Tightening the Beltway
Jun 27, 2018


The Trump administration released a blueprint that would overhaul the federal government and the federal agency structure. The program, "Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century," would affect nearly every agency and the way we receive government services. The President's plan details the transition to an "electronic government" and improved customer experiences. Many of these moves would require approval by Congress.



One of the more far-reaching recommendations in President Trump's plan includes merging the Education and Labor departments. The new Department would reposition the two existing agencies in to four main sub-agencies focused on K-12, Higher Education & Workforce Development, Enforcement, and Research, Evaluation, Administration. The Enforcement agency would include worker protection agencies from DOL that are responsible for enforcing statutes relating to workers' pay, safety, benefits, and other protections, as well as federal workers' compensation programs. Currently, DOL agencies represent more than half of DOL's workforce. In the new DEW, all of these agencies would report to one senior official to enhance the efficiency, coordination, and delivery of enforcement and compliance assistance efforts.



Speaking of delivery, the President's plan calls for the privatization of the U.S. Postal Service, one of the nation's largest employers. What's more, the proposal calls for the creation of a public-private partnership through the Government Effectiveness Advanced Research Center (GEAR). The GEAR Center would bring together researchers, nonprofit organizations, academics, and the private sector to strategize ways for federal agencies to respond to technological changes and enhance service delivery models for enhanced citizen experience.



Meanwhile, the work of the federal agencies marches on. This week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved, for the first time ever, a cannabis-based drug. Epidiolex is a twice-daily oral compound approved to treat two types of epileptic syndromes. FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb praised the agency's "important medical advancement" and the "adequate and well-controlled clinical studies" that supported this approval. And yesterday, the U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) opened a regulatory process to improve safety conditions for America's miners. MSHA's Request for Information (RFI) focuses on reducing accidents involving mobile equipment at surface mines, and belt conveyors at surface and underground mines. The RFI is available at the Federal Register and comments from interested stakeholders will be published and considered through the end of the year. We're keeping an eye on the agencies, both old and new. 


Retail Decisions


The United States Supreme Court ruled this week that states may collect sales taxes on purchases from online retailers even if that company doesn't have a physical presence in that state. The court overturned a longstanding rule that states can collect sales taxes only on transactions if the retailer has a "bricks and mortar" presence in that state. The decision could allow more states to impose sales taxes on companies that operate entirely online.



In related news, the Supreme Court also ruled in favor of a credit card company in a case involving alleged anti-trust violations regarding fees that credit card companies charge retailers for processing transactions. Such "swipe fees" comprise a $50 billion revenue stream that often supports credit card rewards programs. Leading retail associations were critical of the decision, citing a missed opportunity to rein in credit card fees. Some pundits view the decision as a win for other companies like Amazon, Google, and Uber that have similar models charging entities fees to access the consumers using their sites. The jury is still out on the effects on consumers.


Making Our Way Around the Country


The Washington Department of Labor and Industries is accepting applications for annual grants that can be used to develop training courses, purchase equipment, or implement strategies to protect workers and make workplaces safer. Qualifying employers can earn grants up to $175,000 to develop workplace safety programs. Employers who receive grant money are expected to complete projects within 18 months. Applications for the Safety and Health Investment Projects grant program will be accepted through September 21st. The Department's Return to Work grant program remains open until further notice.



The California Department of Insurance is expected to initiate a rule-making process for regulations intended to ensure the financial security of insurers writing policies with deductibles of $100,000 or more. The DOI has prepared draft rules that would require that carriers writing large-deductible policies maintain a minimum credit rating, specific paid-in-capital requirements, or establish to the department that the carrier is part of a holding company group that maintains a qualifying credit rating and has sufficient equity. More to come on these carrier rules.



The Pennsylvania Supreme Court made headlines earlier this year when it struck the state's impairment guidelines as unconstitutional. This week, lawmakers in the State House of Representatives passed H.B. 1840, a measure that would bring back impairment ratings after 104 weeks permanent disability and assign the latest draft of the American Medical Association Guide, Sixth Edition as the prescribed guide for the rating physician. The proposal also sets guidelines for impairment: 35% impaired or greater equals permanent disability, 35% or lower is partial disability. With the state's legislative session closing this week, we'll see how this resolves.



In 2010, Congress named June 27th PTSD Awareness Day. In 2014, the Senate designated the full month of June for National PTSD Awareness. Today, we at The Way pause to support those individuals and their loved ones who continue to bravely combat the memories, thoughts, and feelings that don't go away - even months or years after the event is over. For more information, check out The National Center for PTSD for simple, empathic ways you can help those suffering from this debilitating condition.


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