Week in Review

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President Trump delivers the State of the Union, David Bernhardt receives nomination for Secretary of the Interior, and more…

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  • In his State of the Union address, President Donald J. Trump spoke about his hopes for a U.S. trade policy that favors American workers, legislation that lowers health care and drug prices, and a “safe, lawful, modern, and secure” immigration system. President Trump called on Congress to “break decades of political stalemate” by rejecting “the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution.” Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, delivering the Democratic response, criticized President Trump for the government shutdown, calling it a “stunt” that “defied every tenet of fairness and abandoned not just our people, but our values.”
  • President Trump announced his nomination of David Bernhardt to serve as Secretary of the Interior. Bernhardt, who has served as Acting Secretary following the resignation of Ryan Zinke, stated that the nomination was “a humbling privilege” and looked forward to accomplishing “the balanced, common sense vision of our President.” Environmental groups criticized the nomination, with Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Center for Western Priorities, noting that Bernhardt’s past work as an oil and gas lobbyist made him “a walking conflict of interest.”
  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that would rescind requirements for payday lenders to determine that consumers have the ability to repay their loans. The CFPB claimed that there was “insufficient evidence and legal support” for these requirements, but U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) stated that the rescission would “rob families of their hard-earned money.” The notice will be open to public comment for 90 days.
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of the Army announced a joint public hearing and webinar about the proposed new definition for “waters of the United States.” The proposed change would reduce federal regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act. The hearing will take place on February 27 and 28.
  • U.S. Circuit Judge for the D.C. Circuit nominee Neomi Rao fielded questions about her views on campus sexual assault and recusal in her confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary. Pressed on an article she wrote as an undergraduate about drinking and date rape, Rao defended her position as “common sense” but stated that a victim “should not be blamed.” Rao, the current Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), also testified that she would carefully evaluate recusal standards in appeals about issues she was involved in as OIRA Administrator.
  • A federal magistrate judge granted a preliminary motion to prevent the city of Tampa, Florida from enforcing a ban on gay conversion therapy. Magistrate Judge Amanda Arnold Sansone stated that the city’s ban could violate the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment rights of therapists who provide “talk therapy” consisting entirely of speech. The case will now go to a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida for a final judgment.
  • The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced a “geographic restructuring” that would close the North Atlantic District Office in Philadelphia and consolidate the VA from five districts to four. The current district office in St. Louis, Missouri would represent the new, “realigned” Northeast District. VA Secretary Robert Wilkie stated that the change would “modernize” the VA and help it “become more efficient” but would not negatively impact VA employees or beneficiaries.
  • European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’s antitrust chief, raised a concern that Internet platforms could monopolize electronic data. Delivering a lecture at the University of Cambridge, Commissioner Vestager noted that companies such as Amazon “have access to huge amounts of data, about every part of the market.” Although she stated that “we certainly can’t say today that Amazon has done anything wrong,” Vestager reported that the European Commission has been examining “whether companies are using their control of data to harm competition.”
  • In a unanimous vote, the Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill granting “any county, city, town, or political subdivision” the authority to regulate dockless scooter and bicycle programs. But if no such local regulations are in place by January 1, 2020, then any of these modes of transportation would still be regulated according to the statewide bill, which is now in the hands of the Virginia Senate for approval.


  • In its fact check of President Trump’s State of the Union addressThe New York Times alleged that several of the president’s claims “were false or misleading.” Among the claims that The Times said were false was President Trump’s statement that his administration has “cut more regulations” than “any other administration during its entire tenure.” The Times also said that President Trump made false statements about state abortion laws and the impacts of border walls on crime at the southern border.
  • In a recent essay, Erin Ryan of the Florida State University College of Law discussed the challenges of preemption and property rights that environmentalists must confront in the face of the Trump Administration’s deregulatory push. Ryan observed that agencies can issue regulations that preempt states’ attempts to pass higher standards, and she argued that the evolving definition of a “taking” in property law can prevent the regulation of private industry. She instead suggested that regional governance is the “clearest alternative” and that “uniform state laws or model codes would enable states to coordinate on a broader regulatory scale.”
  • The 2019 Super Bowl was the first one in which fans could legally gamble on the outcome due to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association—which held that states were allowed to permit and regulate sports wagering—wrote Chloe Aiello in a recent article. But more changes are needed for legal wagering to “compete with the black market” of illegal sports betting, argued DraftKings Chief Executive Officer Jason Robins. Robins described legalized sports wagering through online and mobile platforms as “absolutely critical” to the success of the industry and called for “sensible” regulations that would allow the legal industry to thrive.