Maryland files lawsuit to replace Acting Attorney General Whitaker, FDA cracks down on flavored e-cigarettes, and more…
IN THE NEWS
- The state of Maryland filed a lawsuit to replace Acting Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker with Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein. The Maryland Attorney General stated that Whitaker’s appointment violates the line of succession specified in the Attorney General Succession Act and that Rosenstein “is the proper successor” to Jeff Sessions, who resigned as Attorney General last week. In a memo, the U.S. Department of Justice stated that “the President may use the Vacancies Reform Act to depart from the succession order” and appoint Whitaker.
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced its intention to crack down on flavored e-cigarettes and traditional menthol cigarettes. This announcement came days after e-cigarette company JUUL pulled its flavored e-cigarettes off shelves in response to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb’s expression of concern that flavors draw kids to tobacco. Gottlieb recognized JUUL’s effort but said that its “voluntary action is no substitute for regulatory steps FDA will soon take.”
- President Donald J. Trump nominated Neomi Rao to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, filling the vacancy created by Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. Rao is the current administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs overseeing the Trump Administration’s regulatory agenda.
- The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia ordered the state to delay certifying its election results to allow it to conduct an additional review of the eligibility of voters who cast provisional ballots. Judge Amy Totenberg wrote that the increase in the provisional ballot rate for the 2018 election suggested “persistent problems” in the state’s voter registration system and “ineffective administration of the provisional balloting scheme.”
- Following approval in the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill establishing the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. This new agency would function within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and it would represent “a significant step to stand up a federal government cybersecurity agency,” according to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. The bill will now go to President Trump’s desk for final approval.
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced the Cleaner Trucks Initiative, which would include future rulemaking to update emission standards for nitrogen oxide from heavy-duty trucks. EPA last modified the nitrogen oxide standards in 2001. Acting Administrator Wheeler stated that the initiative will ensure that trucks “remain a competitive method of transportation” while “providing cleaner air for all Americans.”
- Three Democratic senators sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission requesting that the FTC investigate advertisements in mobile apps aimed at children. Senators Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) identified apps with hidden advertisements, apps that “coerce children into making in-app purchases,” and apps that present themselves as educational “when they are in fact saturated with advertising.” The senators noted the FTC’s “statutory obligation to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive advertising,” especially when advertisers target children.
- The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will now allow state Medicaid directors to apply for reimbursement of inpatient mental illness treatment. The “decades-old policy” that banned this type of reimbursement “unnecessarily restricted” access to inpatient mental illness treatment, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex M. Azar said.
- In a 3-2 vote, the city council of Portland, Oregon rejected a proposed ordinance to regulate the “time, place, and manner” of protests held in the city. Commissioner Nick Fish (D), who voted against the ordinance, stated that recent protests have had “too much violence,” but that he believed better alternatives existed, including “arresting people who violate our laws.” Mayor Ted Wheeler (D) stated he was “disappointed” by the vote, but glad that the ordinance had “sparked a necessary and hard look at protest safety in our city.”
WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK
- The United States “has two years to get ready” to ensure that votes cast in the 2020 elections will be counted correctly, wrote Matt Tait of the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas at Austin in an article for Lawfare. Tait argued that Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and allegations of voter fraud by President Trump in the recent midterm elections threaten Americans’ confidence in elections. He called on the United States to build election systems that “will remain robust even if hackers break in or insiders try to subvert it.” “The point of elections is that voters have confidence in the outcome,” he wrote.
- Low-income South Africans purchasing mobile data for internet access can pay more than 11 times the price per gigabyte that wealthier citizens pay, stated Indra de Lanerolle of South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand in a policy brief. This “digital divide” stems from discounts offered to customers who purchase large amounts of data, which are often “beyond” the financial “reach” of low-income residents. De Lanerolle argued that regulators should “limit the spread of pricing schemes between small and large data bundles” so that low-income citizens can afford more consistent internet access.
- In a forthcoming article for the Oil and Gas, Natural Resources, and Energy Journal, Inara Scott of the Oregon State University College of Business considered the contrast between public perception of renewable energy and environmental regulation. Although polls have shown that a majority of Americans support increased use of renewable energy sources, they have also revealed that environmental regulations enjoy much less support. To reduce this divide, Scott proposed using “creative, broadly-worded goals” to allow for “technological innovation” and focusing on the economic and employment outcomes of environmental regulations.