Regulation and Subsidies

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GOP Senators Float Social Media Regulation

Facebook and Twitter came under fire during a Senate hearing this week. Some senators even floated ideas to impose more government oversight on these social media companies.

 

During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, Chairman Ted Cruz and other Republicans grilled officials from Facebook and Twitter regarding what they perceive as anti-conservative bias. While saying they did not want to see the government begin regulating these companies, they did float ideas that would increase government oversight of the platforms or open the door for more lawsuits by users.

 

Likening these companies to public utilities or the “town square,” some Republican senators said that the government had a role to ensure that the companies were not discriminating against certain viewpoints. Bringing up instances that these senators said proved Twitter or Facebook removed conservative content, they said that the government may be needed to preserve fairness.

 

These companies, as well as Democrats on the committee, pushed back against the idea that conservatives faced systematic discrimination on social media. Democrats pressed the officials to do more to police their content, especially when it comes to hate speech.

 

Senator Cruz said that no one wanted the government to be the “speech police.” However, he did suggest that the federal government could apply antitrust law to larger social media companies. He also said that Congress could change the law to make the companies liable for users who post libelous content.

 

Do you think that the federal government should regulate social media companies? Do Facebook and Twitter discriminate against conservatives? Should these companies do more to police hate speech?

House Takes Up Net Neutrality

How strictly the federal government should regulate Internet service providers is the question that the House of Representatives will take up today. The House is set to vote on legislation that would overturn a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) vote that invalidated net neutrality rules.

 

In December 2017, the FCC voted 3-2 to repeal “net neutrality” regulations. The regulations in question date to 2015, when the FCC decided to regulate Internet service providers more stringently. In essence, the agency at that time classified the services they provide as a public utility, largely forcing providers not to discriminate in pricing, content, and the management of the network.

 

H.R. 1644, the bill that the House will vote on, would overturn the 2017 vote and re-impose the 2015 rules. That has been a goal of Democrats in Congress and liberal activists around the nation since the FCC vote occurred.

 

Not surprisingly, Internet service providers such as Verizon, AT&T and Comcast opposed the 2015 net neutrality rules and the House legislation. They do not like the fact that these regulations constrain them from treating different types of customers differently when it came to pricing or network management. Internet content companies, such as Facebook and Twitter, however, are strongly lobbying for the imposition of net neutrality regulations, seeing an advantage in being protected from higher charges when they use far more bandwidth than other websites or apps.

 

This 2017 FCC rule change did not remove federal oversight from the Internet. In fact, the rule mandates transparency for network management practices. The Federal Trade Commission also regulates Internet service providers. But it did lessen the ability of the government to set rules proactively that constrain Internet service providers.

 

Do you support legislation to re-impose net neutrality regulations? Should the Internet be treated as a public utility, subject to government rules on pricing and usage?

Trump Judicial Pick Neomi Rao under Scrutiny Today

President Trump has made judicial appointments a top priority. That has not escaped the notice of Senate Democrats and liberal activists, who have mobilized to oppose many of them. This battle over the fate of the federal judiciary is once again on display today as Neomi Rao faces senators in the Judiciary Committee.

 

The president has nominated Rao to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The seat has been left empty with the elevation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Rao is currently Administrator for the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

 

The president and many legal commentators have praised Rao for her background. They point out that as head of an agency that specializes in regulatory affairs, she is well suited to serve on the D.C. Circuit Court, which handles many regulatory and administrative matters.

 

Opponents counter that she has never served as a litigator. They also say that, while she was in college, she wrote troubling things about women and rape.

 

With Republicans in control of the Senate, Rao’s path to confirmation seems assured. What remains to be seen is if she will pick up any Democratic support in the final Senate vote.

 

Do you think that Neomi Rao should be confirmed as a federal judge? Do you think that someone’s writings during college should be held against them decades later?

Massachusetts Legislators, Governor Differ on Airbnb Regulations

 

Residents of the Bay State who rent their homes on Internet platforms like Airbnb may soon be facing new rules and taxes. Governor Charlie Baker and legislator cannot seem to agree on what these regulations should be, however.

 

Legislators passed a bill in August that would require homeowners with short-term rentals to register with the state, meet insurance mandates, and collect and pay the same taxes that hotels do. The bill would also allow local governments to regulate and impose taxes on these short-term rentals.

 

Governor Baker did not veto this legislation, but he did suggest some changes that would need to be made before he signed it. One of these modifications would be to exempt anyone from these new regulations who rented their homes for fewer than 14 days. His changes were generally aimed at reducing the legislation’s burden on those who use short-term rentals to earn some extra money, not as a full-time moneymaking operation.

 

The governor’s staff is meeting with legislators to find a way to resolve their differences. This leaves local governments in limbo. Some have already enacted their own regulations, but they lack the ability to impose taxes. They are pressing state lawmakers to come to a decision on a final state bill.

 

Massachusetts joins other states in looking at regulating short-term rentals. As online platforms such as Airbnb become popular, hotels have pressed local and state governments to impose regulations on homeowners using these services.

 

Do you think that homeowners using services like Airbnb should be regulated and taxed the same as hotels are?

Trump Clean Air Rules Give States More Flexibility

 

The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed overhauling Obama-era clean air rules in a way that would give states more flexibility in meeting federal goals. The president touts these new regulations as a way to help the ailing coal industry. Environmental advocates, however, are expressing their strong opposition to what they call a step backwards in federal air quality standards.

 

The new Affordable Clean Energy Rule would replace the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan. Both regulations are aimed at reducing air pollution. The Clean Power Plan had come under fire by states for exceeding federal authority over energy sources. It would have mandated that states meet certain goals for carbon dioxide emissions. If the state did not submit a plan to meet those goals, the federal government would impose one on the state.

 

The Affordable Clean Energy Rule allows states to set their own goals for reducing carbon dioxide emissions. It also focuses on driving plants to improve their efficiency.

 

The EPA says this would lead to better air quality while also staying within the law, something that critics contend the Obama rules did not. President Trump also hails it as a way to help keep the coal industry alive. Critics of this new rule counter that this is simply a way to prop up the coal industry at the expense of cleaner energy sources and the health of Americans. They say that the new rule will lead to dirtier air compared to what the Clean Power Plan would have accomplished, with more Americans dying as a result.


This rule is now open for public comment before it takes effect. There is likely to be a legal fight over its legality that could postpone its implementation for years.

 

Do you think the Trump Administration’s new clean air rule is a good move? Do you think the Trump Administration is right to reduce regulations that are hurting U.S. coal production? Or is the Trump Administration bailing out the coal industry at the expense of air quality?

 

Ohio Governor Vetoes Regulatory Reform Bill

 

A bipartisan coalition of legislators passed a bill that would give the Ohio General Assembly more say over state regulations. Business groups backed the bill as a much-needed reform. Governor John Kasich did not agree, however. He recently vetoed this bill, saying that it would cause too much uncertainty. This may not be the end of the issue, though, since there may be enough votes to override the governor’s veto.

 

The bill in question, SB 221, would reform how state agencies finalize regulations. Among other things, the bill imposes greater publication requirements for rules and mandates that agencies must also consider whether rules would reduce revenue to private businesses. The provision of the bill that garnered Gov. Kasich’s ire its section that provides legislators with an opportunity to review rules that are challenged by the public if a rule has an unintended impact on business.

 

Gov. Kasich’s veto message argued that this would prevent any state regulation from ever being final. If the rule can be challenged at any time, he said, there would be considerable uncertainty over whether the rule should be followed. That, he argued, would lead to greater disruption and cost. He pointed out that he and legislators agreed on a regulatory reform measure in 2012 that has led to significant rule revision since its implementation.

 

Legislators who support this bill say that it is needed to ensure that agencies do not enact rules that unintentionally cause harm to businesses. They contend that elected officials in the legislature should be able to review these rules they are indeed hurting businesses. They point out that this proposal had bipartisan support as a way to reform the state’s regulatory process.

 

Legislators are now considering whether or not they will override the governor’s veto.

 

Do you think that legislators should be able to review regulations if these rules have unintended negative consequences for businesses?

 

Colorado Landowners Seeking Compensation for Value Lost to State Regulations

 

States and local governments routinely pass laws and enact regulations that reduce property values. Under a proposed initiative for this year’s Colorado ballot, they may have to compensate landowners when they do so.

 

The “Colorado Compensation to Owners for Decreased Property Value Due to State Regulation Amendment” would mandate that whenever the state enacts regulations that diminish property values, the state must provide just compensation. This would be an addition to the state constitution’s requirement that the state provides compensation when it takes or damages private property.

 

A group of ranchers and farmers is backing this amendment. They are primarily concerned about another proposed constitutional amendment that would severely limit landowners’ ability to explore for natural gas and oil on their land. They contend that it is only fair that if the state is going to enact a law that restricts their ability to use their land to make money, then the state should compensate them.

 

Opponents of this amendment say that it would make it almost impossible for the state and local governments to function. They argue that routine zoning laws could trigger lawsuits. These opponents contend that many laws meant to protect the public reduce the property value of individuals, so it would be a huge financial burden if governments must compensate these owners.

 

The secretary of state is reviewing this amendment to determine if it has enough signatures to be placed on November’s ballot.


Do you think that the government should compensate landowners if government regulations reduce the value of that land?

 

Pennsylvania Nuclear Plants to Close without Subsidies

 

Three Mile Island may be the most famous nuclear plant in the U.S. The site of an accident in the late 1970s that garnered worldwide attention, the plant is still producing power for Pennsylvania today. It may not remain open much longer, however. To stop this plant from closing, the nuclear industry is lobbying for a bailout from Pennsylvania lawmakers.

 

Facing competition from lower-priced natural gas power plants, Three Mile Island and other nuclear plants are increasingly unprofitable. The only hope to remain open that the owners of these plants see is a subsidy from the state. In arguing for state help, nuclear advocates point out that these plants generate electricity without any carbon emissions. They say that if Pennsylvania wants to combat climate change, nuclear plants are a vital part of that effort. Subsidy supporters also talk about the hundreds of jobs that will be lost with every nuclear plant closure.

 

These arguments have met resistance in Harrisburg. Subsidy opponents argue that nuclear plants should compete on the free market. If they cannot offer electricity to consumers at an affordable price, they should shut down. The state, these opponents say, should not prop up unprofitable businesses, and that includes nuclear power plants. Those who are against the subsidy also note that Pennsylvania is a large natural gas producer, so it should welcome the growing use of natural gas for electricity generation to replace nuclear power.

 

Legislators who support nuclear subsidies formed a caucus during this year’s legislative session in Harrisburg and held hearings that discussed the importance of nuclear power. Three Mile Island is scheduled to close next year, so these legislators will likely begin to press for subsidy legislation soon.

 

Do you think that Pennsylvania legislators should approve subsidies for nuclear power plants?

 

Michigan Milk Facility to Receive Millions in Subsidies

 

Two milk processing companies are making plans to build a $510 million facility in central Michigan. This would help support the state’s agricultural industry, but it comes at a price – millions of dollars in state subsidies.

 

Michigan is one of the top milk-producing states in the nation. It lacks adequate processing facilities to handle all of the milk its cows can produce. That is why a company is looking at building a $425 million dairy processing plant north of Lansing, with another company seeking to build an $85 million byproduct processing plant next door.

 

This would be a large investment in the central Michigan region, but it would not be a completely private investment, however. The state of Michigan is looking at offering these companies $26 million in tax incentives.

 

Proponents of the subsidies say that the processing center is vital to ensuring that Michigan has a healthy dairy industry. They say that subsidies are necessary to counter the offers coming from other states. Opponents counter that this is a taxpayer giveaway to private corporations. They note that if there is so much dairy supply in Michigan, then there is little need for these companies to receive taxpayer handouts to make this project work.

 

If approved, this facility would be completed in 2020.

 

Do you think that Michigan should provide subsidies to milk processing plants or other private businesses?

 

Legislators Approve New Business Subsidies in Michigan Budget

 

Ask any politician what his or her top priority is, and you’ll likely get the answer of “jobs.” Michigan legislators are no different. In their quest to create jobs in the state, they passed a budget that contains millions of dollars in tax credits for businesses. Some question whether these subsidy programs are a good way to create jobs, however.

 

In the state budget passed in late June, legislators included $162 million in businesses subsidies. These are mainly tax credit programs, which provide a refundable tax credit for businesses. These refundable credits are given to a business regardless of a business’s tax liability, which means the state could provide a direct payment to a company that qualifies.

 

The $162 million approved this year is not the total amount of Michigan business subsidies that are authorized for the coming fiscal year. Thanks to authorizations that occurred in previous years, the state can hand out $644 million to businesses this year.

 

Supporters of these subsidy programs say that they are necessary to create jobs in Michigan and attract high-paying jobs. They say that some industries just won’t locate in the state without them. Critics counter that most businesses create jobs without subsidies. These subsidies, they say, are merely a handout of taxpayer dollars to a few favored corporations. These critics point out that the money spent on subsidies could be spent on other government services or returned to taxpayers.

 

Do you support state programs that provide subsidies to businesses?

 

Governor, Legislators at Odds over Minnesota Oil Pipeline

 

An energy company wants to build a new oil pipeline through Minnesota, but it is meeting some resistance from activists and elected officials. The fight over Enbridge’s Line 3 replacement project has caused a heated debate in St. Paul. Governor Mark Dayton, a Democrat, and the Republicans who control the legislature have differing approaches on the project’s approval.

 

Enbridge already operates a pipeline, named Line 3, through Minnesota. This pipeline starts in Alberta, Canada, and ends in Wisconsin, but it delivers crude oil to Minnesota. The current pipeline was built in the 1960s, and Enbridge wants to replace it with a modern pipeline. The easiest way to do this is construct a new pipeline along a different route from the current one.

 

Environmentalists, tribal communities, and religious groups oppose this new route. They cite a variety of concerns, such as the new route going through environmentally sensitive areas and infringing upon areas that Indians consider sacred. Enbridge says that this new route is necessary to ensure that there is no disruption from taking the existing pipeline offline.

 

In May, legislators passed a bill that would direct the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to approve the pipeline route. Governor Dayton vetoed the bill. This leaves the final decision with the PUC, which will hold a series of hearings this month on the project. After those hearings, the commissioners will vote on Enbridge’s route request.

 

Do you support the replacement project for the Line 3 oil pipeline in Minnesota?

 

Firework Freedom in Minnesota

 

If you want to set off a Roman candle to celebrate American independence, you can’t buy one in Minnesota. Some legislators want to allow the sale of these and other fireworks in the state, but Governor Dayton is skeptical.

 

Current law in Minnesota only allows a very limited selections of fireworks to be sold in the state, such as sparklers and ground poppers. If Minnesotans want to buy more potent fireworks, they must travel out-of-state. Neighboring states have more lenient laws, which is evidenced by the fireworks stands that dot the border communities.

 

Legislators passed a bill to legalize a wider assortment of fireworks in 2012, but Governor Dayton vetoed it. The governor also expressed opposition to a similar measure in 2016. He is likely to veto such a bill this year if legislators once again pass it.

 

Supporters of allowing more types of fireworks to be sold in Minnesota say that the state’s residents are already purchasing them, but out-of-state businesses are profiting. Legalizing their sale in Minnesota would help the state's businesses and increase sales tax revenue.

 

Opponents, such as the state fire marshal, contend that the wider availability of fireworks is a safety hazard. They say that injuries and fires due to fireworks will increase, necessitating more police and fire services. Some city officials echo these complaints, adding that more potent fireworks will fuel complaints between neighbors.

 

Do you think that the government should limit fireworks sales? Or should Minnesotans be free to purchase Roman candles, bottle rockets, and other fireworks?

Washington Embraces Net Neutrality

 

If federal regulators will not impose net neutrality rules on the Internet, then states will take the lead on this issue. At least, that is what is happening in Washington state.

 

In early March, Gov. Jay Inslee signed a net neutrality bill that passed the state legislature by large margins. This bill would prohibit Internet service providers from blocking content that complies with the law, slowing down or stopping Internet traffic based on content, or allowing companies to offer prioritization for customer who pay more.

 

This legislation essentially codifies the network neutrality regulations overturned by the Federal Communications Commission late last year. The FCC ruled that Congress had not granted the agency statutory power to enact such rules, reversing a decision that the FCC had made during the Obama Administration. Instead, the FCC enacted what it calls a “light touch framework.”

 

Companies affected by the Washington legislation are likely to challenge it in court. Some observers contend that FCC’s action pre-empts state legislation of this type. They say that states cannot usurp federal regulatory authority. Further, they argue that if such regulations were left to states, it would make it difficult for companies to offer services nationwide given the patchwork of different rules they would face.

 

Supporters of the Washington bill counter that the FCC ruled that it did not have authority to regulate the Internet in this way, so states are free to act. They say that such rules are essential to an open Internet, and the federal government has left no option but to pursue this issue in state legislatures.

 

Legislators in other states will be watching what happens with the Washington law. There are similar proposals being considered across the country. While some states may act before any legal challenges over the Washington legislation are complete, others will wait to see what the judiciary has to say. If this law is held to be legal, then there will likely be a number of other states that will enact similar measures.

 

Do you think that states should enact net neutrality legislation? Or do you think that different laws across the nation will hamper online innovation?

 

FCC Repeals Net Neutrality Rules

 

One of the most controversial policy votes of the year took place this week, but it didn’t happen in Congress. Instead, it happened at a regulatory agency – the Federal Communications Commission. Under the leadership of Chairman Ajit Pai, the commissioners voted 3-2 to repeal “net neutrality” regulations. Depending on who you ask, this move will signal the death of the Internet as we know it or it is the federal government removing overbearing regulations that stiffle innovation.

 

The regulations in question date to 2015, when the FCC decided to regulate Internet service providers more stringently. In essence, the agency at that time classified the services they provide as a public utility, largely forcing providers not to discriminate in pricing, content, and the management of the network.

 

Not surprisingly, Internet service providers such as Verizon, AT&T and Comcast opposed this new regulation. They did not like the fact that they were constrained from treating different types of customers differently when it came to pricing or network management. Internet content companies, such as Facebook and Twiter, lobbied hard for the regulation, seeing an advantage in being protected from higher charges when they use far more bandwidth than other websites or apps.

 

This new rule change does not remove federal oversight from the Internet. In fact, the rule mandates transparency for network management practices. The Federal Trade Commission also regulates Internet service providers. But it does lessen the ability of the government to set rules proactively that constrain Internet service providers.

 

Do you think the FCC should have maintained “net neutrality” rules to protect consumers? Or does rolling back this rule from 2015 give freedom for companies to innovate in ways that will serve customers better?

 

Tennessee Key Votes – Alcohol and Drugs


Check out these key votes made by elected officials in Tennessee earlier this year, and go to 
www.votespotter.com to sign up and see how your elected officials voted on these and other issues that impact your daily life.

 

House Bill 1287, Allow distilleries to sell drinks: Passed 73 to 17 in the House on April 10 and 23 to 3 in the Senate on April 24

To allow distilleries to sell drinks to customers for consumption on the distillery’s premises.

 

House Bill 109, Reduce penalty for marijuana possession: Failed 44 to 45 in the House on April 10

To make it a misdemeanor to possess or sell under one ounce of marijuana. Under current law, these are felonies.

 

House Bill 547, Allow wineries to sell more types of wine: Passed 66 to 14 in the House on April 20 and 28 to 2 in the Senate on April 24

To allow a winery to purchase wine from another winery in Tennessee or another state and sell or serve it.

 

Senate Bill 806, Allow needle exchange programs: Passed 26 to 0 in the Senate on May 4 and 71 to 17 in the House on May 3

To allow nonprofits to operate needle exchange programs for opioid users as well as test these users for health problems.

 

Senate Bill 798, Update state alcohol laws: Passed 27 to 0 in the Senate on April 10 and 64 to 21 in the House on May 1

To levy a $10,000 fine on an establishment for its second citation for selling alcohol to a minor instead of revoking the alcohol license, to allow hotels to sell sealed packages of alcohol, to mandate the inclusion of liquor-by-the-drink taxes on menus, and to make other changes to the state’s alcohol laws.

 

House Bill 173, Pre-empt local drug laws: Passed 65 to 28 in the House on March 23 and 26 to 5 in the Senate on March 27

To clarify that state law pre-empts any local government laws for conduct involving drugs. In essence, this bill clarifies that local governments cannot enact local drug laws that conflict with state law.

 

Michigan House Bill 4559

 

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Michigan, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

Michigan House Bill 4559, Permit Beer and Wine Cartel Members to Hold Tastings for Staff: Passed 37 to 0 in the state Senate on June 22, 2017.

 

To permit the handful of members in the state-protected beer and wine wholesale and distribution cartel to hold educational product sampling sessions for employees.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Michigan House Bill 4559!

 

 

Arizona Senate Bill 1186

 

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Arizona, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

Senate Bill 1186, Update Fingerprinting and Background Check Laws for Alarm Installers: Passed 56 to 0 in the state House on April 20, 2017.

 

To modify fingerprinting and background check requirements for application and renewal of state licences for alarm installers eliminate gaps in oversight, and to change the renewal period from 2 years to 3.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Arizona Senate Bill 1186!

 

 

Nevada Changes Law to Deal with Marijuana Shortage

 

Recreational marijuana use became legal in Nevada in early July. Unfortunately for Nevadans who wanted a legal high, the state’s distribution system caused supply to lag behind demand. Now regulators are relaxing rules in order to ensure a steady flow of weed.

 

Initially, state law only allowed alcohol wholesalers to distribute marijuana to retail outlets around the state. Nevadans’ demand for marijuana overwhelmed this system, however. There were over 40,000 transactions in the first few days of legalization, leading to shortages.

 

This prompted Gov. Brian Sandoval to declare a state of emergency. The state tax commission met and set new rules so that entities other than alcohol wholesalers could distribute marijuana. They hope that this will alleviate problems with retail outlets running low.

 

While Nevada officials had a rough time getting their system up and running, it does show that the state stands to reap significant tax revenue by allowing recreational marijuana use. The state imposes a 15% tax on wholesalers and a 10% tax on retail sales. The state projects that this will lead to $100 million in new tax revenue.

 

This influx of revenue could tempt lawmakers in other states to consider following the lead of Nevada and other states that legalize and tax recreational marijuana use.

 

Do you think that marijuana should be legal? Or do you support laws that make it illegal for people to use the drug recreationally?

 

Ohio House Bill 132

 

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Ohio, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

Ohio House Bill 132, Regulate Fantasy Sports Betting: Passed 82 to 15 in the state House on May 24, 2017. 

 

To require the Ohio Casino Control Commission to investigate, license, penalize, and regulate anyone conducting or participating in a fantasy sports league.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Ohio House Bill 132!

 

 

Tennessee House Bill 6

 

Check out this key bill voted on by elected officials in Tennessee, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

Tennessee House Bill 6, Permit Soccer Subsidies: Passed 87 to 2 in the state House on March 30, 2017.

 

To allow sales tax revenue derived from major league soccer to be allocated to the municipality in which the soccer team is located. In effect, this bill would allow Nashville to use sales tax revenue to subsidize a major league soccer stadium.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Tennessee House Bill 6!

 

 

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