December 18, 2015 6:12 PM
The House and Senate on 18th September passed omnibus appropriations legislation that provides $1.15 trillion to fund the federal government for the remainder of FY 2016. Attached to the omnibus was a $620-plus billion package of tax cut extenders. The final bill dropped riders to prevent implementation of the EPA’s greenhouse gas rules for new and existing power plants and to prevent funds in the State Department budget from being transferred into the Green Climate Fund. However, Congress appropriated no funds for the Green Climate Fund.
The tax extenders package includes multi-year re-authorizations for the Wind Production Tax Credit and the Solar Investment Tax Credit. The wind credit was extended to 2019, but declines by 20% for facilities that begin construction in 2017 and then 20% more each year thereafter. The credits will still apply to the first ten years of production for all wind facilities that start construction before 2020.
The solar credit remains at 30% of construction costs through 2019 and then declines to 23% in 2020, 22% in 2021, and 10% in 2022 for non-residential and third-party-owned residential installations. The credit for solar installations by homeowners drops to zero in 2022. The renewal of renewable energy subsidies shows that crony corporate welfare still flourishes in the Republican 114th Congress.
The omnibus package does include a provision that lifts the 42-year-old ban on crude oil exports. The U. S. is the only country in the world that bans crude oil exports.
Automated Vehicles Update: California DMV Releases Draft Rules and Some Notes about that Crash StudyDecember 18, 2015 1:25 PM
CALIFORNIA DMV AV OPPS RULES PROPOSED: On December 16, the California Department of Motor Vehicles released its draft licensing and operations rules for consumer automated vehicles, or “autonomous vehicles” as defined in California statute (CA Veh Code § 38750). The draft rules were supposed to have been released in August 2014, so California DMV is more than a year late. California DMV summarizes the rules here. AV consultant Brad Templeton provides a critical summary of the provisions here. A few provisions worth noting:
- The proposed definition of “operator” (which would be codified at 13 CCR § 227.02(p)) “is the person who possesses the proper class of license for the type of vehicle being operated, has direct control over the operation of an autonomous vehicle, and has engaged the autonomous technology while sitting in the driver seat of the vehicle.”
- The operator must not only have a driver license; she must also have a special “certificate issued by the department to permit the operation of autonomous vehicles” (§ 227.84(a)) “after completing a behind the wheel training program” (§ 227.84(b)) that “shall include a demonstration of the proper operation of the autonomous technology, including but not limited to: how to engage and disengage the autonomous mode, how to override unauthorized or spurious commands received by the autonomous technology in the event of a cyber-attack, and the operator’s responsibility to monitor the safe operation of the vehicle at all times.” (§ 227.84(b)(1))
- Even worse, “[t]he operator shall be responsible for monitoring the safe operation of the vehicle at all times and be capable of taking over immediate control of the vehicle in the event of an autonomous technology failure or other emergency.” (§ 227.84(c))
What does this all mean? It means that a licensed driver must be in the driver seat at all times, must complete an additional certification process, that fully automated vehicles lacking traditional steering, throttling, and braking controls are prohibited, and that self-driving taxis capable of operating with no one in the vehicle are doubly prohibited.
This is bad, bad news, but not surprising. Indeed, we at CEI warned California about these very issues back in 2012, months before the law behind these regulations was enacted. Unfortunately, the bill sponsor, then-Sen. and now Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D) failed to appreciate how his ostensibly pro-technology bill would negatively impact AV technology development and deployment. Keep in mind that Google was also supportive of this bill at the time, hosting Gov. Jerry Brown (D) for the signing ceremony at Google’s Mountain View headquarters with Google co-founder Sergey Brin looking on (left).
Thankfully, Google has now done a 180 on bad state laws, but the damage has already been done in California. And it is not—at least not mostly—the California DMV’s fault. For instance, before DMV can contemplate a regulation that would allow AVs to operate without a licensed and AV-certified driver inside during operation, the legislature required that a special public hearing be held (CA Veh Code § 38750(d)(4)). California legislators should fix their garbage AV statute (CA Veh Code § 38750) if they want their state to continue being a leader in this technology. If not, Texas will happily accept their Silicon Valley refugees.
December 18, 2015 12:22 PM
President Obama insists that the international climate agreement adopted at the COP 21 conference in Paris is not a treaty.
His reason for doing so is obvious. Under the U.S. Constitution, the United States does not become a party to a treaty until “two thirds of Senators present” vote to ratify it (Article II, Section 2, Clause 2). There was no prospect of the Senate ratifying new international climate commitments even when Democrats were in the majority. If Obama acknowledges the Paris agreement is a treaty, it dies in the Senate.
But if the Paris agreement is not a treaty, why should any U.S. citizen or policymaker pay heed to it?
Obama’s answer is that the “commitments” he made in Paris are “politically binding.” That’s a fancy way of saying the agreement will put political pressure on U.S. leaders, notably the next president and Congress, to uphold the EPA’s so-called Clean Power Plan (CPP) and other regulations required to fulfill Obama’s pledge to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.
December 17, 2015 3:38 PM
At Powerline, lawyer Paul Mirengoff writes about one of the many disturbing provisions buried in the budget-busting omnibus spending bill currently being passed by Congress as part of a compromise with the White House (a monstrosity known as “the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016”). It increases the budget of an office in the Department of Education that is a prime culprit in the spread of invalid, unvetted, and uncodified rules and regulatory “dark matter”: the Office for Civil Rights:
The omnibus bill apparently grants a 7 percent increase in the budget for the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR).
This outfit does all it can to impose the left’s agenda at the K-12 and college levels. In doing so, it often ignores the law, defining perfectly legal conduct as unlawful.
If the OCR’s resources are stretched thin, it’s because of its overreach, based on a willful misreading of the law. By increasing OCR’s budget, Congress rewards its misconduct. The budget should be slashed, not increased.
Congressional appropriators gave OCR a budget increase even though OCR has been criticized by the head of the Senate Education Committee for its lawless overreach in rewriting laws passed by Congress.
December 16, 2015 2:34 PM
Today marks a milestone for the one brandishing the Mighty Pen and Phone.
The Federal Register hit 78,648 pages today. The Register is where the federal agencies (50, or 400-plus, depending upon who’s counting) publish their rules, regulations, and other notices and errata. You are bound to obey those rules, so hope you’ve been keeping up.
President Obama has no peer in Federal Register bloat, today setting records compared to both himself and all past presidents. Of the seven highest-ever annual page counts since the Federal Register first began in 1936, six of them belong to Obama as of today.
Today’s count of 78,648 pages marks the sixth highest-ever page count, but it’s not even the end of the year yet.
George W. Bush’s highest count ever was 79,435 in 2008, which at the time was easily the all-time-record. It still stands as the third-highest count today.
December 16, 2015 1:31 PM
My Competitive Enterprise Institute colleagues and I have made the case for members of Congress to use the omnibus spending bill as an exercise of its “power of the purse” to hold the Obama administration accountable. Unfortunately, negotiators in Congressional leadership opened that purse way too soon and way too wide to give President Obama nearly everything in terms of the spending he wanted while inexplicably leaving out regulatory relief measures that members of both parties were clamoring for in the thousand-plus page omnibus bill (read it here) to be voted on later this week.
While there were a couple good measures like lifting the oil export ban and repealing the expensive and confusing country-of origin-labeling mandate for beef and pork (see this post from CEI Adjunct Scholar Fran Smith about the retaliatory tariffs the U.S. faced if this mandate was not repealed), negotiators left out even modest bipartisan deregulatory measures that would have lessened the burden of Dodd-Frank on community banks and credit unions and frozen the Department of Labor’s draconian “fiduciary rule” that attracted criticism from 96 House Democrats for the devastating consequences the proposed rule would have on savers. As I have written, the “fiduciary rule” may even silence financial commentators such as Dave Ramsey.
December 15, 2015 6:42 PM
Later this week, the House is slated to vote on a $1.1 trillion “omnibus” spending bill to fund the federal government through next fall. Naturally, the legislation will likely contain numerous riders and add-ons that address issues unrelated to appropriations, ranging from oil exports to compensation for 9/11 victims. But one potential addition to the lengthy omnibus bill is extremely troubling: according to several reports, House leaders are considering adding cybersecurity information sharing to the package. Rushing a cybersecurity bill through Congress before the holidays is premature, especially given how little we know about the details of a potential cyber addition to the omnibus.
Congress has been busy with cybersecurity legislation this year. In October, the Senate passed the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, known as CISA. Earlier, in April, two cybersecurity bills passed the House—the Protecting Cyber Networks Act (PCNA) and the National Cybersecurity Protection Advancement Act (NCPAA). Each of these bills aims to tackle legal barriers that limit how companies can share what they learn about cyber attacks with other businesses or government agencies. But these three bills differ in certain key respects, so the two houses of Congress will need to reconcile these differences before sending any legislation to President Obama’s desk.
December 15, 2015 3:51 PM
On December 16, the FAA will publish its interim final rule (IFR) on Registration and Marking Requirements for Small Unmanned Aircraft in the Federal Register. The prepublication rule can be found here. IFRs take effect immediately upon publication (more on this below).
Here is the FAA’s summary of major provisions to be included under 14 C.F.R. Part 48 (Table 1, p. 6):
Interim final rule requirement
Unmanned aircraft covered by the registration requirement
Unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds and more than 0.55 pounds (250 grams) on takeoff, including everything that is on board or otherwise attached to the aircraft and operated outdoors in the national airspace system must register.
Timing of registration
Owners of small unmanned aircraft must register their aircraft prior to operation of the sUAS.
December 21, 2015
· Any small unmanned aircraft to be used exclusively as model aircraft that have never been operated.
· Small unmanned aircraft to be used in authorized operations as other than model aircraft continue to use part 47 registration process.
February 19, 2016
December 15, 2015 8:46 AM
As the year-end omnibus spending bill is about to be unveiled, there will be a scramble to examine its provisions. In many policy areas, my colleagues and I have urged Congress to use its “power of the purse” to insist on significant regulatory relief as a price for the new spending in the omnibus.
I have written that Congress should freeze funding for the Department of Labor’s (DOL) “fiduciary rule,” referred to by many as “Obamacare for your IRA,” which would greatly limit investment choices in IRAs and 401(k)s and even restrict what financial broadcasters like Dave Ramsey could say to listeners.
Defunding of this rule was also urged by a letter coordinated by the Competitive Enterprise Institute that was signed by 33 conservative and free-market groups.
Similarly, my CEI colleague Trey Kovacs urges Congress to defund in the omnibus the DOL’s new “joint employer” rule, under which employers could suddenly be held liable for the actions of contractors, staffing agencies, and franchisees. My colleague Myron Ebell is pushing Congress to defund the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Clean Power” regulations that would devastate coal and manufacturing industries with no tangible public health benefits
December 14, 2015 12:46 PM
This week marks a special occasion for RealClear Radio Hour: our 100th Episode! Over the course of what will soon be two years on the air, we’ve covered many stories that tell the wonders of free markets and a free society. Our topic this week is an enlightening success story focused on free market reform abroad.
RealClear Radio Hour’s 100th episode chronicles the successful economic revival in the wonderful nation of New Zealand. Where the United States had Reagonomics, New Zealand has Rogernomics and Ruthanasia. The story of this country’s turnaround features interviews with the reformers themselves: former finance ministers Sir Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson, who spearheaded New Zealand’s transformation from a welfare state saddled with crushing public debt, rampant inflation, and a closed and moribund economy, to one of the freest, most prosperous, and open countries in the world.
We’d like to give a special thank you to our listeners and the dedication you’ve developed for our show. Tell your friends so we can together spread the word of liberty.