December 2016

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Update: Cannabis Ballot Initiatives

2016 has been a landmark year for the Cannabis industry. Ballot initiatives to legalize various forms of Cannabis (marijuana) were held in nine states during the 2016 general election. Ultimately, residents in eight of nine states decided to support cannabis legislation in some form or another. Voters in Maine, California, Nevada and Massachusetts approved recreational marijuana use, while residents in Arizona rejected a similar proposal. In Arkansas, Florida, North Dakota and Montana, residents voted in favor of legalizing medical marijuana (MMJ).  Following the election, the number of states with legalized forms of cannabis has increased to:

  • 30 states including Washington, DC and Puerto Rico with medical marijuana
  • 8 states plus Washington, DC with recreational marijuana

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Read our state-by-state analysis of Cannabis Ballot Initiatives at our Capitol Commentary Blog

 

 

November Review

Trump’s Cabinet Selections
As the president-elect’s inauguration day nears, his cabinet and inner White House circle has begun to take shape. Trump has already selected a Chief of Staff, National Security Advisor and a Chief Strategist, while tapping Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions (R), an immigration hardliner, to serve as his Attorney General. He’s also selected Wilbur Ross, a billionaire investor, to serve as his Commerce Secretary and Betsy DeVos, a charter school advocate and vocal Trump opponent on the campaign trail, to serve as Secretary of Education. However, Trump has yet to name a Secretary of State. Former Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former General David Petraeus have all met with President-elect Donald Trump regarding the position.
 
Overtime Ruling
A federal judge in Texas ruled the Labor Department’s new overtime rule overstepped the agency’s authority. On November 22, U.S. District Judge Amos L. Mazzant issued an injunction after 21 states and 50 business sued to block the Department of Labor’s decision to extend overtime to roughly 4.2 million workers.  The judge said the federal government had surpassed its authority by forcing employers to pay overtime benefits to salaried workers making $921 a week, or $47,892 a year. Under the previous law, the threshold was $23,660 a year. An appeal will go to the 5th circuit court until a ninth justice is named to the Supreme Court. President-elect Trump is expected to reject the Department of Labor’s ruling as he aims to loosen many government regulations.
 
21st Century Cures/Mental Health Bill
In a 392 to 26 vote, the House passed the 21st Century Cures Act on November 30, sending the measure to the Senate. At its base, 21st Century Cures is a bipartisan biomedical innovation bill to spur new medical treatments by addressing the systemic causes for why developing a new drug costs $1 billion, takes more than a decade and fails about 90 percent of the time. Cures would provide about $4.8 billion for the National Institutes of Health and $500 million for the Food and Drug Administration through a 10-year “Innovation Fund” to boost funding for precision medicine, the cancer moonshot, and brain research, all of which are major research initiatives started by the Obama administration.
The bill also would provide $1 billion in grants to states to curb opioid addiction. The legislation would also exempt more hospitals from Medicare's controversial site-neutral payment policy. The bill also included many portions of Rep. Tim Murphy’s Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, including the creation of a new Assistant Secretary for Mental Health & Substance Use.

 


December Congressional Preview
2017 Budget Appropriations

On December 9 a continuing resolution that funds the federal government will end. President-elect Trump’s transition team has urged Republican lawmakers to approve another resolution that will fund the government through March 2017, instead of passing legislation piecemeal to help fund certain agencies. However, some Republicans believe that pushing legislation to 2017 could complicate matters for a new administration. The Trump team hopes a Republican-dominated House and Senate will ensure a strong 100 days for the president-elect, including a potential repeal of Obamacare, as well as an infrastructure spending bill.

National Defense Authorization Act
As lawmakers work to create a funding resolution, negotiators have begun to finalize national defense authorization policies.  A conference agreement that merges both house and senate resolutions (H.R. 4909 and S. 2943) is expected to occur before congress adjourns in December. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has stated that he believes a bill is likely to get approved before the deadline. However, there is an $18 billion difference between the two resolutions.

December Congressional Schedule

Note: While Congress is scheduled to be in session until the 16th, there is an expectation that both chambers will adjourn once the NDAA & CR are passed.

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DMGS Legislative Deep Dive: Daily Fantasy Sports

DMGS's Capitol Commentary Blog now features periodic "deep dives" into key legislative and regulatory issues in the US. Check back to our website for more information.

The word “fantasy” may elicit images of children’s games, but in the sports world it has become synonymous with profit. For the past decade, fantasy sports leagues for football, baseball, basketball and hockey have generated $3 billion in annual revenue. Since 1988, fantasy sports participation has grown exponentially, from roughly 500,000 to nearly 57 million in 2016, according to data from the Fantasy Sports Trade Association.

In 2006, Congress exempted fantasy sports from an online gambling ban, saying skill was the primary factor for success. However, FanDuel and DraftKings came under fire last year for breaking state gambling laws and advertising misleading information. In November 2015, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman ordered FanDuel and DraftKings to cease all operations within the Empire State. Schneiderman cited a failure to obey gaming laws while promoting competition that relied heavily on chance rather than skill.


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To read more, visit DMGS's "Capitol Commentary" Blog.

 

 

 

STATEWIDE UPDATES

 

Pennsylvania


Why Harrisburg actually might fix more of Pennsylvania’s bad booze laws

Among other things, 2016 will go down in history as the year Harrisburg finally made some actual changes to Pennsylvania’s antiquated liquor laws. They were small steps — wine in grocery stores! Six-packs at beer distributors! — but there’s reason to believe that, after years of inaction, this kind of progress might soon become less of an anomaly and more of a regular thing. Read more at Billy Penn

PA gets $310 million in tax credits to attract investment in distressed communities

The holiday season came a little early this year for community development organizations that got a piece of $7 billion in tax credits allocated by the Department of the Treasury last week. The New Market Tax Credits program helps low-income or economically distressed cities attract investors in commercial projects. Five Pennsylvania-based organizations received allocations ranging from $45 to $80 million. One, PNC Community Partners, has national reach, but the rest are local organizations in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and the Midstate. Read more at Keystone Crossroads

PA now accepting industrial hemp research applications
Hemp, a non-psychoactive cousin of marijuana, could be growing in Pennsylvania again as soon as next year. The state Department of Agriculture released application materials Thursday for a pilot program that would research how to cultivate the plant. Hemp was once a major cash crop used to make rope and other fabrics prior to being outlawed in 1937 alongside marijuana. "Industrial hemp certainly is not a new crop, but we believe it has the potential to become a very attractive part of Pennsylvania's future," Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said, in a written statement. Hemp's return was precipitated by the 2014 federal farm bill, which opened the door for states to reauthorize hemp farming. Legislation signed by Gov. Tom Wolf in July created the state's pilot program. Read More at Penn Live

 

 

 

Delaware


State of Delaware fines insurer $487K

Companion Life Insurance faces a $487,000 fine after claiming their insurance plans were compliant with the Affordable Care Act. Delaware Insurance Commissioner Karen Weldin Stewart said the fine is the result of numerous complaints from Delaware consumers. Companion sold 242 customers limited benefit and short term health insurance plans that were not complian with the ACA, even though Companion represented them as being compliant. Read More at Newsworks

Residents still concerned over water impact from Lower Delaware poultry
At its monthly meeting earlier this week, the Frankford Town council gave an update on discussions council members have had with representatives from the State and Mountaire Farms related to well permits issued to the poultry company. The Town filed a statement of appeal in August to the State’s Environmental Appeals Board, following the decision of Delaware Department of Natural Resources Secretary David Small related to well permits issued to Mountaire. The letter, dated Aug. 16, said the Town challenges the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s (DNREC) finding that the industrial non-potable well is not in violation of Delaware Code for being “interconnected with any portion of the building’s plumbing and/or any water utility’s service connection,” as well as the failure of DNREC to revoke the permit, as “Mountaire has failed to abide by Permit #252076’s conditions, which is to ‘follow all current regulations governing well construction.’” Read more at Coastal Point

 

 

 

New Jersey

The NJ Legislature is in session and DMGS is actively monitoring new and pending legislation for our friends and clients. For more information about this service, please contact us.

What's in Christie's $300M NJ Statehouse Renovation Plan? 

The governor's office has released new details on how the four-year project will tackle serious structural issues plaguing the nation's second-oldest continuously used Statehouse. A basic blueprint of the renovations needed and what it could cost was borne out of work Philadelphia-based Preservation Design Partnership has done for the state since 2013, according to the governor's office. At that time, the Department of Treasury issued a Request for Proposal for a design company to give estimates on what it would take to fix areas of the executive portion of the New Jersey Statehouse. However, the years-long inspection made clear that more significant improvements were needed, the governor said. Christie described the need to completely overhaul the historic 224-year-old Statehouse, potions of which he said are in danger of "catastrophic failure." Read more at NJ.com



Why some in New Jersey think quarterly pension payments don't go far enough
New Jersey has the nation’s worst-funded public-employee pension system, and in a bid to help put it on a firmer footing, state lawmakers last week overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan bill that calls on the state to begin making pension contributions on a quarterly basis. But the leaders of the board that oversees investment policy for the pension system are divided on whether lawmakers should be going even further to address the state’s pension-funding problem. Tom Byrne, chairman of the New Jersey State Investment Council, said yesterday that he supports the legislative proposal advanced by lawmakers that would see the state shift to a schedule that would break the pension contribution up into quarterly installments instead of just a single year-end deposit. Read more at NJ Spotlight
 

 

 

 

DMGS Updates


DMGS Director Ted Christian was featured in multiple articles surrounding his
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"Ted Christian of Holland, PA managed President-elect Donald Trump’s Pennsylvania campaign as state director. He filled the same role in 2008 for the John McCain-Sarah Palin Republican presidential campaign. Christian is director of lobbying firm Duane Morris Government Strategies’ Philadelphia office. He currently sits on the Bucks County Enterprise Zone Organization and has previously served as executive director for the New Jersey Republican State Committee."
Read more at the Bucks County Courier Times









On November 28th, 2016,  DMGS Manager of Special Projects Brett Goldman hosted Israeli Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman at Duane Morris's offices in Philadelphia as part of a Philadelphia-Israel Chamber of Commerce Delegation:
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Make sure to follow DMGS on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for real-time updates. Also, check out www.capitol-commentary.com for further in-depth analysis on PA, NJ, OH, NY, DC, and beyond. If you have any questions, comments, concerns, or suggestions, please contact Brett Goldman, DMGS Manager of Special Projects.

 

 

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