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Catherine Treadwell Perry, Director of Government Relations
|President Trump Issues Two Executive Orders to Improve Agency Guidance
Recently, President Donald Trump signed two Executive Orders intended to improve access to agency guidance, and forces agencies to do a better job when issuing guidance documents. These changes are needed because most guidance documents have become a backdoor means of issuing or changing regulations. “For many decades, federal agencies have been issuing thousands of pages of so-called guidance documents—a pernicious kind of regulation imposed by unaccountable bureaucrats in the form of commentary on how rules should be interpreted,” Trump said at the signing ceremony. “All too often guidance documents are a back door for regulators to effectively change the laws and vastly expand their scope and reach,” the President said.
The “Promoting the Rule of Law Through Improved Agency Guidance Documents,” will require agencies to post all of their guidance documents on a searchable website with the understanding that anything not posted is considered rescinded. Previously, it has been hard to navigate or identify agency guidance documents. This Executive Order is a step in the right direction to ensuring industries can find and use the proper guidance documents. The order mirrors legislation (S. 380) sponsored by Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) that would require federal agencies to post all guidance, directives, memorandums, and notices on one website.
The “Promoting the Rule of Law Through Transparency and Fairness in Civil Administrative Enforcement and Adjudication,” is intended to safeguard against secret or unlawful interpretations of regulations, or from unfair or unexpected penalties. This issue is huge in the manufacturing sector, and the new Order helps to rebalance the relationship between industry and the agencies toward promoting compliance versus issuing tickets.
This was a step in the right direction for the administration to fix the overly burdensome and highly difficult to navigate agency guidance documents. The Orders take effect immediately. Independent regulatory agencies, such as the National Labor Relations Board or the Securities and Exchange Commission, are not subject to any presidential executive order.
- President Donald Trump said Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi died during an overnight raid in Idlib Province in northwest Syria, detonating a suicide vest while fleeing U.S. special operations forces.
- The Trump organization is considering selling the lease for the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., according to company executive Eric Trump. The company said it is considering a sale of rights to the property, which is owned by the federal government, in part due to criticism that President Donald Trump is ignoring ethics laws by profiting from the hotel. (The Wall Street Journal)
- In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court threw out a lower court's ruling that would have forced Michigan's Republican-drawn congressional and state legislative voting maps to be redrawn in a way that would be less advantageous to Republicans. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that gerrymander claims involve "political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts," and argued that a federal court ordering a gerrymandered map to be redrawn would be an "unprecedented expansion of judicial power." (The Detroit News)
- House Democrats have released a comprehensive plan to make reforms to higher education. The bill would provide funding for states to help eliminate tuition at community colleges, expand Pell Grants, provide loan forgiveness for public service, allow existing student loan borrowers to lower their interest rates and impose new accountability requirements on colleges that receive federal aid. The bill is estimated to cost about $400 billion over ten years and does not currently contain any offsets for new spending. The bill is, however, more modest than what some 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have proposed, with former Vice President Joe Biden's higher education plan carrying a price tag of $750 billion and plans by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) costing between $1 trillion and $2 trillion. While most House Republicans oppose the bill, there are provisions (like Pell Grant expansion and financial aid application streamlining) in the bill that are similar to those in a Senate bill introduced by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the chairman of the Senate committee that oversees education issues. While the Democratic bill will likely pass the House, the future of any higher education bill reaching the president's desk will depend primarily on whether lawmakers in both chambers can come together on a compromise, which looks doubtful at this time. (IAPMO Washington Update)
- The Senate voted 92-2 to take up four of its 12 appropriations bills, containing funding for programs in agriculture, housing, transportation, interior, commerce and justice, as Democratic leaders called for talks between the House and Senate to resolve the differences in competing spending allocations between the two chambers. With appropriations bills stalled for the fiscal year that began on Oct. 1, lawmakers have about five weeks until the current continuing resolution expires. (Roll Call)
- Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) said $800 billion in revenue from her proposed wealth tax would go toward federal funding of various public education plans, including school infrastructure, grants for students with disabilities and Title I funding intended to improve schools with low-income students. (The Wall Street Journal)
- Energy Secretary Rick Perry will step down Dec. 1, according to an Energy Department spokesperson.
- Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said she is participating in the new Senate Climate Solutions Caucus launched by Sens. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) - the first bipartisan climate caucus in the chamber. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee's ranking Democrat, Tom Carper of Delaware, said he is also interested in joining the group. (Washington Examiner)
- The Environmental Protection Agency is creating two internal working groups to implement President Donald Trump's recent executive orders requiring federal agencies to review the impact of their guidance documents on industry, according to a staff memo from Administrator Andrew Wheeler. One working group will be chaired by the EPA Office of Policy and the other will be co-chaired by the offices of General Counsel and Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, the memo indicated. (The Hill)
- Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) proposed a $450 billion effort to replace about 20 percent of U.S. internal combustion engine vehicles on the road with electric, hybrid or hydrogen fuel-cell automobiles in a decade - a proposal he said would be included in any climate bill that Democrats bring forward if they regain the Senate majority in the 2020 election
- The House voted 249-173 to approve legislation that would require U.S. shell companies to disclose their identities to law enforcement authorities in an attempt to prevent money laundering and related crimes. The bill now heads to the Senate, where some Republican lawmakers such as Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (Iowa) support some form of corporate transparency, and the White House said after the vote that the legislation shows "important progress in strengthening national security, supporting law enforcement, and clarifying regulatory requirements." (Quartz)
- The Treasury Department said the federal deficit was $984 billion in fiscal year 2019, marking a 26 percent increase since 2018 and a seven-year high. The 2019 deficit fell short of the $1 trillion predicted by the Trump administration, with corporate tax revenue up 12 percent and tariff revenue up 70 percent from the previous fiscal year. (CNBC)
- Congress Quickly Losing Patience With EPA on PFAS. The EPA was on the receiving end of bipartisan criticism from lawmakers this week over its process for regulating PFAS chemicals in drinking water, another sign that Congress may be moving toward wresting this process away from the agency. Republicans and Democrats alike on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee said the agency is moving too slowly to set minimum standards for the presence of these chemicals in water. The EPA has promised to issue a determination this year on whether it will set these standards, but exactly what those standards would be might not come for months, if not years, afterward. Charlotte Bertrand, the head of policy within the EPA’s water office, didn’t answer senators’ yes-or-no questions about whether the agency will regulate PFAS chemicals in water, citing the deliberative process laid out by federal drinking water law that the EPA must follow. These chemicals, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, have diverse applications and are found in Teflon, Scotchgard, and many kinds of firefighting foam. PFAS are also known as “forever chemicals” because they resist breaking down in the environment. They can accumulate within drinking water aquifers. Scientists and regulators have grown more worried about how ingesting PFAS chemicals via water can affect human health. Congress has already shown signs that it is willing to intervene and force the EPA to move faster. The Senate earlier this year passed a defense authorization bill, S. 1790, that would force the EPA to establish nationwide standards within two years for two of the many PFAS chemicals that can be found in the environment. That bill is currently in a conference committee with the House. If the provision is ultimately stripped from the defense bill, however, lawmakers will likely have another opportunity next year to attach it to a broader legislative package. (IAPMO Washington Update)
- At an event held in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced that 38 new projects in 18 states are being invited to apply for Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loans. Together, the selected borrowers will apply for WIFIA loans totaling approximately $6 billion to help finance over $12 billion in water infrastructure investments and create almost 200,000 jobs.
- A proposed "Phase 1" trade deal between the United States and China has barely moved the needle on consumer attitudes about the economy, according to new Morning Consult Economic Intelligence data, with a slight drop in consumer expectations suggesting that the interim tariff agreement President Donald Trump announced Oct. 11 did little to assuage concerns about the economic fallout from a prolonged trade war. The aggregate Index of Consumer Sentiment, which is based on daily surveys of 7,500 U.S. adults conducted Oct. 14-20, remained steady at 108.3, from 108.2 the previous week. (Morning Consult)
- For the second year in a row, benchmark premiums for plans on the Affordable Care Act exchange will fall, dropping by 4 percent on average in 2020 with double-digit declines in some states. Consumers who purchase plans on HealthCare.gov will see 20 more plans on the site when enrollment begins next week, and though the Trump administration is taking credit for the stability, critics attribute the success to the ACA's strength and maturation even in the face of the administration's ongoing efforts to weaken and overturn the law. (Politico)
- The Republican Study Committee is out with a new health care proposal, a plan void of any legislative text and described by the group as a "framework" that largely echoes the GOP's ACA replacement plans from 2017. The plan envisions a health care system that includes federally funded insurance pools at the state level, a system of block grants and protections for pre-existing conditions, but while the White House said it is supportive of the committee's ideas, it is still working on its own plan with the help of President Donald Trump's top health officials. (CNN)
- The House and Senate are in session this week.
| || NEWS FROM STATE AND LOCAL |
Update on State Bills Being Tracked
New State Activity
The Wall Street Journal
Hardly anybody expects much in the way of inflation anymore. That is a big problem for the Federal Reserve. The University of Michigan reported that the median expected inflation rate over the next five to 10 years among consumers it surveyed this month slipped to 2.3% from 2.4% in September, matching a record low hit earlier in 2019. That is, to be sure, above inflation’s recent pace, but people’s inflation expectations tend to run on the high side. Before the financial crisis, expected inflation was running about around 3%.
The Washington Post
The White House trade representative recently restored some of Ukraine’s trade privileges, reinstating benefits that were initially prepared for approval in late August. The paperwork was expected to be routine at the time, but then-national security adviser John Bolton had warned U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer that President Trump would oppose any action that benefited Kyiv, Ukraine, said people briefed on the matter. Following Bolton’s warning, the White House pulled the paperwork back. Bolton resigned in September but the paperwork continued to languish.
Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives recently issued three more subpoenas in their impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, getting a boost from a federal judge’s ruling that dismissed a central Republican objection to the effort. U.S. District Court Chief Judge Beryl Howell rejected the claim that the impeachment process is illegitimate and ordered the Trump administration to give a House committee secret material from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
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