THE STARTING LINE
The calendar turning from May to June generally marks a leisurely change of pace from spring to summer in the United States. But across the Atlantic, we’re watching leaders switch lanes at high speed in Great Britain and voters shift gears across Europe, as the countries of the European Union held EU Parliamentary elections. We keep pace with these political maneuvers this week at The Way.
Theresa May resigned her post and will step down as the nation’s Conservative leader and prime minister on June 7, 2019. This will pave the way for a contest to decide a new prime minister, which is expected to be resolved by the end of July. Mrs. May accelerated to the PM role when she passed David Cameron following the 2016 national referendum on Brexit. Prime Minister May has been unable negotiate the terms of Britain’s exit from the EU, contributing to the call for her resignation. While the new leadership in the UK may still push for one more extension to the formal Article 50 exit procedure, the EU is holding its line that no other exit treaty can be negotiated. We’re monitoring the situation as Brexit’s pressure gauge builds.
DRIVERS, START YOUR ENGINES!
The Prime Minister’s departure preceded this weekend’s elections to seat representative members of the European Parliament (EP). More than 50 percent of European voters turned out to vote in the parliamentary elections. This was the highest turnout in two decades, and represented a sharp increase from the last election in 2014. The EP is the lower house of the EU's legislative branch and, although it can't propose legislation (a power held by the European Commission), all EU laws must be approved by a majority of EP members before they apply to all 28 member states.
In the UK, EP voters overwhelmingly supported the Brexit Party, led by Brexit supporter Nigel Farage. The Brexit party took home 31.71% of the vote, nearly equivalent to the vote share of the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats combined, which commentators suggest reflects growing dissatisfaction with traditional UK parties. We will see how this sentiment translates to party elections and further Brexit negotiations this summer.
RACING UNDER CAUTION
Finally, commentators predict that the EP elections now create a complicated future for the European Union. Europe's traditional centrist coalition lost its majority, with both populist parties and pro-European Union parties gaining ground. The center-right group known as the European People's Party and the center-left Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats held 54 percent of the seats before the vote. Now they're down to 43 percent. The two blocs together lost more than 70 seats, along with the majority they held for decades. The field is set and the nations of the EU field are revved up to address a host of issues this year and beyond.
Environmental Health and Safety
The Environmental Protection Agency is planning to write new rules to weigh the human costs and benefits of environmental regulations. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler directed top agency officials to develop the changes, casting them as “necessary to eliminate inconsistencies in assessing regulations.” Opponents to the EPA rewrite maintain that the agency is altering its calculations to shrink estimates of how many lives are saved by rules governing clean air, chemicals, and water contamination. While still in preliminary stages, a final rule could come as soon as December.
In an additional rulemaking effort, the EPA plans to rewrite power plant rules over the next year. The agency’s agenda is called the “Spring 2019 Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions.” The document lists 35 new actions, along with 57 actions that it considers “deregulatory.” The list includes new rules governing coal ash, new insights and timelines for effluent limitations, monitoring and record-keeping clarifications for the mercury rule and other rules, and an amendment to a rule governing stationary combustion turbines at power plants. We’ll check back on this rule-making process later this year.
Making Our Way Around the Country
The Florida Supreme Court reversed a controversial 2017 decision about the testimony of expert witnesses in lawsuits. In a 5-2 ruling, the court rescinded the Frye standard and reinstated the Daubert standard for admission of expert testimony. The court explained that the Frye standard applies to expert testimony based on new or novel scientific techniques and general acceptance, whereas the Daubert standard provides that the trial judge must ensure that scientific testimony or evidence admitted is not only relevant, but reliable. Across the capitol, Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB 7065, a measure aimed at curbing abuse of assignment of benefits (AOB), where policyholders often give up their insurance contract rights to third-parties in exchange for quick repairs. The Governor stated, “HB 7065 establishes important consumer protections for property insurance policies by setting forth requirements for the execution, validity and effect of such agreements, and creating a formula that will determine which party, if any, receives an award of attorney fees should litigation related to an assignment agreement result in a judgment.”
Michigan's Democratic governor and Republican leaders reached a bipartisan agreement on legislation to cut the state's high car insurance premiums. Governor Gretchen Whitmer expects the legislative agreement will lower costs and protect coverage for Michigan drivers. Michigan requires that drivers buy unlimited personal injury protection benefits with their auto insurance policy. The deal guarantees the following: rate relief for every Michigan driver; a choice in coverage levels; more uniform and structured compensation levels for medical providers; and removes the ability of insurance companies to discriminate based on non-driving factors.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is seeking public comment on a potential pilot program that would allow drivers ages 18 to 20 to operate interstate commercial motor vehicles. The FMCSA is requesting comments pertaining to potential training, qualifications, driving limitations, and vehicle safety systems. The measure is drawing opposition from the Teamsters, the nation’s largest and most diverse union, comprised of freight drivers and warehouse workers.
FOUR LEFT TURNS
Returning to our main story this week, voters in France deviated from the nation’s course, as the far-right National Rally party beat French President Emmanuel Macron's party coalition in the EP elections. Though the National Rally party won by less than 1%, party leaders dubbed the election result "a victory for the people" and a turn toward the right in France. On Sunday, by successfully navigating 800 left turns, Simon Pagenaud became the first French driver to win the Indianapolis 500 in more than a century. We’ll be back home again in your email inbox next week.