Much to the chagrin of students around the globe, but much to the delight of parents in our readership, it’s nearly “Back to School” time. The Way takes a closer look at some higher education issues making the grade this week.
GO SEE FINANCIAL AID
Two measures introduced in the Senate could change the landscape of financial aid in the United States. The first of two bills introduced by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) would expand federal aid for people pursuing vocational education and make more job-training, like employer-based apprenticeships and digital boot camps, eligible to receive Pell Grants through an alternative accreditation process. The second bill would force post-secondary institutions to pay for students who default on their loans. This measure would require colleges and universities to pay off 50 percent of the balance of student loans accrued while attending their school for students who default, and forbids them from increasing the cost of attendance to offset their liabilities. This conversation will continue as Democrats and Republicans are both seeking a solution to a growing financial aid problem.
CALL CAMPUS SECURITY
Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) signed into law one of the country’s most intricate anti-hazing regimes, taking effect on October 1st. Supporters of the law, including its criminal sanctions, call it the nation’s “most cutting-edge” anti-hazing solution. It ensures Good Samaritans can’t be prosecuted if they see a hazing victim who needs medical attention, so long as they immediately contact campus security and they remain on scene until help arrives. Also, witnesses to such hazing can be immune from charges if they administered medical aid. In related news, a bi-partisan group of lawmakers in Washington, D.C., recently introduced the “End all Hazing Act.” We’ll analyze the bill as the term progresses.
IT’S ON US
In Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf (D-PA) signed into law two campus safety initiatives — one requiring post-secondary institutions to offer online, anonymous ways for students to report assaults and one that protects students who report sexual assault from being disciplined for violating school policies. The governor also secured $1 million in the state budget to continue awarding It’s On Us grants to public and private 2-year and 4-year institutions in the Keystone State.
OVER IN THE COMPUTER LAB
Institutions of higher education remain targets for ransomware, including last week’s multi-million dollar attack in New York. On cue, the House Science Committee announced a bill that would create a pilot program to help researchers comply with federal security regulations and give researchers the tools needed to conduct sensitive research in a secure environment, and at the same time, safeguard taxpayers’ investments in emerging technologies.
COMMENCEMENT = BEGINNING
And finally this week, the Federal Cybersecurity Reskilling Academy graduated its inaugural class of students. Its commencement speaker was Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. In her remarks, the Secretary exhorted the graduates that Cybersecurity is not a "one time and done" exercise and “[w]e need to know where we are vulnerable on a daily basis, and what we must do to stop an attack before it happens.” We’ll keep studying these critical issues and reporting on their developments.
The House Financial Services Committee met with executives with Facebook this week. Status: “It’s complicated.” Facebook has recently announced plans to launch its digital currency, Libra, as early as next year. Libra’s scales are tipping on Capitol Hill and Silicon Valley. Several lawmakers, including Ranking Member of the Senate Banking Committee, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), say that the social networking giant has continuously shown “through scandal after scandal that it doesn’t deserve our trust.” Libra’s executives promised not to offer Libra cryptocurrency services until all regulatory issues are addressed and the time is taken to deliver it correctly.
Meanwhile, France’s financial regulatory authority, the Autorite des Marches Financiers (AMF), expects to approve its first tranche of cryptocurrency firms under its national rules, which come into effect later this month. France’s financial regulator is in talks with “three or four candidates” for initial coin offerings (ICOs), as well as with several other cryptocurrency exchanges, custodians, and fund managers. The Group of 7 (G7), which is led by France, plans to create a group task force on stablecoin projects, including Libra. Next up to consider cryptocurrency: Canada.
Making Our Way Around the Country
A bi-partisan group of lawmakers lead by Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) and Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) introduced a bill that would call upon the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to set standards to protect workers in high heat environments. Responding to the documented risk factors associated with heat illness, the Asuncion Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act would require employers to provide workers with paid breaks in cool spaces and access to water. California OSHA requires paid shade and water breaks for those who work outside, but there is no similar federal standard, yet.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill named after Sfc. Richard Stayskal, a Fort Bragg Purple Heart Green Beret, which would allow veterans to sue for medical malpractice when stateside medical care goes awry. The measure has garnered support from both sides of the aisle. Returning troops have been banned from filing suits for malpractice in V.A. care since the 1950s, when the United State Supreme Court Decision established the Feres Doctrine. Supporters of the bill point to the fact that even federal prisoners have the right to sue for malpractice. An important footnote: The bill would not extend to injuries or medical care that troops receive while in a war zone.
The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment’s freedom of speech invalidated an Ohio state law prohibiting anyone (except the press) from soliciting to represent a claimant or an employer in workers’ comp cases. In the matter at bar, a law firm hired a journalistic service and a journalist to access claimant information for its marketing campaigns. The 6th Circuit held, “[a]s written, this prohibition is repugnant to the free speech clause of the First Amendment.” We’ll see whether the state’s Workers’ Compensation Bureau revises and redrafts its regulatory scheme in light of this ruling.
INTERNING TO WORK
Turning back to our lead story this week, we note that tomorrow is #NationalInternDay. This summer we have been fortunate to work with many fine students selected to the 54th Annual Gallagher Internship Program. Many special thanks to Stephanie Orr, Megan Doah, Alex Miller, and Mitch Blasio for their valued assistance to GB Governmental Affairs this summer and for their hard work to help create this week’s special edition of The Way. Good luck for the rest of your internship experience, and best wishes as you head back to school next month. Way to go this summer! Keep in touch!