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OpenMarket: February 2016

  • Senate Energy Bill Stalled by Wrangling

    February 5, 2016

    The Senate spent part of the week considering amendments to the Energy Policy Modernization Act, S. 2012, but then got hung up on Democratic demands that the bill should include $600 million to help Flint, Michigan to deal with its water supply problems.  Two cloture votes to limit debate and move to a vote on final passage were defeated by votes of 46 to 50 and 43 to 54 (with 60 votes needed to invoke cloture).

    Negotiations will continue over the weekend, so it’s too early to say that the bill sponsored by Energy and Natural Resources...

  • Dr. Christy Rebuts Alarmist Spin on Satellite Data

    February 5, 2016

    The divergence between satellite data and climate model warming predictions has long been too large for “consensus” scientists to ignore, and it keeps growing despite 2015 being anointed the “warmest year on record.”

    Unsurprisingly, the usual suspects try to discredit the satellite data, even to the point of suggesting that surface records, notwithstanding their well-known heterogeneity, gaps, and quality-control issues, are more reliable.

    In testimony earlier this week before the House Science Committee, University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) atmospheric scientist ...

  • President Obama Will Propose $10 a Barrel Tax on Oil To Pay For $32 Billion Green Transit Slush Fund

    February 5, 2016

    The White House has begun to release details of President Barack Obama’s budget request for Fiscal Year 2017.  Most interesting so far is the announcement that the President will propose a new $10 fee on each barrel of oil.  With oil selling at roughly $30 a barrel, this would amount to a one-third increase in the cost of oil.

    The projected $32 billion a year in new revenue would be used to fund “green” transit: $20 billion for mass transit, including high-speed rail and magnetic levitation; $10 billion for streamlining local and state transit planning, a Climate Smart Fund to give bonuses to States that reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, and three new grant programs for “livable” cities, climate-resilient infrastructure,...

  • Don't Put Eco-Finance Measures in Energy Bill

    February 4, 2016

    Cronyism and boondoggles in an energy bill is nothing new in the U.S. Congress. But this week, senators of both parties are taking the process to new lows in amendments they are offering to the pending S.2012—the Energy Policy Modernization Act.

    Not only are these politicos picking winners and losers through subsidies and mandates favoring selected “green” industries and technologies, they are roping in housing and finance agencies into their “environmentally correct” schemes. At best, this would divert the agencies away from their missions at a time of great economic volatility. At worst, it could cause a financial crisis of its own.

    First, there is an amendment from Sen Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), a former real estate agent, which would loosen credit standards for “green” homes...

  • Trans-Pacific Partnership Signed, Provisions a Mixed Bag

    February 4, 2016

    U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) in Auckland, New Zealand, yesterday, together with ministers from 11 other Pacific-rim countries (Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam).

    Since the signing took place on the earliest possible date under rules set in Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), it seems clear that the Obama administration wants to move quickly on TPP, knowing that this controversial trade pact could get bogged down in the presidential election cycle....

  • Zika Wake-Up Call

    February 4, 2016

    The spread of the mosquito-transmitted Zika virus should be yet another wake-up call for public officials around the world. As a relatively new threat, Zika has captured headlines in a world where many insect-transmitted diseases continue to wreak havoc on public health. Unfortunately, the ability to control all such vector-borne diseases is hindered by more than our limited scientific understanding. Disease control is limited by the lack of political will to use all tools in our arsenal, including politically incorrect pesticides.

    Zika has long been known to cause mild infections and rashes, but health officials are now investigating the possibility that it can cause birth defects when mothers are infected during pregnancy. The disease appeared in Brazil last spring and during 2015,...

  • Overtime Rule Is a Threat to Workers and Small Business

    February 4, 2016

    By statute, Congress delegated to the Secretary of Labor “the authority to define and delimit the terms of the [overtime] exemptions.” But that doesn’t mean it is good policy to dramatically modify the exemptions.

    On June 30, 2015, the Department of Labor submitted a notice of proposed rulemaking to significantly modify the exemptions in the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime rules. Most notably, the proposed rule greatly increases the minimum salary threshold for exempt workers.

    Currently, under the FLSA, overtime regulations require time-and-a-half pay for every hour above 40 that an hourly employee works in week. Workers may be exempt from overtime pay if they are salaried employees who perform executive, administrative, professional...

  • White House Threatens Veto to Choke Point Reform Bill

    February 3, 2016

    As has been demonstrated time and again, this administration is opposed to any change in the law that will reduce its powers. We see this once again in the White House’s statement that it will veto H.R. 766 (the Financial Institution Customer Protection Act) introduced by Rep. Blaine Leutkemeyer (R-Mo.) due to be voted on shortly by the House. The bill aims to restrict the powers that were abused during Operation Choke Point.

    The administration’s statement is a masterpiece in justifying executive abuse. Here are some highlights.

    The bill’s first change to...

  • How to Get Rid of Obsolete Regulations

    February 3, 2016

    The House this week is considering H.R. 1675, the Encouraging Employee Ownership Act, sponsored by Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.). I’ll leave it to my colleague John Berlau to comment on the bill’s impact on employment and financial regulation. But I do want to point out an important regulatory reform it contains for getting rid of old or obsolete rules. The idea is similar to something CEI has been promoting for years: retrospective review. While this particular bill would only affect the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), the model can easily be applied to other agencies.

    Typically, benefit-cost analysis for regulations is done only before they come into effect. Once a rule goes live and we actually have real-world data on it, nothing is done to measure it. This is a problem,...

  • West Virginia Set to Enact Major Labor Reform with Prevailing Wage Repeal

    February 3, 2016

    West Virginia, which appears poised to become the nation’s 26th right to work state, may soon enact another major labor law reform. The state Senate is set to vote on a bill repealing the state’s prevailing wage laws. The legislation, HB 4005, was voted out of the Senate Government Organization Committee on Monday, February 1, and now moves to the full Senate.

    Prevailing wage laws set price floors for contractors working on government-funded projects. This often turns out to be the union wage, which hampers nonunion contractors’ ability to bid for such projects...

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