October 2016

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September Congressional Review

Stopgap Continuing Resolution

On September 29th, President Obama signed the Continuing Resolution (CR)  which will keep the federal government funded through December 9th. Enactment of the CR was required due to Congress’s failure to pass any of the 12 regular appropriations bills necessary to provide funding for the federal government after the fiscal year ended on Sept. 30. Congress was able to come to a consensus on the necessary measures to include in the resolution on eve of their departure for the November election recess. However, legislators will need to complete the task of appropriation during the post-election lame-duck session.

The bill, HR 5325, also included the 2017 appropriations for the legislative branch, $1.1 billion in funding for Zika response & $500 million for disaster relief in Louisiana & Maryland, among other states. Equally notable was the inclusion of the full FY 2017 appropriations for the Veterans Affairs Department and military construction projects. The MilCon-VA-Zika appropriation was finally approved by Democrats once a provision barring Planned Parenthood from using federal money to treat Zika patients was removed. The MilCon-VA portion of the bill provides $82.5 billion.
 

Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act

Both the House and Senate voted to override President Obama’s veto of a bill that would allow victims of terrorist attacks within the United States to file suit against foreign government officials aiding or funding the execution of an attack. While the law will cover all terror attacks and all foreign governments, the bill was primarily written in response to federal court decisions which upheld Saudi Arabia’s sovereign immunity in a number of cases brought by the families of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks. While US law had allowed such suits against officials of countries on the US State Department’s list of state sponsors of terror, Saudi Arabia is not included on that list.
The Obama administration had opposed the measure because of the potential of other countries to pass similar laws in response, eroding the foundation of sovereign immunity and exposing US officials involved in military & intelligence operations in foreign countries to law suits. Immediately after the passage of the bill, House Speaker Ryan & Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell admitted that the bill would likely need to be rewritten to mitigate the unintended consequences that the Obama administration had highlighted before the bill was passed.
 

Water Resources Development Act (WRDA)

The WRDA, which would provide funding for 27 water-related infrastructure projects for the US Army Corp of Engineers, played a role in the passage of the stopgap spending bill. Democrats had been requesting funding for the provision of funding for water projects in Flint, Michigan, where lead-contaminated water systems require replacement. While there was an attempt to include Flint funding in the CR, Senate Democrats approved the CR after both the House & Senate passed amendments to the WRDA that provide $170-$220 million for Flint’s water infrastructure. The WRDA is expected to be passed after the November elections.
 

Wells Fargo Scrutiny

Before everyone in Congress left the District, both the House & Senate took turns denouncing Wells Fargo. CEO John Strumpf appeared before both Houses to give testimony on the bank’s practices of incentivizing the opening of millions of accounts without customers’ consent. Wells Fargo reached an agreement with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to pay $185 million for the violations. Senate Democrats called for a Securities & Exchange Commission investigation into Wells Fargo for violations of financial reporting laws as well as whistleblower protection laws in cases where employees were fired for reporting the practices internally.

 
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DMGS Spotlight: Autonomous Vehicle Legislation

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 popular ride-sharing service Uber introduced a fleet of driverless vehicles to Pittsburgh in September 2016. Days after the launch, President Barack Obama wrote an op-ed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and praised Uber for its innovation and effort to improve safety. “…Too many people die on our roads – 35,200 last year alone – with 94 percent of those the result of human error or choice. Automated vehicles have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives each year.”

Eric Martins, Managing Director of DMGS thinks that “if states do not adopt uniform legislation, a patchwork of laws could make autonomous driving through state lines a major challenge for driverless vehicles. This, of course, would be a terrible setback for both consumers, industry, and regulators. Crafting smart legislation and regulations will be key to making this technology thrive.”

Click here to read the full analysis at DMGS's Capitol Commentary Blog

 

STATEWIDE UPDATES

 

New Jersey

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

NJ Legislative Spotlight: A4158 NJ Call Centers Jobs Act:

A4158 is a proposed act in New Jersey that seeks to incentivize call center job retention by utilizing a financial reward and punishment system for call center employers. Under this Act, call centers refer to any office employing 50 or more people who receive phone calls or electronic communications for the purpose of providing customer assistance or other services.


NJ Legislative Spotlight: S2533 Contractors Registration Act:


S2533 Contractors  Registration Act is a proposed piece of legislation concerning the requirements of residential general contractors and home renovators. This law aims to better protect the consumer while also updating regulations to ensure contractors are fully covered while completing jobs in a safe and legal manner.
 


 

N.J. 23-cent gas tax hike: When you will actually pay more at the pump

New Jersey lawmakers are expected to pass a 23-cent-per-gallon increase in the gasoline tax Friday that Gov. Chris Christie says he'll sign. But when will you actually begin paying more at the pump? When Christie puts his John Hancock on the bill, it will set off a chain reaction that will hit New Jersey drivers in November.  Read more at NJ.com...

 

 

Pennsylvania


Philly Judge Orders Uber, Lyft to Stop Operating in the City
 

A Philadelphia judge has ordered ride-hailing companies Lyft and Uber to cease operations, which could potentially force the companies to shut down in the city. The order issued by Common Pleas Judge Linda Carpenter follows a lawsuit from taxicab drivers and disabled-rights activists against the Philadelphia Parking Authority for not clamping down on the car-hailing services. 

Uber has an estimated 10,000 drivers in the Philadelphia area, compared to about 1,000 Lyft drivers, according to court documents. If regulators catch the companies operating in Philadelphia, they can be found in contempt of court, according to Carpenter's order. Read more at WHYY's Newsworks...

 

Ohio

Who's Who on the Ohio Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee?
 

A pain management doctor, staunch opponents to marijuana legalization and the father of a boy with cerebral palsy were a few of the people selected to advise state regulators setting up Ohio's medical marijuana program. Ohio's new medical marijuana law required Gov. John Kasich and legislative leaders from both parties to appoint 14 members to the Ohio Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee within a month of the law taking effect Sept. 8. Read more at Cleveland.com...

 
 

 

 

DMGS Updates

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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