Reg Watch

• The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has created a notice of proposed rulemaking to strengthen pipeline safety regulations. The rule would “establish criteria and procedures for determining the adequacy of state pipeline excavation damage prevention law enforcement programs [and] establish an administrative process for making adequacy determinations,” among other changes. It would also “establish the federal requirements PHMSA will enforce in states with inadequate excavation damage prevention law enforcement programs.” The changes are intended to “encourage states to develop effective excavation damage prevention law enforcement programs to protect the public from the risk of pipeline ruptures caused by excavation damage, and allow for federal administrative enforcement action in states with inadequate enforcement programs.” The comment period, which was extended at the request of the National Utility Contractors Association, closes July 9.

• The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has proposed a rule “to define and describe State plan home and community-based services (HCBS).” The services, which were added in 2005 legislation and changed in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, “offe[r] States new flexibility in providing necessary and appropriate services to elderly and disabled populations.” 

One provision “provide[s] [states] additional options … to design and implement HCBS under the Medicaid State Plan” and receive federal funding. Some of the services that the states could design and implement under the proposed rule include case management, personal care and respite care. The new leniency “may result in improved patient outcomes and satisfaction, while enabling states to effectively manage their Medicaid resources.” Comments are due July 2.

• The comment period for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Truth in Lending Act (Regulation Z) is closing soon. The rule, initially proposed by the Federal Reserve, would “require creditors to determine a consumer’s ability to repay a mortgage before making the loan and would establish minimum mortgage underwriting standards,” according to a 2011 Federal Reserve press release. The board’s rulemaking authority was transferred to CFPB in July of last year. The bureau reopened the rule for comments on “certain new data and information submitted during or obtained after the close of the original comment period,” including mortgage loan data from the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Comments may be submitted through July 9.