump is reportedly considering the idea of establishing a national infrastructure bank to “fix the country’s roads and bridges,” according to a member of his transition team. A recent Op-Ed. by the New York Time’s Editorial Board evaluated the infrastructure proposals of the two presidential candidates and cautioned that “[a]n infrastructure overhaul cannot be done in isolation.” The Editorial Board argued that an infrastructure bank—initially part of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s proposal but not of President-elect Donald Trump’s—could “propel future investment” by “provid[ing] start-up financing, loan guarantees and long-term loans for large-scale public projects.”
- Writing for The New York Times’s DealBook, Stephen J. Lubben posed a series of questions about what the Trump Administration could mean for financial regulation. Lubben asserts that reintroducing rules from the Glass-Steagall Act after repealing the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which President-elect Trump has reportedly suggested he might push for, would leave questions about regulation of significant areas, including bankruptcy and derivatives trading. Lubben also questions how a push to repeal Dodd-Frank would be received given that President-elect Trump was supported in part by an anti-establishment movement.