President Biden approves emergency resources for Puerto Rico, the U.S. House passes a bill to protect presidential election certifications, and more …
IN THE NEWS
- President Joseph R. Biden approved an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Fiona. The declaration authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide resources, such as federal funding, medical care, and safety inspections, to the government of Puerto Rico as it responds to the flooding and power outages. Governor of Puerto Rico Pedro R. Pierluisi said the emergency declaration would allow his administration “to effectively respond to damages caused by the storm.”
- The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would make it more challenging for members of Congress or the Vice President to overturn presidential election results. The bill would amend the Electoral Count Act by requiring one-third of both the House and the U.S. Senate to sign on to objections to election results certification. The bill also clarified that the Vice President, as presiding officer, would not have the power to obstruct or delay the counting of electoral votes. Earlier this year, however, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators began working on a narrower legislative proposal to amend the Electoral Count Act. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) announced this week that 10 Republican and 10 Democrat senators are co-sponsoring the Senate proposal.
- The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued a ruling that denied a trade association challenge to a Texas House law that regulates large social media platforms with more than 50 million monthly active users. The bill categorizes platforms as “common carriers by virtue of their market dominance” and prohibits those platforms from censoring users’ posts based on the viewpoints of users. The Fifth Circuit upheld the bill as constitutional, allowing Texas to continue to restrict platforms’ abilities to moderate content. Scott Wilkens, senior counsel at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, said that “if the ruling is left in place, it will give state officials all over the country sweeping power to distort free speech online.”
- The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) became the first federal agency to roll out an electric vehicle for law enforcement purposes as part of the agency’s overall initiative to transition its vehicles to electric as part of its Climate Action Plan. The Climate Action Plan commits DHS to fight climate change by focusing on sustainability, energy resilience, and climate adaptation planning. DHS has roughly 30,000 vehicles outfitted for law enforcement and stated it plans to continue transitioning its fleet to electric. DHS Acting Under Secretary for Management Randolph D.Alles stated that “DHS is proactively seeking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions” and that electric vehicles “have the potential to improve federal fleet efficiency and reduce vehicle operation and maintenance costs.”
- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) proposed a new rule to address the harms posed by scammers who impersonate governments and businesses. The FTC stated that it relied on its legal authority to issue trade rules that define unfair or deceptive practices. The FTC shaped its rule based on public input, including comments from individuals documenting their financial injuries from impersonation scams. The FTC explained that the rule would prohibit people from misrepresenting themselves as government or business officials on phone calls, websites, email addresses, and advertisements.
- The U.S. Department of the Treasury announced that it is seeking public input on financial and national security risks associated with the growing digital assets sector, as directed by an executive order meant to ensure the responsible development of digital assets. The Treasury Department stated that digital assets, including cryptocurrencies, have played a role in recent cybercriminal activities, such as money laundering, terrorist financing, and fraud schemes. The Treasury Department also requested input on how the department can work with other government agencies and private businesses to address these risks.
- The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed a final rule that grants users of Telecommunications Relay Services —a service provided by the FCC that allows people with disabilities to make calls—a two-week grace period to use these services while the providers register and verify users’ identities. Previously, before users could begin to use these services, providers had to register users, which delayed users’ abilities to access services. The new two-week grace period allows users to immediately use services while providers go through the registration process, which the agency expects to promote efficiency.
- The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking to supplement guidelines for facilities covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The new guidelines addressed the accessibility of various types of self-service transaction machines, including ATMs and self-service checkout machines, which can pose issues to disabled persons. For example, lack of tactile controls or robust sound outputs can create barriers for persons with visual impairments, lack of captioning capabilities can create difficulty for persons with hearing impairments, and those in wheelchairs may not be able to see the machine’s instruction screen. The Board stated its intent to improve the minimum number or percentage of accessible kiosks a building should have and improve the features these kiosks must have to be accessible under the ADA.
WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK
- In an article in the Minnesota Law Review, Danielle Stokes, assistant professor at the University of Richmond School of Law, discussed the different roles of local, state, and federal governments in regulating land use in the renewable energy sector. Stokes examined some of the more “microlevel changes,” such as land use and zoning, which are necessary to mitigate the macro-scale impact of climate change. Stokes argued for a plan based on “cooperative federalism,” in which the federal government would have central planning capabilities to coordinate the siting of new renewable energy generation facilities, and state and local governments would be responsible for implementation and operational guidelines. Stokes concluded that cooperation between different levels of government would not only allow the United States to fight climate change but would promote more efficient and comprehensive regulatory schemes and build inter-governmental connectedness.
- In a Brookings Institution report, Howell Jackson, professor at Harvard Law School, Timothy Massad, nonresident scholar at Brookings, and Dan Awrey, professor at Cornell Law School, outlined a framework for regulating stablecoins, which are cryptocurrencies whose values are tied to other currencies or commodities. Jackson, Massad, and Awrey explained that the increasing use of stablecoins has sparked debates over the risks they pose to stablecoin holders and other consumers. The authors argued that the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency can act without new legislation to create a special bank charter, which is a document that authorizes and governs financial institutions, to sponsor and supervise stablecoins. Jackson, Massad, and Awrey stated that stablecoin issuers would have the choice to opt in to the charter, which they argued would be commercially advantageous for the issuers. Jackson, Massad, and Awrey elaborated that opting in would require stablecoin issuers to disclose their auditing procedures, management structures, marketing plans, and risks associated with their stablecoins.
- In an Urban Institute report, Jorge Morales-Burnett and Rebecca Marx, research analysts at the institute, explored the emergence of the role of chief resilience officer in 100 cities across the world. Morales-Burnett and Marx explained that chief resilience officers are senior leaders in city governments who coordinate resources across departments to ensure their respective governments can respond to “cross-cutting shocks and chronic stressors” such as climate change. Morales-Burnett and Marx reviewed multiple models for cities to establish resilience offices, improve the stability of the chief resilience officer position, and build resources the officers need to be successful. Morales-Burnett and Marx determined that chief resilience officers are “valuable assets in city governments across the world” with the potential to navigate stressors across successive political administrations.
- In an essay in The Regulatory Review, Jeffrey Czajkowski, a director at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Kevin Simmons, professor of economics at Austin College, and James Done, a scientist and research fellow at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, argued in favor of stricter building codes. Czajkowski, Simmons, and Done reflected on the devastation wrought by recent hurricanes to contend that, although “strong and well-enforced building codes increase the costs of property construction,” they also can protect vulnerable communities against property damage. Czajkowski, Simmons, and Done examined the Florida Building Code—which they noted was the “strongest statewide building code in the United States”—enacted in 2001 after Hurricane Andrew to conclude that the benefits of stringent building codes outweigh the costs.