President Donald Trump delivered his third State of the Union address last night. The speech comes sandwiched between Monday night’s Iowa caucuses and an expected impeachment vote in the Senate today. The president used the evening to highlight the administration’s successes and push key agenda items.
Trump spent much of his speech highlighting the strength of the economy, including low employment. The unemployment rate has been falling steadily since 2011. The unemployment rate is at 3.5%, the lowest in half a century. And after trending down for almost a decade, he also stated that the unemployment rate for women reached the lowest level in almost 70 years. Trump signed the USMCA, the U.S., Mexico, and Canada trade agreement into law last week. The new agreement will boost auto manufacturing, strengthen labor laws, provide dairy farmers with more market access, provide provisions for the technology sector, address environmental concerns, and remove exclusivity protections for pharmaceutical companies in trade deals.
Trump expressed support for an infrastructure bill and the need to rebuild America’s infrastructure. Just the day before, U.S. Chamber of Commerce executive vice president, Neil Bradley hoped the president would focus on policy issues. On infrastructure, he touted a bipartisan proposal in the Senate and separate efforts by House Democrats and Republicans on their own bills. The Democratic response to the State of the Union also highlighted the need to focus on infrastructure. However, neither one gave specific infrastructure policy proposals.
Trump pressed members of Congress to pass his administration’s number one education priority – a controversial tax credit scholarship that would allow states to direct billions of dollars to private and religious schools. Currently, 18 states have created school choice in the form of opportunity scholarships. The federal bill would provide a $5 billion tax credit scholarship to states. However, the National Education Association has argued that it would take resources away from public schools. Additionally, some legal experts argue that such scholarship programs violate constitutional religious freedom protections. The Supreme Court is currently hearing a case on the topic involving a Montana law.
The Senate is poised to acquit President Trump today as the impeachment trial will end today. The Senate needs a two-thirds majority to convict and remove a president. This is only the third Senate trial of a president.
The Federal Aviation Administration plans to review drone designs in the same way they review other aircraft, a major step toward allowing routine drone deliveries and other flights over congested cities. This is the first time the FAA formally laid out a policy and regulatory scheme to vet the design and reliability of drones. The FAA is seeking comments from the public and drone industry on what criteria should be used for determining whether these devices are safe.
SO IS THIS HAPPENING SOON?
Nope. Routine drone deliveries are still years away, and the FAA didn’t lay out a timeline. Current regulations allow hobbyists and commercial drone operators to fly, but with strict limits, partly the result of the lack of regulations governing how drones are designed and built. The FAA still needs to complete rules for remote identification of more than 400,000 drones registered for commercial operations. Move over 2-day delivery, here comes 30-minute delivery.
Making Our Way Around the Country
THE GARDEN STATE
The New Jersey Legislature is considering legislation (S.B. 771) that would deem accidents that happen in employer parking lots to be within the course and scope of employment. Specifically, employment will commence, “if an employer provides or designates a parking area for use by an employee, when an employee arrives at the parking area prior to reporting to work shall terminate when an employee leaves the parking area at the end of a work period.” The employee will also be within the course of employment while traveling to and from the parking area to the place of employment. We’ll keep an eye on this bill and the possibility that it will expand the definition of employment.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) notified Congress on Sunday that it may need to transfer $136 million in its budget to respond to the coronavirus. The funding would go to key agencies responding to the coronavirus, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). President Trump declared a public health emergency Friday and banned foreign nationals from entering the U.S. if they had recently traveled to China. While there are 11 confirmed cases in the U.S., there are now over 24,000 confirmed cases globally.
SUPER BOWL RECAP
I hope everyone has recovered from their Super Bowl LIV festivities. The Super Bowl Fever, otherwise known as the biggest day Americans call in sick, kept 17.5 million workers home the Monday after the Super Bowl. Favorite commercials? If you’re looking for sentimental, Google could bring a tear. Or if you’re into Bill Murray (and who isn’t), check out his fun new take on Groundhog Day’s Day. Congrats to the Kansas City Chiefs, Patrick Mahomes (who could have been a Chicago Bear), and the great state of Missouri!