Overnight Regulation: Labor Department eyes drug test rule for unemployment pay | Families of plane crash victims press Trump on safety rules | US blocks sale of Moneygram to Chinese firm

Overnight Regulation: Labor Department eyes drug test rule for unemployment pay | Families of plane crash victims press Trump on safety rules | US blocks sale of Moneygram to Chinese firm
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Welcome to Overnight Regulation, your daily rundown of news from the federal agencies, Capitol Hill, the courts and beyond. It's Wednesday night in Washington, where everyone is talking about the public fall out between President TrumpDonald John TrumpTeachers union launches 0K ad buy calling for education funding in relief bill FDA head pledges 'we will not cut corners' on coronavirus vaccine Let our values drive COVID-19 liability protection MORE and former adviser Stephen Bannon.

 

THE BIG STORY

The Trump administration is looking to bring back and broaden a rule that Congress killed last year requiring drug testing for unemployment benefits.

Using the Congressional Review Act (CRA), Republicans in March repealed an Obama-era rule that limited the ability of states to drug test people applying for unemployment pay.

Republicans said the 2016 rule was too narrow because it only allowed states to drug test people whose occupations already regularly required it. That category included airplane pilots, flight crews and air traffic controllers, commercial and public transit drivers and any job requiring an employee to carry a firearm.

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Now the Labor Department has signaled it plans to issue a broader rule that will redefine which occupations are those that regularly drug test.

Why does this matter? Before 2017, the CRA had only successfully been used once, so the Labor Department's move on the unemployment rule will break new ground; never before has an agency tried to issue a new rule that's "substantially different" from a rule scrapped by a CRA resolution.

What will the new policy be? That's unclear. It is not yet known what the Labor Department will ultimately propose or how broad the new rule will be.

In a statement, Labor Department spokesman Eric Holland said only that the agency is "diligently working on a new proposal regarding unemployment compensation drug testing that will be substantially different from the prior rule."

Read more from Lydia Wheeler here

 

REGULATORY ROUNDUP

Transportation: The families of victims who died in a 2009 airplane crash are seeking a commitment from President Trump to protect aviation safety rules after he boasted this week that his administration has been "very strict" on commercial aviation.

On Tuesday, Trump took credit for reports that 2017 was the safest global year of commercial airline travel, even though the U.S. has not seen a deadly crash in years.

The last fatal crash involving a U.S. passenger airline was the 2009 Colgan Air crash in New York, which killed 49 people on board and one person on the ground.

Stricter training requirements for pilots were put in place following the deadly incident, but there have been growing efforts to roll back the rules under the Trump administration.

"We ask for your pledge to ensure that the crucial safety reforms that we have achieved are not changed in any way as the regional airlines, their lobbyists, and certain members of Congress pressure [Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao] to lower the flight hour experience requirements for entry-level regional airline first officers," the coalition wrote in a letter to Trump on Wednesday.

The stricter training requirements have been under fire from regional air carriers and rural communities, who argue that the standards have fueled a pilot shortage because it's harder to find qualified pilots.

Read more from Melanie Zanona here.

 

Technology: Ajit Pai, the Republican chair of the Federal Communications Commission, is pulling out of his scheduled appearance at the popular Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas next week.

The Consumer Technology Association (CTA), a trade group that hosts the annual convention did not give a reason for the cancellation. Pai was slated to appear weeks after his agency scrapped its popular Obama-era net neutrality rules.

"Unfortunately, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai is unable to attend CES 2018," Gary Shapiro, CTA's president and CEO, said in a statement. "We look forward to our next opportunity to host a technology policy discussion with him before a public audience."

Brian Hart, a spokesman for the FCC, told The Hill in an email, "We don't have anything to share at this time."

Harper Neidig has more here.

 

Technology: States are moving to write their own net neutrality regulations after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in December decided to scrap the Obama-era internet rules.

California, New York and Washington are pushing their own versions of net neutrality rules and more state governments are expected to do the same, according to a report from Fast Company.

The FCC's net neutrality rules prevented broadband service providers from blocking or slowing down websites or creating internet "fast lanes." The rules were intended to create a level playing field on the internet. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's measure rolling back net neutrality, though, also pre-empts states from passing similar rules.

According to the report, states are taking different paths to ensure companies follow net neutrality principles.

In New York, for example, state legislators are crafting legislation that would only allow broadband providers that comply with net neutrality to receive state and local government contracts.

California legislators are also considering regulating broadband providers directly via consumer protection laws.

Ali Breland has more here.

 

Technology: A pro-net neutrality group is launching a new campaign to pressure members of Congress into saving the Federal Communications Commission rules from repeal.

Fight for the Future announced a new website on Wednesday to turn up the heat on lawmakers ahead of the midterm elections later this year.

"It's 2018. If they don't vote for net neutrality this spring, we can vote them out in November," reads a banner on votefornetneutrality.com.

The FCC voted to repeal the Obama-era net neutrality rules in December, prompting a massive outcry from internet users and Democrats.

Democrats in the House and Senate have promised bills to block the FCC's move using the Congressional Review Act, which gives Congress the ability to kill recently passed regulations with a simple majority in both chambers and the president's signature.

Harper Neidig has the story here.

 

Finance: The Canadian government on Wednesday said it has launched a legal challenge to hefty duties imposed by the United States on its softwood lumber industry.

Chrystia Freeland, Canada's minister of foreign affairs, said Ottawa is following through with an appeal of the U.S. International Trade Commission's (ITC) decision made in November to levy countervailing and anti-dumping duties on lumber imports.

"The Government of Canada will continue to vigorously defend our industry and its workers against protectionist trade practices," Freeland said in a statement.

"U.S. duties on Canadian softwood lumber are unfair, unwarranted and troubling," she said.

Canada has won similar tariff fights in the past with the United States.

Read Vicki Needham's story for more.

 

Finance: U.S. regulators are blocking the sale of MoneyGram, a money transfer firm, to a subsidiary of the Chinese company Alibaba.

The chiefs of MoneyGram and Ant Financial said Wednesday that the sale was canceled after opposition from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).

The CFIUS is as an interagency group of regulators based out of the Treasury Department that reviews pending foreign purchases of U.S. businesses for national security concerns.

Ant Financial had been in talks to buy MoneyGram for "nearly a year" before the CFIUS blocked the deal, said MoneyGram CEO Alex Holmes.

The CFIUS has blocked several other pending sales of U.S. businesses to Chinese firms since Trump took office amid growing tensions between the two countries over trade, intellectual property and Beijing's support for North Korea.

Sylvan Lane has the rest here.

 

Environment: Pennsylvania regulators ordered construction crews to stop work Wednesday on a controversial major pipeline after recording numerous environmental violations in the building process, including spills and well contamination.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) accused Sunoco Pipeline of "egregious and willful violations" of environmental rules in building the Mariner East 2 pipeline.

The agency ordered the company to halt all work except some maintenance activities on the pipeline until it can demonstrate that it is abiding by all requirements from the permits the state granted.

Timothy Cama has the rest of the story here.

 

Also in the news:

Wild swings in money-market rates highlight limits of regulation (The Wall Street Journal)

'Big data' worries Europe's antitrust regulator (The Wall Street Journal)

Former EPA intern: Trump's impact 'impossible to miss' (The Hill)

Mifid II: Europe's new rules aimed at avoiding another crash (BBC News)

China said to curb power supply for some bitcoin miners (Bloomberg)

US finds Chinese tool chest imports hurt American makers, duties to remain (Reuters)

The general data protection regulation is coming: How should newsrooms prepare? (Poynter)