Week in Review

Font Size:

OIRA releases its spring agenda, California mandates solar power in all new homes, and more…

Font Size:


  • The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) released its spring agenda detailing agencies’ deregulatory plans. OIRA Administrator Neomi Rao noted that “the agenda reflects an ongoing commitment” to Executive Order 13,711, which instructs the federal government to eliminate two old regulations for each new regulation. The deregulatory agenda comes with an interest in protecting small businesses and promoting innovation and infrastructure, according to Rao.
  • The California Energy Commission issued a new rule mandating solar power in all new homes. Although this rule will increase the cost of constructing new homes, the Commission claims that it will save money in the long run through reduced utilities bills. But Tim Carmichael, of San Diego Gas and Electric, reportedly stated that the rule is “hurting families that can’t afford solar.”
  • The Federal Trade Commission advised Twitter users to change their passwords after users’ passwords were left unprotected in a Twitter internal database. A bug in the encryption software Twitter used to protect passwords instead stored the unencrypted passwords to an internal log, Twitter announced last week. The social media company reports that it has found no evidence of misuse of the passwords.
  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has chosen ten participants from various states, localities, and tribes in the United States to explore private sector drone operations under the FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program. The Transportation Department said that the program will help it “craft new enabling rules that allow more complex low-altitude operations” by testing a variety of concepts including night operations and package delivery.
  • The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that agents of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection must have some level of “individualized suspicion” in order to conduct forensic searches of travelers’ cell phones. This standard only applies to forensic searches, involving the use of software and data extraction, as the court stated that manual searches were distinguishable. Claire Gastañaga, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, reportedly stated in approval “that border agents can’t conduct invasive searches on a traveler’s cellphone or other electronic devices just because the person is crossing the border.”
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued updated guidance on its menu labeling rule, which took effect earlier this week for some restaurants and other types of food establishments. FDA said that the guidance provides regulated entities with additional methods of complying with the rule, such as pictures of how restaurants might put calorie counts on menus.
  • FDA intends to take enforcement action against retailers that sell vape pens and accessories to teenagers, according to a National Public Radio interview with FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. Over the past two weeks, FDA issued warning letters to 40 businesses for selling vape pens to minors. Gottlieb stated that, although some parents view vape pens as a safer alternative to smoking, “they need to be equally vigilant, whether it’s an e-cigarette that their child might be using or a cigar or a combustible cigarette. No child should be using any tobacco product.” Retailers have 15 business days to respond to the warning letters with a plan to correct the violation.
  • The U.S. Department of Education intends to review and amend requirements related to religious schools’ eligibility to receive funding from the Department’s higher education and student aid programs. In its proposed rule, which is included in the Department’s newly released regulatory agenda, the Department said that current regulations “unnecessarily restrict participation by religious entities” by prohibiting some services while also restricting benefits a borrower may receive for faith-based activities. The Department also plans to amend or rescind grant requirements to “reduce or eliminate unnecessary burdens and restrictions on religious entities and activities.”
  • In response to an apparent uptick in recent border crossings, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a zero-tolerance policy for illegal entry into the United States. Attorney General Jeff Sessions reportedly stated that DHS will refer “100 percent of illegal southwest border crossings” to the U.S. Department of Justice for prosecution. A spokesperson for DHS emphasized that DHS “will no longer exempt classes or groups of individuals from prosecution,” raising concerns about family separation at the border. U.S. Representative Bennie Thompson, the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, characterized the policy as “inhumane” and “excessively punitive”, and saw it as an attempt to “deliberately interfere” with legitimate efforts by individuals to obtain asylum.


  • China has been quietly taking over the global manufacturing of prescription drugs, Steve Sternberg wrote for U.S. News. He cited a new book by Rosemary Gibson and Janardan Prasad Singh entitled ChinaRx: Exposing the Risks of America’s Dependence on China for Medicine, which details China’s dominance in pharmaceuticals as well as its exclusive manufacturing agreements for many essential prescription and non-prescription drugs. Sternberg wrote that two “pillars” of the Trump Administration—lowering prescription drug prices and remedying the U.S. trade “imbalance” with China—may be “on a collision course” due to U.S. reliance on China for pharmaceuticals.
  • Although the Trump Administration has touted its deregulatory achievements, “the actual extent of deregulation is much more limited,” wrote Stuart Shapiro, professor at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, in an article for The Conversation. Courts have invalidated a number of the Administration’s attempts to delay or repeal old regulations, while much of the deregulation the Administration takes credit for has actually been accomplished by Congress using the Congressional Review Act, Shapiro notes. Of the Administration’s attempts to deregulate, Shapiro wrote, “Not enforcing the law and driving out talented public servants are likely to have a much larger impact than…largely nonexistent regulatory appeals.”
  • In an op-ed for The Washington Post, John D. Feeley and James D. Nealon, former ambassadors to Panama and Honduras, criticized the termination of temporary protected status of about 57,000 Hondurans living in the United States. They noted that this group of immigrants came to the country legally, has a “much higher” employment rate than the national average, and has about 53,000 American citizen children. The authors also approved of bipartisan efforts to reduce immigration by improving conditions in Honduras, noting how the murder rate has dramatically decreased and the economy is improving.