Minnesota legalizes recreational marijuana, a South Carolina state trial court temporarily blocks new abortion ban, and more…
IN THE NEWS
Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed a bill into law that legalizes recreational marijuana for adults and automatically removes non-felony cannabis convictions from criminal records. Under the new law, individuals may possess up to two pounds of marijuana at home and two ounces in public without penalty after the bill takes effect on August 1. The bill also creates a new business licensing program for cannabis retailers and establishes a Cannabis Expungement Board to review cannabis-related felonies. Governor Walz emphasized that “expunging or resentencing cannabis convictions will strengthen communities.”
A South Carolina state trial court temporarily blocked the state’s new abortion law banning most abortions at around six weeks of pregnancy. The judge’s decision was issued a day after South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster signed the bill into law. The judge ordered that the case be transferred and that “the status quo should be preserved while the South Carolina Supreme Court resolves this case.” Although Jenny Black, president of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, called the decision a “welcome reprieve from this dangerous abortion ban,” Gov. McMaster responded by filing an emergency petition requesting that the state Supreme Court expedite its consideration of the case.
The Texas House passed a bill authorizing the Texas Secretary of State to impose state “administrative oversight” of Texas counties in response to complaints about purportedly recurring election administration or voter registration issues. Because the legislation would apply solely to counties with populations of over 4 million people, it is expected to impact only Democratic-leaning Harris County. In light of recent voting count controversies in Harris County, Texas GOP Senator Paul Bettencourt, author of the bill, stated that the bill will restore voter trust in Harris County elections. Opponents expressed concerns that this bill will allow Republicans to exert influence over elections for partisan gain.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to create a standardized, one-page medication guide entitled “Patient Medication Information” (PMI) for all prescription drugs intended for outpatient use. If the rule is finalized, every patient prescribed medication would receive a PMI document that lists the drug’s name, uses, side effects, safety information, and directions for use. FDA explained that the proposed easy-to-understand format is intended to reduce medication misuse, facilitate translation to other languages, and enable AI to more effectively analyze drug information. FDA Commissioner and physician Robert M. Califf stated that standardized PMI is designed to address one of the agency’s top priorities, which is “to combat our nation’s crisis with health care misinformation and disinformation.”
The U.S. Department of Energy issued a final rule to raise energy efficiency standards for air conditioners under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act. The standards are estimated to increase overall energy savings by 12 percent and will take effect in 2024 for portable air cleaners and 2026 for room air conditioners. The Energy Department concluded that, over thirty years, the new standards should reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 100 million metric tons and generate health benefits worth up to $4.5 billion by reducing air pollutants. The Energy Department expects the rule to save households that purchase new air conditioners about $150 in energy costs over the lifetime of the appliance.
The Connecticut State Senate passed a bill that aims to strengthen the ability of the state’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) to manage rising utility costs. The bill would switch Connecticut to a performance-based utility state compensating utility providers based upon the quality of the utility service they provide rather than the amount of money they spend in providing the utility. Proponents of the bill argue that it is a necessary measure to prevent the state’s utilities from exploiting consumers and to ensure that the costs of lobbying and marketing are borne by the utility company’s shareholders, not ratepayers. Opponents of the bill argue that the regulatory environment for utilities in Connecticut has “arguably become one of the worst in the United States.”
The Department of Energy issued an interim final rule that amended the regulations guiding implementation of the loan guarantee provisions established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The rule both applies certain provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 and establishes new regulations to facilitate loans for the revitalization of existing energy facilities with clean energy or energy efficient technologies as part of the Energy Infrastructure Reinvestment Program. The interim final rule also clarifies guidance around how potential applicants can use the existing loan program to support other project types discussed in the Inflation Reduction Act. The Energy Department explained that the interim final rule, which is now open for public comment, is necessary to facilitate disbursement of $290 billion in loan guarantees before the statutory expiration of 2026.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that would require automatic emergency braking systems on all light trucks and passenger cars. These braking systems are designed to use sensors to detect when a crash is imminent and apply the brakes if the driver has not done so. NHTSA estimates that the rule may save more than 300 lives and prevent more than 24,000 injuries a year. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg stated that “requiring automatic emergency braking on cars and trucks would keep all of us safer on our roads.”
WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK
In a recent working paper, William H. Widen of the University of Miami School of Law and Philip Koopman of Carnegie Mellon University suggested that a new legal category, “computer driver,” should be created to enable the law to respond to the development of automated vehicles without blurring the distinction between areas of federal and state regulation. Widen and Koopman explained that, traditionally, federal regulations covered equipment while state regulations covered drivers. Widen and Koopman argued that by designating automated vehicles as “computer drivers,” these cars would be treated as human drivers under the law, which could both enhance plaintiffs’ ability to make negligence claims against computer drivers and encourage manufacturers to strengthen the safety of their automated vehicles.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on the widespread use and effects of noncompete agreements, which the Federal Trade Commission recently announced it will seek to ban nationwide. GAO estimated that more than a third of workers nationally have signed noncompetes at some point in their careers. Although GAO found that a substantial majority of workers do so as a condition of employment, few negotiate any terms before signing. GAO concluded that noncompetes reduce job mobility and lower wages for most non-executive employees, even when not enforced. GAO also cited studies finding that strong enforcement of noncompetes may intensify racial and gender wage disparities among lower-wage workers.
In a Brookings Institution report, Joshua P. Meltzer, a senior fellow in Brookings’ Global Economy and Development Program, argued that the United States must create its own comprehensive system of AI regulation before it can lead international efforts to regulate AI. Meltzer emphasized that, despite recent discussion among world leaders about the need for AI regulation, including at the G7 summit, no coordinated measures have been taken. Meltzer concluded that the United States must establish its own AI regulation framework to provide a model for the rest of the world and to serve effectively as a world leader on AI regulation.
In an essay in The Regulatory Review, Richard Briffault, a professor at Columbia Law School, argued that the increasing politicization of elections in the United States has led states to respond to local voter turnout efforts with restrictive legislation. Briffault noted that, although the role of states in running elections has increased after the 2000 presidential election, the operational success of the 2020 election was due largely to the work of local election officials in their efforts to make voting easier. Briffault also found that these efforts were met by state legislatures’ adoption of state laws that interfere with local election administration, resulting in litigation between state and local officials.