President-elect Trump announces his pick for SEC Chair, the House passes the Midnight Rule Relief Act, and more…
IN THE NEWS
- President-elect Donald Trump announced his intention to nominate Jay Clayton—a partner at the law firm Sullivan & Cromwell who has represented many Wall Street banks—to be Chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, a choice which Trump said will advance “the financial security of the American people,” but which was reportedly criticized by progressive groups because of Clayton’s ties to the financial industry.
- The U.S. House of Representatives voted 238-184 to pass the Midnight Rule Relief Act, a bill that would amend the Congressional Review Act to allow Congress to bundle together multiple rules finalized during the last 60 legislative days of the Obama Administration and repeal them with a single joint resolution of disapproval. David Levine, CEO of the American Sustainable Business Council, reportedly compared the bill to “taking a chainsaw into surgery,” but Representative Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) reportedly argued that the bill “doesn’t change the underlying law.”
- Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) introduced the Regulatory Accountability Act of 2017, which combines “six separate reform bills that have already passed the House…in previous Congresses,” including repeals of both the Chevron and Auer doctrines of deference to regulators. Rep. Goodlatte characterized the bill as “a major step to reverse the negative effects regulations are having on our economy,” which promotes transparency and “increases the power of the people’s elected representatives and the courts to stop overreaching new rulemaking.”
- A federal appeals court reportedly postponed oral arguments in the Obama Administration’s appeal of an August 2016 ruling by U.S. District Court of Wyoming Judge Scott W. Skavdahl, which held that the Bureau of Land Management had no authority to promulgate its hydraulic fracturing rule that seeks to implement safety regulations for fracturing that occurs on public lands. With oral arguments now delayed until March 2017, the move means that responsibility for the appeal will fall to the Trump Administration.
- Judge Reed O’Connor of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued a preliminary injunction in Franciscan Alliance v. Burwell, a case challenging a regulation issued under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) that prevents discrimination in health care based on gender identity or termination of pregnancy. In his order temporarily blocking the rule, Judge O’Connor argued that “[p]rior to the passage of the ACA in 2010 and for more than forty years after the passage of Title IX in 1972, no federal court or agency had concluded sex should be defined to include gender identity.”
- China, home to the world’s largest ivory market, reportedly announced that the country will ban all ivory sales by the end of 2017, a move welcomed by wildlife advocates and which comes after the United States ended its ivory trade in July.
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) ordered TransUnion and Equifax, two credit reporting agencies, to pay a combined $17.6 million in restitution and $5.5 million in fines for allegedly “deceiving consumers about the usefulness and actual cost of credit scores they sold to consumers.” Among the actions the CFPB alleges violated the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act are representations made by the agencies that services would be free or only cost $1, when in fact those services cost around $16 per month.
- As the 115th Congress convened this past week, incoming House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) announced his plan to effect regulatory reform, outlining a “two-step approach” that will focus first on the “structure” of the regulatory system and will include taking up the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act (REINS) and the Regulatory Accountability Act. Secondly, Rep. McCarthy stated, the House will focus on targeting “specific regulations,” which will involve taking “swift action on at least on the stream protection rule and methane emissions standards, both of which are limits to our energy production.”
- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued a final rule which implements a part of the Rehabilitation Act requiring federal agencies to take affirmative action to employ people with disabilities and which sets a target for a federal workforce in which 12 percent of employees are people with disabilities.
WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK
- The Office of Management and Budget released its 2016 annual report to Congress on the “benefits and costs of federal regulations,” which looks at the benefits and costs of the 21 major regulations of fiscal year 2015, as well as the 130 major regulations of the past 10 years. According to Sofie Miller of the George Washington Regulatory Studies Center, the report shows that both the costs and benefits of new regulations issued by the Obama administration peaked in 2012.
- Writing for The Hill, Ali Breland discussed five issues that are likely to cause major fights for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the first year of the Trump Administration, including cable set-top boxes, broadband privacy, and the proposed merger of AT&T and Time Warner. According to Breland, the most significant fight will be over the FCC’s net neutrality rules, which are opposed by Republican FCC Commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly and the leaders of President-elect Trump’s FCC landing team.
- A recent report from the Brookings Institution uses “data collected from elementary schools in California to estimate the impacts of mathematics textbook choices on student achievement,” and found that one textbook “consistently outperform[ed]” three others. Because textbooks are relatively inexpensive—and the selection of one textbook over another is relatively simple and straightforward—the report reasons, the findings “suggest non-trivial gains in student achievement are attainable simply by choosing more effective curriculum materials,” but notes that more states need to collect data on textbook effectiveness to enable administrators to make informed decisions.