The House of Representatives passes gun control legislation, the Supreme Court extends an exception to the Federal Arbitration Act, and more…
IN THE NEWS
- By a vote of 223 to 204, the US House of Representatives passed gun control legislation in response to the mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York. The legislation would ban the sale of semi-automatic weapons to anyone under the age of 21, prohibit the sale of large-capacity magazines, and compensate people who give up such magazines under a buyback program. The bill passed after a House hearing where lawmakers and victims of gun violence called for stricter gun controls. Experts don’t expect the law to pass in the US Senate but say a group of senators is negotiating a tighter gun control package focused on boosting background checks and mental health assessments.
- The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that workers involved in loading and unloading aircraft cargo are a “class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce” exempt from the Federal Arbitration Act, which otherwise courts obliged to enforce arbitration agreements. Many large companies implement such agreements, which require arbitration as an alternative to a court decision. Although the court ruled in favor of freight workers, it rejected their argument that the exception applied to “virtually all employees of large transport companies.” Rather, the court argued that cargo workers are different from airline accounting clerks because handling cargo is part of “interstate commerce.” The Court noted that when the work duties are not directly related to the cross-border movement of goods, determining whether a worker falls within the exemption “is not always so straightforward”.
- President Joseph R. Biden announced new executive action to support clean energy generation in the United States. The President invoked the Defense Production Act to authorize the US Department of Energy to expand domestic manufacturing of clean energy technologies by accelerating the production of solar panel parts. The Federal President also outlined new federal procurement measures that are intended to boost the domestic solar industry. In addition, the President initiated a two-year period during which solar modules from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam can be imported duty-free. The President announced a pause on new solar tariffs amid an ongoing US Commerce Department investigation into whether Chinese solar manufacturers have evaded tariffs by relocating their operations to Southeast Asia. The President explained that his latest actions are designed to ensure the United States has an adequate supply of solar panels until domestic production can expand to meet the country’s needs.
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has opened an investigation into the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspection at Abbott Laboratories’ Michigan manufacturing facility and how the agency handled the recall of Abbott’s infant formula. HHS announced that it is committed to determining whether the FDA followed appropriate policies and procedures in inspecting Abbott’s manufacturing facilities and monitoring Abbott’s voluntary recall. FDA Commissioner Robert Califf testified before a US Senate committee that the FDA was “too slow” in inspecting Abbott’s facility following reports of possible bacterial contamination.
- US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Gary Gensler gave a speech previewing forthcoming updates to the SEC’s market rules governing the buying and selling of stocks. Gensler noted that the new rules target six key areas, including “payment for order flow,” a form of monetary incentive that allows retail platforms like Robinhood to make money for executing stock trades. This practice, Gensler explained, can distort the market and hurt customers by creating stock price fluctuations based on the level of the stimulus. Robinhood Financial’s chief legal officer, Dan Gallagher, argued that SEC regulation of paying for orders could make it harder for novice investors, who often opt for commission-free services like Robinhood, to get started trading stocks.
- New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a ten-legislative package to strengthen the state’s gun control laws. The legislative package includes bills that would ban anyone under the age of 21 from buying semi-automatic rifles and require social networks to explain how they will respond to credible threats of gun violence. The bill also amends the state’s existing firearms licensing law to ensure county officials consider risk reports from mental health professionals before issuing a firearms license to an individual.
- A federal judge in Oklahoma ruled that the state’s lethal injection method is constitutional. The ruling follows an eight-year-old lawsuit in which inmates argued that the sedative midazolam — a component of Oklahoma’s three-drug method of execution — does not adequately drug inmates and creates a risk of serious suffering, in violation of the Eighth Amendment . The judge reasoned that the plaintiffs were “far from exceeding the Supreme Court’s bar for challenging lethal injections” and that midazolam rendered inmates largely insensitive to pain. Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor plans to request execution dates for the 43 inmates on Oklahoma’s death row.
- HHS extended the American Rescue Plan Act’s spending deadline for states to expand home and community services such as home health care, meal deliveries, and case management services for people receiving Medicaid. States originally had a three-year period, from April 1, 2021 to March 31, 2024, to use America’s bailout plan funds to strengthen and improve home and community-based services under Medicaid. The extended period allows Medicaid beneficiaries to receive an additional year of quality care in the area of their choice. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said the extension provides states “with the time and resources to strengthen connections with home and community care.”
WHAT WE READ THIS WEEK
- In an article published by the Center for American Progress, Mia Ives-Rublee, director of the Disability Justice Initiative, Rose Khattar, associate director for Rapid Response and Analysis, and Lily Roberts, managing director for economic policy, argued that the federal government must take steps to remove barriers to employment faced by people with disabilities. Ives-Rublee, Khattar, and Roberts found that the 2021 unemployment rate among Americans with a physical, mental, or emotional disability was 10.1 percent, compared with 5.1 percent among those without such a disability. Given this discrepancy, Ives-Rublee, Khattar, and Roberts suggested that policies to remove barriers to employment could boost overall economic growth and produce more equitable employment outcomes. They called on the federal government to increase funding for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and scrap Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which allows employers to pay disabled workers less than the state minimum wage.
- In an article in the Stanford Law Review, Alexandra Klass, a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, and several co-authors considered how clean energy can support a more resilient, low-carbon power grid. They argued that disjointed systems of regulation and governance result in energy policies that, despite technological feasibility, fall short of environmental and reliability goals. In order to counteract the disaggregation, Klass and her co-authors emphasized the need for supra-regionally coordinated energy transmission network planning and expansion at the federal level.
- In a Brookings Institution report, Kenneth Wong, a professor at Brown University, and Coral Flanagan, a graduate student at Vanderbilt University, compared federal regulation of education policies during the Trump and Biden presidencies. Wong and Flanagan noted that President Biden was more likely than President Donald Trump to take unilateral executive action on education, particularly on issues of justice. Wong and Flanagan also argued that when Trump took executive action on education, he lifted protections for historically excluded students, such as praying in schools. Wong and Flanagan suggested that although both President Biden and President Trump took executive and administrative actions to influence education policies, states often resisted those actions when it came to issues such as requiring vaccination mandates and teaching critical race theory went.
- In an essay for The Regulatory Review, Paul Stephan, a fellow at Cohen Milstein, argued that to limit executive branch emergency powers, a clear definition of what constitutes an emergency is needed. Stephan explained that while an emergency may seem sudden, many emerging events are the result of long-standing problems. Stephan warned that ignoring an issue can create an emergency, which can allow leaders to ignore issues to capitalize on emergencies to reshape policy.