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Oct 21, 2020


The Trump administration campaigned and took office on a federal deregulatory agenda.  On the eve of the 2020 Presidential Election, pundits in Washington are keeping an eye on agency regulations.  This week, we take a closer look at some regulatory action in business sectors, although we did not have time to build the stories to scale or to paint them.



Over the last four years, the Code of Federal Regulations has remained constant at about 185,000 pages. The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) announced that federal agencies will use artificial intelligence (AI) to eliminate outdated, obsolete, and inconsistent requirements across tens of thousands of pages of government regulations.  Agencies participating in the AI initiative include the Transportation Department, the Agriculture Department, the Labor Department, and the Interior Department. The General Services Administration will assist agencies in identifying technology partners and facilitate contracts.



The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) announced that it will issue new rules to "clarify the meaning" of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which regulates internet publishers and platforms. Section 230 provides broad protections for online platforms shielding them from liability for content posted by others on their sites — including illicit material assuming certain actions were taken by the platforms.  FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said of the rulemaking, "[s]ocial media companies have a First Amendment right to free speech. But they do not have a First Amendment right to a special immunity denied to other media outlets, such as newspapers and broadcasters.”



The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $160 million in initial funding under the new Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP).  Two U.S.-based teams will deliver first-of-a-kind advanced reactors to be licensed for commercial operations. The DOE will invest a total of $3.2 billion over seven years with industry partners providing matching funds. U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette said, “[t]he awards are the first step of a new program that will strengthen American leadership in the next generation of nuclear technologies…which play a vital role” in the administration’s clean energy strategy.



The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) completed its damage estimates for the August derecho, a thunderstorm whose peak winds gusted up to 143 mph from Iowa to Indiana.  The derecho’s financial toll of $7.5 billion exceeds nine of this year’s record 10 U.S. hurricanes and tropical storms and was dubbed the most damaging thunderstorm in U.S. history.  Including the derecho, the U.S. has been hit by a record-tying 16 “billion-dollar weather disasters” through September 2020. 



The Small Business Administration (SBA) is calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to change proposed hemp rules that “stifle” the newly legal industry.  USDA announced it was reopening the comment period last month, citing demand from stakeholders who have expressed concern about a number of specific regulations. The SBA outlined 12 areas where it was seeking additional feedback, including hemp sample collection methods, disposal requirements for so-called “hot hemp,” the 15-day harvest window, and the requirement that crops be tested only by labs registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The department's rule for hemp, when finalized, is set to take effect on October 31, 2021.



The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) denied a request by the Small Business in Transportation Coalition (SBTC) to ease regulations for drivers traveling with their pets. SBTC had been seeking an exemption from both the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate and the hours-of-service (HOS) requirements, asking that drivers with pet companions be allowed to drive up to 13 hours during a work shift and to operate within a 16-hour window, which extends beyond the current driving limits.


Where We're Going


The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revealed its final regulations on streamlined commercial space launch and re-entry license requirements. The 785-page regulation consolidates four separate regulations and will apply a single set of licensing and safety rules for all vehicle operations. U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said the regulations, which had not been updated in more than a decade, will “better facilitate commercial space transportation while protecting national security and maintaining public safety.”



The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) announced that the manufacturer of the 737 Max reached its required safety standards after changes to affected systems, which could release the grounded plane before the end of the year. The 737 Max has progressed toward reauthorization in the U.S. and E.U. after being banned from flying around the world in March 2019 following two fatal crashes.


Making Our Way Around the Country


More than thirty witnesses testified at a virtual hearing on public employee workers’ compensation before the City Council of Washington, D.C.  At issue are two bills introduced to reconcile inequalities between the District’s public and private sector workers’ comp systems, including a cap of 500 weeks of disability and permanency awards.  We will follow the progress of the City Council’s action. 



Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance (TDCI) announced a system upgrade that will create a more paperless insurance licensing process. Licensees can print a license any time by using the SBS License Manager tool.  The TDCI advised it will no longer mail renewal notifications to Tennessee insurance producers.  In New York, the Worker’s Compensation Board announced its new online claims system: OnBoard. The system now features 24/7 access, improved prior authorization requests, and real-time data validation.



The District Court of Oklahoma County approved the country’s first Insurance Business Transfer (IBT) Plan.  The Oklahoma Insurance Department (OID) reported the plan will transfer substantially all the insurance and reinsurance business between two separate insurance carriers.  Oklahoma’s IBT law is the most expansive of its kind in the U.S. and it mirrors Part VII Transfers of the Financial Services & Markets Act of 2000 in the United Kingdom, which has resulted in over 300 successful transfers in the last two decades.



The California Office of the Attorney General issued the third proposed modifications to the state's California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) Regulations. The changes are open for comment through next Wednesday.  The proposed modifications include an improved opt-out request process, calls for an authentication of the authorized agent, and clarifies the content of privacy policies regarding children's information. 



Back to our main story, October is National Pedestrian Safety Month sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).  So, please keep an eye out for walkers, joggers, trick-or-treaters, or even the occasional time traveler on #BackToTheFuture Day. We’ll set the time circuits for 10.28.2020, and until then, stay safe, stay well, and stay connected. 


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