New regs for Thursday: Union elections, closed captioning

Thursday's edition of the Federal Register contains new rules for union elections and closed captioning. Here's what is happening:

Union elections: The National Labor Relations Board plans to reissue a controversial rule that would speed up union elections, after it was struck down in court.

The NLRB says the new rule would simplify the representation process for employees that want to form a union by removing barriers that have previously delayed elections. But business groups and Republicans lawmakers have complained that it would not give management enough time to prepare for the vote.

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The union election rule was struck down by U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in 2012, but he left the door open for the NLRB to reissue it. At the time, the judge said his decision was based on the fact that the NLRB issued the rule without a quorum of at least three board members. Then-Republican member Brian Hayes sat out of the original proceedings, so the NLRB would not have a quorum.

The NLRB now has a fully functioning board, including three Democrats, so it has decided to reissue the rule with a quorum.

The public has until April 7 to comment on the proposed rule. The NLRB will also holding a hearing that week to discuss it.

FCC: The Federal Communications Commission is delaying new closed captioning rules for videos that are published on the Internet. Closed captioning helps hearing-impaired people by translating what is being said into written text on the screen. 

The FCC already has closed captioning rules for television, and those rules extend to shows and movies that are later posted online. But the agency is looking to expand the rules to cover all videos that are posted online, including videos that are made specifically for the Internet.

Some companies like Netflix that offer video streaming services already provide closed captions online, but they are not required to if the program was never broadcast on television. 

The FCC proposed the latest extension of the closed captioning rule this past December, but extended the deadline for the public to file comments at the request of the National Association of Broadcasters. The new deadline to file comments passed on Monday, even though the FCC announced it Wednesday, but the deadline to reply to those comments extends through March 5. 

Vehicle theft: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that vehicle thefts are going down. The NHTSA plans to update the number of vehicles it said were stolen in 2011, the most recent year data is available from the agency.

According to the NHTSA, the vehicle theft rate fell 15 percent in 2011 from the previous year. In 2011, 0.99 out of every 1,000 vehicles was stolen. That's down from 2010, when 1.17 out of every 1,000 vehicles was stolen.

The NHTSA is updating theft numbers that it originally posted last year.

The NHTSA runs the Federal Motor Vehicle Theft Prevention program to reduce the number of stolen vehicles.

Defense contracts: The Department of Defense is considering changes to its privacy program for defense contract audits. The new rule would include an exemption for the internal review of case files.

Army: The U.S. Army plans to rescind a regulation governing certain real estate activities of army engineers. The rule applied to engineers working on civil works projects.