Home for the Holidays
Dec 2, 2020


Six bucks says we are. The Transportation Safety Administration estimated 6.8 million travelers passed through screening checkpoints in U.S. airports leading up to the Thanksgiving weekend.  This marked the year’s most densely concentrated week of travel since March 14 to March 20.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sent a last-minute warning asking Americans to avoid holiday travel due to a potential “exponential growth” in Covid-19 cases.  With much of the country on the move through airways, railways, and highways, we take a closer look at transportation topics making news this week.



The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) intends to resume passenger flights aboard the 737 Max in the near term.  The FAA will require a series of design changes defined in a 115-page directive and has established all pilot training and maintenance requirements. Steve Dickson, FAA Administrator, characterized the review process as comprehensive, methodical, and deliberate. "This airplane has undergone an unprecedented level of scrutiny by the FAA," Dickson said. "We have not left anything to chance here."



The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced that positive train control technology, or PTC, is active on 57,314 route miles of the nearly 57,537 route miles subject to the requirement. Just 223 required route miles remain to be activated this year.  FRA Administrator Ronald Batory spoke to the gains toward achieving interoperability testing, “Full implementation of PTC is in sight, owing to everyone’s unparalleled cooperation and determination.”  Congressional policymakers gave bipartisan backing to directing railroads to implement PTC systems by the end of 2020.



The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of the Department of Transportation is seeking public comment on the development of a framework to govern the safety of automated driving systems (ADS).  NHTSA’s proposed rule will focus on several ADS components: (1) sensation; (2) perception; (3) planning; and (4) control functions. NHTSA also seeks feedback on what kind of engineering measures should be included in the framework, and whether ADS-specific regulations should be issued prior to testing and validation or commercial deployment of the technology. Written comments from stakeholders will be due within 60 days.



The White House and the executive agencies are racing to finalize policy priorities before President-elect Biden takes office on January 20, 2021.  It’s common for outgoing administrations to rapidly push rules through the regulatory process.  We’re keeping an eye on these “midnight” regulations to see which direction they’re going as we anticipate the transition of presidential administrations. 


Financial Services


In related news, outgoing Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is rapidly promulgating rules around cryptocurrency. The U.S. Treasury department issued proposed regulations to lower the anti-money laundering (AML) threshold for cross-border transactions.  The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) and the Federal Reserve’s rule change proposal would reduce the threshold from $3,000 to $250 for AML compliance for any transfers – in crypto or fiat – that go outside the U.S.  The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the $250 threshold was given just a 30-day response period, when normally the industry would be granted 60 or 90 days.



In other financial news, the Securities and Exchange Commission issued rules that would allow publicly and privately held companies to offer equity compensation to gig workers. The proposed rules expand stock compensation for gig-workers for a five-year time period. The SEC guidelines include certain protections to ensure that stocks issued to gig workers are compensation and not disguised fundraising. These new rules are open to comment from stakeholders, including sharing platform workers for the next 60 days.  


Making Our Way Around the Country


California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara has adopted and issued a revised average advisory pure premium rate, lowering the benchmark to $1.45 per $100 of payroll for workers’ compensation insurance, effective Jan. 1, 2021. This marks the tenth consecutive reduction to the average advisory pure premium rate benchmark since January 2015. Commissioner Lara did not order an additional adjustment for COVID-19 at this time, citing the need for additional data and review by the Department of Insurance and the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau.



California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal OSHA) voted unanimously to expand how far California employers must go to protect employees from COVID-19 at work. The temporary emergency standard requires employers to create a COVID-19 prevention program, investigate, track, and respond to COVID-19 cases in the workplace and provide free testing to workers in cases of outbreaks, among many other requirements. Among the provisions of new rules, employers would be required to Identify and correct COVID-19 hazards, ensure all employees are separated from others by at least 6 feet, provide face coverings and ensure employees wear them, install partitions to reduce aerosol transmission where distancing isn't possible, and report information about cases to the local health department whenever required by law.



In judiciary news from over the Thanksgiving break, the United States Supreme Court ruled in 5-4 decision to bar New York State from re-imposing limits on religious gatherings.  In May and July, the Supreme Court narrowly rejected challenges to virus-related restrictions on churches in California and Nevada.  We’ll continue to monitor Supreme Court activity to track whether the current composition of justices, as some pundits anticipate, will find for greater accommodation for religion and religious services, even as the pandemic surges.



Congress passed Internet of Things (IoT) legislation, establishing baseline standards for government-purchased Internet-connected devices.  The “Things Cybersecurity Improvement Act,” introduced by Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL), garnered unanimous House approval in September, and has now unanimously passed the Senate.  The legislation now goes to the White House.



The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, National Credit Union Administration, and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency issued a joint fact sheet clarifying how banks should apply a risk-based approach to customer due diligence (CDD) requirements for charities and other non-profit organizations.  The joint fact sheet highlights CDD topics such as, the charitable organization’s structure, its internal controls, its audit history, and general information about the donor base and funding sources.



In related news, yesterday marked the annual Day of Giving to bring focus to the charitable nature of the holiday season.  More commonly referred to as #GivingTuesday, National Day of Giving harnesses the power of social media to give back around the world and throughout the year. We at The Way pause to recognize the outstanding philanthropy and charity of our industry, including the impressive work of Kids Chance of America.  Stay safe, stay well, and stay connected.   


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