Merger between AT&T and Time Warner is cleared, U.S. Supreme Court upholds Ohio’s voter purge policy, and more…
IN THE NEWS
- The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia cleared the $85 billion merger of AT&T and Time Warner, which the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) had sued to block on antitrust grounds in November 2017. Judge Richard J. Leon ruled that the government failed to prove that the merger would harm competition, finding that the DOJ’s expert model of the merged firms’ post-transaction market power lacked “reliability and factual credibility.” U.S. Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim expressed disappointment in the decision but did not say whether DOJ would appeal.
- In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Ohio’s controversial voter purge policy, which removed voters from voter rolls if they did not vote for two years and then failed to vote within four years of receiving a confirmation notice. Writing in dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer stated that “the failure to respond to a forwardable notice is an irrelevant factor” for showing a change in address, and noted that losing registration could hinge on “a factor like having gone on vacation or having eaten too large a meal.”
- U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions intervened in immigration court and reversed a long-held practice of allowing non-citizens to claim asylum if they were victims of domestic violence in their home countries. Asylum may now only be granted in cases where the victim is persecuted by his or her government or the government is unable to protect him or her from private violence, Sessions ruled.
- The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Restoring Internet Freedom Order, which repealed its net neutrality regulations, took effect this week. The FCC described the repeal as ending “unnecessary, heavy-handed regulations,” protecting consumers through transparency rules, and promoting investment in Internet infrastructure. FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who voted against the order in January, said that the end of net neutrality rules will give Internet service providers “the legal green light” to manipulate what we see online.
- Legal sports betting commenced this week in New Jersey after Governor Phil Murphy (D) signed into law Assembly Bill 4111, allowing licensed casinos and racetracks to accept sports wagers. The legislation was introduced shortly after the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, which banned sports betting. The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement and New Jersey Racing Commission have temporary authority to issue regulations governing casinos and racetracks that intend to accept sports bets. Governor Murphy stated that this move is the “right move for New Jersey.”
- New York City and the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) reached a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the DOJ, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to correct widespread problems of lead paint, mold, pests, and other inadequate conditions in public housing. The agreement specified that a court-appointed monitor will oversee NYCHA as it implements changes to comply with the consent decree. HUD Secretary Ben Carson stated, “the cooperation of Federal, State, and city officials will vastly improve the living conditions for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who call NYCHA home.”
- New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu (R) signed a law banning gay conversion therapy for minors. New Hampshire is now the thirteenth state to ban conversion therapy, with Delaware poised to become the fourteenth after the Delaware General Assembly passed a similar measure.
- The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released guidance about Medicaid coverage of treatment for Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), a collection of withdrawal symptoms experienced by infants born addicted to opioids. The guidance emphasized the importance of coordinated care treating both NAS in infants and Substance Use Disorder in their mothers. According to CMS, states may also offer certain Medicaid treatment services for mothers who are not eligible for Medicaid, so long as “the therapeutic interventions are for the direct benefit of the infant.”
- U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Place to Worship Initiative, a new effort to protect the ability of religious institutions to build, expand, buy, or rent facilities. In a speech to the Orthodox Union, an Orthodox Jewish advocacy organization, Sessions stressed the historical role of religious liberty in American history and stated “in order to sustain a democracy, it is necessary that we exercise true tolerance.” Sessions also announced a related lawsuit against a town in New Jersey for denying zoning approval to an Orthodox Jewish synagogue.
WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK
- Thomas L. Hogan, a fellow at the Baker Institute Center for Public Finance at Rice University, argued in a brief that complex banking regulations can actually cause banks to increase risk-taking activities. Hogan asserted that overlapping regulations may create loopholes that banks can exploit, and regulators may “unintentionally encourage risky investments” if they misjudge the risk of certain assets.
- In an article for FiveThirtyEight, reporter Galen Druke discussed potential routes the U.S. Supreme Court could take to address partisan gerrymandering—the practice of designing electoral districts that favor one political party. Druke outlined seven different outcomes, ranging from changing the districting system to allowing partisan gerrymandering to continue. Druke also observed that, no matter what the outcome, the gerrymandering issue would be far from settled and open to further legal battles.
- Should the United States regulate intimate partners based on their consent to regulation? Yes, says Kaiponanea Matsumura, associate professor at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, in an article for the North Carolina Law Review. Fifteen percent of adults in the United States are in informal intimate relationships, according to Matsumura, and there are pros and cons: they can break up without judicial involvement, but they lose out on legal rights married couples enjoy like joint property ownership and survivor benefits. Matsumura’s proposed solution is to allow unmarried couples to consent to specific legal obligations, so that marriage is not the only way to access certain legal rights.