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  • TSCA "Reform": Consensus May Again Prove Toxic

    April 25, 2016 9:04 AM

    According to a story in Bloomberg BNA, a final vote on legislation to reform the nation’s chemical law—the Toxic Substances Control Act—may be imminent. The story quotes Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who explained at a congressional hearing the other day, “It looks like now we’re [the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee] just a matter of hopefully hours away of having an agreement with the House.”

    The legislation generally has broad support from many well-meaning members of Congress. In fact, it’s hard to find anyone who criticizes the reform (other than myself). With time growing short, I guess this may be one of the last times I can issue a warning before I can say, “I told you so.”

    I hope to be wrong, but it appears that many supporters of TSCA reform are charting an all-too-familiar, ill-fated course. Like most environmental laws, TSCA reform is likely to pass by a near, if not total, majority, with most members blindly following the “consensus.” But once it’s law, they may live to regret it.

    Passage of the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) in 1996 by the Republican-led Congress is a perfect example how members and Washington lobbyists can support a bill today, and lament the final law later.

  • CEI's Battered Business Bureau: The Week in Regulation

    April 25, 2016 8:51 AM

    The number of new final regulations in 2016 passed the 1,000 mark on Friday. Last week’s new rules cover everything from semipostal stamps to vapor recovery.

    On to the data:

    • Last week, 53 new final regulations were published in the Federal Register, after 61 the previous week.
    • That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every three hours and 10 minutes.
    • With 1,001 final regulations published so far in 2016, the federal government is on pace to issue 3,208 regulations in 2016. Last year’s total was 3,406 regulations.
    • Last week, 1,1496 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 1,284 pages the previous week.
    • Currently at 23,968 pages, the 2016 Federal Register is on pace for 76,821 pages. The 2015 Federal Register had an adjusted page count of 81,611.
    • Rules are called “economically significant” if they have costs of $100 million or more in a given year. Seven such rules have been published so far in 2016, none in the last week.
    • The running compliance cost tally for 2016’s economically significant regulations ranges from $629 million to $1.46 billion.
    • 80 final rules meeting the broader definition of “significant” have been published this year.
    • So far in 2016, 194 new rules affect small businesses; 27 of them are classified as significant.
  • 175 Countries Sign Paris Climate Treaty at UN Headquarters on International Mother Earth Day

    April 22, 2016 5:47 PM

    Secretary of State John Kerry signed the Paris Climate Treaty on behalf of the United States along with representatives from 174 other countries at a gala, high-level ceremony at United Nations headquarters in New York City on 22nd April, a day which the UN General Assembly officially designated in 2009 as International Mother Earth Day.  It is also of course Vladimir Lenin’s birthday.

    Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon presided over short speeches by a number of heads of state and prime ministers, including Bolivia’s Evo Morales, Brazil’s Dina Rousseff, France’s Francois Hollande, and Canada’s Justin Trudeau.  Secretary Kerry said that “Paris was a turning point in the fight against climate change,” and that “the agreement we reached in Paris is the strongest, most ambitious global climate pact ever negotiated.”

    Signing the treaty by 175 countries in one day breaks the old record of 119, set in 1982 for the Law of the Sea Treaty.  The U. S. Senate, by the way, has never ratified the Law of the Sea Treaty, which everyone agrees is a treaty requiring ratification.  Whether the Senate will ever vote on the Paris Climate Treaty remains to be seen.

  • Give Job Seekers a Break: Get Government Out of the Licensing Business

    April 22, 2016 1:35 PM

    Public policy easing union organizing is not an economic cure-all, and really wouldn’t help at all—no matter how many times union-backed politicians say so (see my post from yesterday).

    But there are steps that government can take to liberalize labor markets that would spur economic growth, one reform that even President Obama is on board with: ease occupational licensing requirements.

    Just recently, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released new data on occupational licensing. To no one’s surprise, job holders with a certificate or license earned more. This reason is most likely two-fold and does not take away from detractors’ arguments that rigorous licensing requirements should be loosened as to make labor markets more dynamic.  

    According to BLS data, in 2015, of people 25 and older with a license or certificate, nearly 40 percent also had a college degree. So, one reason why workers with a license earn more is because they are in high paying professions that require high levels of education like “health care practitioners and technical occupations” (72.2 held a license) or “legal occupations” (63.6 held a license).

  • Labor Department's "Persuader Rule" Gives Unfair Advantage to Unions

    April 22, 2016 10:50 AM

    The Department of Labor’s “persuader rule,” which is set to go into effect on Monday, April 25, will give unions a new tool to use against employers who try to push back against union organizing campaigns. The rule will eviscerate any confidentiality between a business and labor relations consultants the business might hire for advice on how to counter union organizing efforts.

    The rule would mostly affect medium-sized businesses that are just large enough to be targeted for unionization and too small to have in-house counsel. It also would encourage some large law firms to get out of the business of labor relations advising.

    Specifically, the rule expands reporting requirements under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) to encompass virtually all of a business’ interactions with labor consultants. As attorney Jonathan Sokolowski explains:

    [T]he current LMRDA carves out a key exception to its reporting requirements for relationships which are restricted to the provision of “advice” to the employer. Significantly, the “advice” exemption has long been interpreted to mean that, in the absence of direct contact with employees, labor relations consultants and attorneys could provide employers with unreportable advice, including much of the advice regularly provided to employers throughout the union organizing and bargaining processes.

    […]

  • Easing Union Organizing Won't Fix the Economy

    April 21, 2016 3:59 PM

    Most progressive policy makers view labor unions as the panacea that would address the problem of stagnate wages and disappearing middle class.

    A proposal to increase union ranks has been offered up for years. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) is the latest sponsor of the Orwellian-named “Employee Free Choice Act of 2016.”

    Although the exact text of the legislation is not yet available on Thomas, Grayson describes the bill in a recent statement. It is fairly identical to past bills. Card-check union elections would replace secret ballot elections, harsher penalties against employers that commit unfair labor practices, and require binding arbitration when a company and union cannot come to terms on a first contract. (See here and here on the shortcomings of such legislation, namely reduces worker choice and further degrades freedom of contract.)

    It is unclear at best how the EFCA or any other similar legislation that simply gives greater privilege to unions would benefit the economy or workers at large. Further, is a disappearing middle class and stagnate wages really as big a problem as you read about?

  • Free Market Road Show: The Sharing Economy

    April 21, 2016 11:16 AM

    On April 19, I had the privilege of addressing the Free Market Road Show audience at the Kohelet Policy Forum in Jerusalem, Israel. The subject of my panel was Jobs, The Sharing Economy, and the European Demos, and I spoke alongside John Fund of National Review and Barbara Kolm of the Hayek Institute of Vienna, Austria. Here’s the text of my remarks. They can also be found as a PDF here.

    Good evening. My colleagues and I have heard a lot over the past couple of days about the start up nation. So trying to give insights on entrepreneurship to the start up nation is a bit like taking coals to Newcastle. However, as I come form Newcastle, I think I’m entitled to do so.

    What I’d like to do this evening is talk a bit about a couple of free market economic concepts behind the sharing economy, before going on to illustrate how these concepts apply in practice, and finish with a warning about how laws from a different era are being used to crack down on sharing economy firms in the USA.

    I live about thirty miles south of Washington DC. Because of the ludicrous traffic I get a bus in to work so I can work on the bus. American buses only run during peak commuter times, so if I have to work late, I used to be stuck with getting a taxi home. Including tip, this would normally cost over $100, so I didn’t do it very often. Then Uber launched in DC, and I could get a black limo home, riding in style for $20 less than the grimy cab would cost me. Today, with UberX, where ordinary people share their cars with people who need rides, I can get home for $40 on average. Unfortunately, this means my boss asks me to work late more often now, so it’s not all good news.

  • The Senate Must Confront the President on the Paris Climate Treaty

    April 21, 2016 11:16 AM

    On Friday April 22, Earth Day, the White House will purport to commit the United States to the Paris Climate Agreement. The Obama administration claims the agreement, which it describes as “the most ambitious climate agreement in history,” is less of a treaty than its two apparently less ambitious predecessor agreements, which no one dared state were not treaties.

    Congress has yet to challenge this claimed non-treaty status, or the administration’s contention that the executive branch can unilaterally determine whether an agreement is a treaty. Congress needs to challenge this power grab, and soon.

    To date, whether an international agreement qualifies as a treaty has been determined not by executive fiat, but by the agreement’s substance, through an “advice and consent” process guided by the plain language of the Constitution. Article II, Section 2 vests the treaty-making power jointly in the two political branches of government. Nowhere does it suggest that one branch can waive the other’s role.

    While some have floated the idea that the president could simply install a Supreme Court justice—also under a shared Art. II, Sec. 2 power, the appointments power—by claiming the Senate has waived its role of shared appointments power, even the administration’s political supporters have laughed off this suggestion. That scenario is even more absurd concerning the Paris treaty. The Constitution requires a two-thirds Senate majority for committing to treaties.

  • CEI to AG Walker: Withdraw Un-American, Unlawful Subpoena or Expect a Fight

    April 21, 2016 9:42 AM

    Yesterday, the Competitive Enterprise Institute responded to U.S. Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Walker, who recently sent us a subpoena demanding we turn over essentially all of our documents on climate change policy during the 10-year period from 1997 to 2007. We told Mr. Walker that we object to his subpoena, as it’s a blatant attempt to intimidate us for advocating views that he opposes. Simply put, the subpoena is nothing more than attempt to punish CEI for our public policy views and silence our advocacy, under the guise of an investigation of Exxon Mobil for supporting skeptics of global warming alarmism.

    Don’t take our word for it—Mr. Walker admitted the political motivations underlying his crusade on March 29, when he joined several other state attorneys general at a press conference entitled “AGs United for Clean Power.” The goal of his Exxon investigation, he explained, is to “make it clear to our residents as well as the American people that we have to do something transformational” about climate change. We should no longer “rely on fossil fuel,” he said, but instead “look at reliable energy.” In other words, Americans should abandon affordable energy and anyone who says otherwise should pay a price.

  • The Devil, the Details, and "Consensus" for "TSCA Modernization"

    April 20, 2016 3:14 PM

    For some reason, there’s always near “consensus” when Congress passes environmental laws that later become controversial (for data, see my study from 2008 on this topic). There are probably two key reasons for this. First, no member wants to appear “anti-environmental” by voting against “green” legislation; and second, few members are paying much attention to the details.

    And that’s what appears to be happening with the latest attempt to reform the nation’s chemical law, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). It seems like everyone is on board with the idea that the law needs “modernizing,” including both parties in the House of Representatives and Senate, numerous industry groups, environmental activists (some but not all support current proposals), and even some right-of-center policy groups that are usually more skeptical of federal action.

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