The Federal Reserve responds to Silicon Valley Bank failure, the Interior Department approves new drilling in Alaska, and more…
IN THE NEWS
- The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System announced a new program to provide funding to banks, in light of the recent Silicon Valley Bank collapse. The program will offer loans with a maximum term of one year so that lenders are better able to protect deposits and depositors. In a joint statement, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the Federal Reserve, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation characterized the program—among other crisis management actions—as a way to protect the economy by “strengthening public confidence in our banking system.”
- The U.S. Department of the Interior approved an oil drilling project in Alaska after the agency removed two of the five proposed drilling sites from the project. The agency will require ConocoPhillips, the project sponsor, to turn over 68,000 acres of oil rights. The Interior Department noted that the majority of those rights are within the same area in Alaska. The agency emphasized that the Biden-Harris Administration will take additional steps to curb future commercial development in the region, including issuing a proposed rule to strengthen land protections and prohibiting drilling in nearby acres of ocean.
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new standards for regulating the levels of six per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water. The proposed regulations would establish nationwide limits for levels of PFAS, which can increase risks of cancer and cause organ damage. The new rules also would require public water systems to monitor these levels and notify the public of dangerous increases. EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan noted that the proposal could “prevent tens of thousands of PFAS-related illnesses and marks a major step toward safeguarding all our communities from these dangerous contaminants.”
- A California state appeals court mostly upheld a ballot measure passed in 2020 that defined drivers for ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft as independent contractors. The ballot measure, Proposition 22, exempted rideshare drivers from a state law that discouraged classifying workers as independent contractors instead of employees. The CEO of the California Labor Federation, Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, lamented that the decision will allow “companies to buy their way out of our state’s labor laws.”
- The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposed cybersecurity requirements for various market entities, including certain stock market participants and exchanges. The proposal would require those entities to implement policies to address cybersecurity risks, such as employee error, and report incidents to the agency. The proposal also requires market entities to conduct an annual review of their cybersecurity protections. SEC chair Gary Gensler noted that the “nature, scale, and impact of cybersecurity risks have grown significantly in recent decades,” and that these requirements would adapt existing legal protections to the challenges that digital stock transactions pose.
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clarified the status of the agency’s COVID-19-related policies. FDA issued certain guidance documents pursuant to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ determination that COVID-19 presents a public health emergency. But that determination will expire on May 11, 2023. After that date, many FDA guidance documents, such as guidance related to COVID-19’s impact on clinical trial participants and prescription drug marketing requirements, will no longer be in effect. In addition, FDA will have to revise other guidance documents, such as guidance regarding emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccines.
- The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) updated radio frequency testing standards that cellular providers use to ensure cellular and Wi-Fi devices do not cause harmful interference with radio communications. Under the new standards, devices must undergo laboratory tests of their radio frequencies at FCC-accredited facilities. In addition, the FCC noted that the standards consolidate guidance from existing standards and would be easily accessible to cellular providers.
- Illinois Governor JB Pritzker signed a bill into law that mandates employers provide paid time off to employees. Current Illinois law does not require employers to provide paid leave, including for sick leave. Once the new law takes effect in 2024, employees will be able to accrue one hour of paid leave for every 40 hours of work, resulting in a minimum of 40 hours of mandated paid leave per year. Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton also noted that the law will protect wages for Illinois residents and their families.
WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK
- In a Brookings Institution report, Michael Hansen, a senior fellow at Brookings, Diana Quintero, a former senior research analyst, and Nicolas Zerbino, a research analyst, identified regulatory solutions to address the gender pay gap for public school teachers. The authors proposed that school districts should be required to collect and report high-level salary data to increase wage transparency and should also be prohibited from accessing an applicant’s previous incomes when making a salary decision. Hansen, Quintero, and Zerbino concluded that these proposals could close the existing pay gap of $2,200 between male and female teachers with similar qualifications.
- In a Center for American Progress report, authors Lauren Hoffman, Osub Ahmed, and Bela Salas-Betsch argued that state abortion bans will both threaten the economic security of women and families and adversely affect state and local economies. Hoffman, Ahmed, and Salas-Betsch described a groundbreaking longitudinal study that detailed that women who are denied wanted abortion experience increases in negative financial outcomes, such as bankruptcies and evictions, compared to women denied wanted abortions. Hoffman, Ahmed, and Salas-Betsch explained that lack of access to abortion services also decreases state and local economic activity by reducing women’s participation in the workforce and encouraging women and businesses to relocate. State abortion bans undermine the economic stability of women and families, the authors concluded.
- In a new report, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) assessed the extent to which the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s existing vehicle crash test dummies accurately measure injury risk to previously understudied demographics, such as women and the elderly. The GAO noted that women and the elderly face a higher risk of injury in car crashes, while children and those with high body mass indexes may also face elevated risks. The GAO argued that vehicle crash test dummies for these populations do not accurately represent the individuals’ bodies; child dummies, for example, are scaled-down versions of adult dummies, which do not reflect the differences between children’s bodies and those of adults. To solve this issue, the GAO recommended that the Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration develop a plan to address the insufficiencies of crash test dummies.
- In an essay in The Regulatory Review, Dylan R. Hedden-Nicely, professor at the University of Idaho College of Law, argued that American Indian tribes need clearer legal authority to address the threat of climate change. Hedden-Nicely noted that existing Supreme Court precedents may leave tribes unable to regulate greenhouse gas emissions until it is too late. Hedden-Nicely contended that in the absence of new action by the Supreme Court, Congress must—as it already has for clean air—empower tribes with the authority to regulate climate change-causing activity on native lands.