February 2017
DMGS Capitol Commentary- February 2017
Federal Update
Update on President-Elect Donald Trump’s Proposed Nominations
  Office                                                     Nominee                                      Confirmation
Vice President                                       Mike Pence                                  N/A
Secretary of State                                 Rex Tillerson
Secretary of Treasury                           Steve Mnuchin
Secretary of Defense                           James Mattis                               Confirmed 98-1
Attorney General                                  Jeff Sessions
Secretary of the Interior                        Ryan Zinke
Secretary of Agriculture                        Sonny Purdue
Secretary of Commerce                        Wilbur Ross
Secretary of Labor                                Andrew Puzder
Secretary of Health & Human Resources         Tom Price
Secretary of Housing & Urban Developmen     Ben Carson
Secretary of Transportation                  Elaine Chao
Secretary of Energy                              Rick Perry
Secretary of Education                         Betsy DeVos
Secretary of Veterans Affairs                David Shulkin
Secretary of Homeland Security           John F. Kelly                                 Confirmed 88-11
Other High-Level Offices
  Office                                                          Nominee                                         Confirmation
White House Chief of Staff                          Reince Priebus
Director of Office of Management and Budget         Mick Mulvaney
Director of the Central Intelligence Agency            Mike Pompeo                                  Confirmed 66-32
Ambassador to the United Nations             Nikki Haley                                       Confirmed 96-4
Administrator of the Small Business Administration          Linda McMahon
Administrator of the EPA                                                   Scott Pruitt  
Deputy Commerce Secretary                      Todd Ricketts  
Secretary of the Army                                Vincent Viola  
Secretary of the Air Force                           Heather Wilson
Secretary of the Navy                                Philip Bilden
Trade Representative                                Robert Lighthizer
Chair Securities and Exchange Commission        Jay Clayton
Senior Counselor for Economic Initiatives             Dina Habib Powell
Director of National Intelligence                  Dan Coats
Treasury Chief of Staff                               Eli Miller  
**Nominees pending congressional approval
Congressional Update
Congressional Republicans  to Start Obamacare Replacement Work Ahead of Repeal
A key House panel will examine four bills Feb. 2 meant to keep health insurance markets stable ahead of Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

The bills at the hearing will reduce the number of age-rating bands—which prevent insurers from charging older people much more than younger people—from five to three and create a new system for protecting Americans with pre-existing health conditions, according to Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce health subcommittee. Energy and Commerce will likely explore how high-risk insurance pools could replace the ACA's ban on denying coverage to people with health conditions, he said during the annual Republican retreat in Philadelphia.

One of the bills will also protect people from premium rate hikes if they don't allow their insurance coverage to lapse.

House Republicans are hoping these changes will allow them to repeal the ACA without disrupting the insurance market. However, they'll need support from Democrats in the Senate to put them onto President Donald Trump's desk ahead of repeal bills, which can be passed without assistance from liberals.

The Energy and Commerce Committee is expected to mark up a bill to repeal the ACA late in February or early in March, House Republican leaders said recently. Burgess said the legislation the committee will consider ahead of that markup will ensure the individual and group insurance markets are stable and health insurance premiums don't rise dramatically as Republicans repeal the health law.

The House and Senate started the budget reconciliation process earlier in January. Under this process, Republicans can pass a repeal bill using a simple majority, which they hold in both chambers of Congress.
Administration Update
Presidential Memoranda

On his first workday at the White House, President Donald Trump scheduled a whirlwind series of meetings with members of Congress, business leaders and labor leaders, and signed three presidential memoranda on trade, abortion and a federal hiring freeze.

Many of Trump's campaign promises for his first weekday in office were postponed, such as labeling China a currency manipulator and pursuing a constitutional amendment for congressional term limits.

On Nov. 21, Trump released a video to outline his policy agenda for his first 100 days in office. “As part of this plan, I've asked my transition team to develop a list of executive actions we can take on Day One to restore our laws and bring back our jobs,” he said in the video.

Among the six actions, Trump promised to “cancel job-killing restrictions” on the production of American energy, including shale energy and clean coal. Trump also said he would formulate a rule requiring federal agencies to eliminate two old regulations for every new one they wanted to issue.

On Jan. 20, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus issued a traditional memorandum to the heads of all executive branch agencies directing them to freeze all pending regulations until further notice.

Immigration Order

U.S. companies are scrambling in response to President Donald Trump's Jan. 27 immigration executive order. If an employee from one of the seven named countries in the order—other than a green card holder—needed to travel outside the U.S. to complete a deal on his or her employer's behalf, that is now impossible. The order also could require companies to rethink their plans for the upcoming petition cycle for H-1B high-skilled temporary visas.

The order blocks the entry of foreign nationals from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and Sudan for 90 days, although Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly later said green card holders from those countries would be admitted. It also suspends all refugee admissions for 120 days and suspends Syrian refugee admissions indefinitely.

Affected employees largely fall into two categories: those who normally work in the U.S. and those who normally work abroad. Those who work in the U.S. may be unable to travel outside the country, and there are those who happened to be abroad when the order was signed who now are stuck. For those who work outside the U.S., they are now unable to come to the United States for meetings, conferences and other business.

The order provides that countries must provide information to the U.S. government that it deems necessary to adjudicate immigration benefits. There is also the looming possibility that the order could be used to deny immigration benefits to immigrants from the seven countries who are already in the U.S. There are reports that naturalization applications from lawful permanent residents originally from those countries are being suspended. If that's the case, foreign workers on H-1B visas could be denied extensions, and they or other immigrants may be denied the ability to adjust their status to lawful permanent resident. 

February Congressional Schedule
Legislative Deep Dive: Telehealth

Healthcare remains a controversial topic among a wide swath of America. As a new administration pushes to repeal and/or replace Obamacare, millions are left wondering what future treatment will look like in the coming year. While lawmakers debate the best path forward, the demand for lower costs and increased efficiency has intensified.

In light of the acrimony, telehealth has surfaced as a potential remedy.

The Federal Health Resource and Services Administration has classified telehealth as “the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support and promote long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health, and health administration.”

Whether it’s over the phone, via email, or Facetime, technology now allows doctors and nurses to treat patients in a quick and convenient manner.

We've compiled a comprehensive look at Telehealth on our blog:

Industry Overview: Telehealth Services

Legislative Overview: Telehealth Services 

DMGS State Updates

Poor drinking water oversight could have 'serious public health implications' for Pennsylvanians, EPA says

Pennsylvania's failure to enforce safe drinking water standards due to inadequate staffing could have "serious public health implications," according to federal regulators, and cost the state millions in federal funding. That warning came in a Dec. 30 letter from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to the Department of Environmental Protection, which oversees drinking water inspections. At a time of major budget cuts, the DEP's inspections of public water systems fell from 3,177 in the 2009-10 fiscal year to 1,847 in 2015-16, according to the EPA. The number of unaddressed violations doubled over the last five years, from 4,298 to 7,922; and those figures don't account for violations that may have gone unnoticed. "Not completing sanitary survey inspections in a timely manner can have serious public health implications as major violations could be going unidentified," wrote Jon Capacasa, the director of the EPA's Water Protection Division who retired last month. Federal regulators gave the department 60 days to outline a plan to address deficiencies in its oversight of public water systems. Capacasa also warned that failure to meet the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act could result in the state losing primacy. That could mean a federal takeover of enforcement and the forfeiture of millions in federal funding. Read more at Penn Live...

Data trove offers new details on complaints to DEP during shale boom

    Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection received 9,442 public complaints about environmental problems in areas where unconventional natural gas development occurred from 2004 to the end of November 2016, an investigation reported, unveiling a trove of documents from the state’s natural gas boom. The three-year investigation conducted by the Pittsburgh-based Public Herald watch-dog website, said 4,108 of the complaints were prompted by water-quality problems while others were driven by concerns including air-quality, spills of drilling materials, property damage, and leaking gas. The data cache was obtained by Public Herald from requests filed under the state’s Right to Know law. It may fuel the longstanding public debate over whether fracking and other gas-development activities hurt water and air quality. At the very least it provides a wealth of new data for researchers. Read more at State Impact Pennsylvania...

    Delaware and Ohio
    Delaware part of $586M settlement that orders Western Union to crack down on fraudsters

    Attorney General Matt Denn along with the attorneys general of 48 states and the District of Columbia Tuesday  were part of a settlement with Colorado-based The Western Union Company.

    The settlement requires Western Union to develop and put into action a comprehensive anti-fraud program designed to help detect and prevent incidents where consumers who have been the victims of fraud through the  use Western Union to wire money to scam artists.

    Criminal scams that involve wiring money include: lottery and contest scams in which consumers are told they have won a large sum of money but must first wire money to pay required taxes or fees before receiving their winnings; “grandparent scams” in which a consumer believes his or her loved one is in immediate danger and needs money right away; and romance scams in which someone poses as a love interest and then soon begins asking consumers to send money for various reasons, such as medical emergencies, car accidents,  and emergency travel.

    Governor: Ohio must embrace future, change Rust Belt image

    Ohio Gov. John Kasich said Wednesday the state must change its Rust Belt image and embrace new technologies on all fronts.

    While manufacturing will always be important in Ohio, the state must move away from the idea of building another factory that produces things people don’t need anymore, Kasich said at an annual forum sponsored by the Associated Press.

    “We also want to change the image of Ohio from the Rust Belt to the knowledge belt,” Kasich said.

    The Republican governor also defended Ohio’s approach to the drug addiction epidemic that is killing thousands annually. He noted the numerous programs to fight drug abuse, and said expanding Medicaid — the state and federal health care system for poor children and families — is important in the battling this scourge.

    Read more at Ohio.com

    New Jersey
    Bill to save police, fire jobs in Atlantic City with hotel surcharge advances

    A bill that would add a temporary $2 surcharge to Atlantic City hotel rooms to help prevent layoffs in the local police and fire departments has cleared it first hurdle in the New Jersey Legislature. The state Assembly's appropriations committee on Monday voted 8-0, with three abstentions, to approve the measure, less than a week after it was introduced by its main sponsor, Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson). 

    If passed by both houses of the Legislature and signed by Gov. Chris Christie, the bill (A4556) would impose an additional, daily $2 tax or fee on each occupied hotel room in the financially struggling seaside gambling resort -- with all proceeds helping to fund public safety there. The surcharge would last two years. Read more at NJ.com

    N.J. lawmakers respond to Super Bowl wagers by trying to legalize sports betting

    In advance of Sunday's Super Bowl, when an estimated $4.7 billion will be wagered, U.S. Reps. Frank LoBiondo and Frank Pallone Jr. introduced legislation Wednesday to let New Jersey offer legal sports betting. The lawmakers, as they did two years ago, offered different measures to achieve the goal that the state sought since its 2011 referendum. LoBiondo (R-2nd Dist.) would give all states four years to decide whether they wanted to legalize sports betting, while Pallone (D-6th Dist.) simply would allow New Jersey to join Nevada, Delaware, Montana, and Oregon, which already allow such wagering.

    "Sports betting is already happening across our state and across the country, but instead of being appropriately overseen and raising needed revenue for our casinos, racetracks, businesses, and the state, these bets are placed through illegal enterprises," Pallone said. "It is time to bring this activity out of the shadows." Read more at NJ.com

    Updates from the Firm
    Make sure to follow  DMGS on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for real-time updates. Also, check out  www.captiol-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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