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Breaking Down the White House’s Fall Regulatory Agenda

Oct. 17, 2018, 8:14 PM

The Trump administration’s fall regulatory agenda released this morning offers a window into the White House’s anti-regulatory vision for the country. It’s estimated to cut regulatory costs by $18 billion.

“I think within a period of about another year we will have just about everything that we wanted,” President Donald Trump said Oct. 17.

The agenda, released each year in the spring and fall, lists all rules that agencies are actively working on and what’s fallen to the back burner. There is no penalty for not meeting the listed dates, which aren’t always realistic.

Trump boasted his administration had “set a record” for removing costly, unnecessary regulations—a claim disputed by critics who said the White House wildly exaggerated savings and overlooked the benefits of many rules.

One of the reasons the economy is so strong is that businesses are not hampered by the “ridiculous regulations” in place, particularly EPA rules, Trump said at an Oval Office meeting with Cabinet secretaries and staff to discuss his administration’s regulatory agenda.

Reporters from Bloomberg Law, Bloomberg Tax, Bloomberg Government, and Bloomberg Environment dug through the regulatory agenda to see which rules have moved, and where.

Defense, Homeland, and Trade Agenda

Athletic Shoes: New Balance could be among the beneficiaries of a proposed rule by the Defense Department that seeks to ensure new military recruits get American-made sneakers for training. That proposal marks a step that backs a long fight by New Balance and Northeastern congressional supporters to offer U.S.-manufactured athletic shoes to the Pentagon. Read more from Roxana Tiron.

Immigration: The Homeland Security Department is adding new immigration regulations to an already lengthy list, with a new focus on immigrant investors, asylum seekers, and agricultural and seasonal guestworkers, under its agenda. Read more from Laura D. Francis.

Foreign Trademarks: The Patent and Trademark Office is working on a rule that would require foreign trademark applicants to have a U.S.-licensed attorney. The office is set to issue a proposal in November, the agency said in its agenda. Read more from Peter Leung.

Finance and Tax Agenda

Quarterly Earnings Reports: Corporate executives and investors might soon be able to tell the Securities and Exchange Commission what they think of Trump’s call for public companies to release fewer earnings reports. The SEC may draft a notice for public feedback on “ways to ease companies’ compliance burdens but still maintain appropriate levels of disclosure and investor protection” related to quarterly earnings releases, Andrew Ramonas reports.

Tax Law Regulations: Seventeen regulations implementing the 2017 tax law are at the top of the Treasury Department’s action list for fiscal year 2019, according to its regulatory agenda. Most of those projects already were singled out in an Internal Revenue Service priority guidance plan. The list includes high-profile rules on the tax overhaul’s limit on the amount of debt interest payments that businesses can write off and guidance on foreign tax credit issues arising from new international changes. Read more from Allyson Versprille.

Abusive Practices: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is adding a rule to define abusive acts and practices to its rulemaking agenda. It didn’t specify a date to begin that rulemaking, but such actions typically are initiated within 12 months of publication. The Dodd-Frank Act included a prohibition on “abusive” conduct in creating the CFPB’s enforcement authority, in addition to prohibiting “unfair” and “deceptive” practices, which have long been used by other enforcement agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission. Read more from Lydia Beyoud.

Dodd-Frank Changes: The FDIC’s regulatory agenda is expanding four-fold as it implements Dodd-Frank Act changes for small and midsize banks that went into effect last May. The 13 items on agency’s semi-annual regulatory agenda include a joint rulemaking from the Federal Reserve and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency on easing stress test requirements for banks with between $100 billion and $250 billion in assets, Jeff Bater reports.

Banking Privacy: A report set for November at the Federal Trade Commission, two years after the close of a public comment period, could lead to an updated federal privacy rule, governing how banks protect consumers’ data. The agency has been looking at how to update the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act Safeguard rules, given the existing patchwork of federal, state, and local rules. Daniel R. Stoller has more.

Health Care and Drugs Agenda

Data Breach Reparations: The administration plans in January to wade into its proposal to share money extracted from hospitals or health systems that broke federal health privacy laws with those harmed by the breaches, according to the agenda. The proposal would offer a percentage of penalties or settlements paid by health organizations responsible for data breaches to victims whose records were compromised. Read more from Alex Ruoff.

TRICARE Bias Audits: TRICARE health-care facilities can hang onto the hope that they’d be made permanently exempt from federal contractor anti-discrimination audits for the near future, according to the Labor Department’s agenda. TRICARE is the health-care program for military personnel operating in civilian capacities. Paige Smith has more.

Research Misconduct: The Food and Drug Administration is withdrawing a rule proposal that would have required drug and device companies who sponsored a study to promptly alert the agency of any information that suggests a researcher may have falsified data, Jeannie Baumann reports.

Employee Wellness: Employers waiting for an update on controversial wellness regulations from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission might have to stay on hold a bit longer, according to its agenda. The wellness regulations were previously slated for a proposed update by January 2019, but the agenda now sets it for June 2019. Read more from Paige Smith and Jay-Anne Casuga.

Employment and Safety Agenda

Federal Layoffs: The federal government’s chief HR office is proposing to revise regulations on layoffs, performance-based demotions and removal actions, and other disciplinary actions, according to the regulatory agenda. Its proposed rule would implement provisions of Executive Order 13,839 from Trump that weren’t struck down by a court ruling. That order generally made it easier to fire or take other disciplinary actions against federal workers. Louis C. LaBrecque has more.

Worker Safety: Employers won’t know until June what changes the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will issue for reporting mandates for injury and illness enacted under Obama. The final rule revising reporting requirements is set for a June release. Read more from Bruce Rolfsen and Sam Pearson.

Small Business Retirement Plans: A Labor Department proposal that would expand access to retirement savings plans to more small-business employees is through the Office of Management and Budget’s review process. The publication of the rule proposal could happen in days to weeks. Read more from Madison Alder.

Group Retirement Plans: The Treasury Department will unveil a plan by June to protect the tax status of group retirement plans and modify the age retirees can freely access the money they’ve saved. Read more from Warren Rojas.

Religious Exemptions: The Labor Department plans to update its rules to reflect current religious exemptions that federal contractors may use as defense against accusations of workplace discrimination. That move may add to growing tensions between religious liberty rights for businesses and anti-bias protections for LGBT individuals. The department’s Office of Federal Contractor Compliance Programs could issue the proposed rule as early as December. Read more from Jay-Anne Casuga.

Union Election Rules: The NLRB is apparently moving a bit slower to change the rules on how fast workers can hold elections to join a union than it is on a plan to rewrite the “joint employer” rule. The National Labor Relations Board’s regulatory agenda focuses only on the board’s ongoing rulemaking to restrict circumstances when multiple employers can face liability for the same workplace law violations. It doesn’t mention plans to update union election rules the business community has been hoping that the board would address since Republicans took control of the NLRB in the Trump White House. Read more from Hassan A. Kanu.

Environmental Conservation Agenda

‘Secret Science’ Rule: The EPA’s plans to restrict the type of science it will use to craft regulations is on the back-burner for now. The EPA is pushing back its goals of issuing the rule until January 2020, according to the agenda. That new timeline means that the April 30 proposal could languish at the EPA for almost two years. Read more from Abby Smith.

Clean Air Act Permits Program: Companies will need to wait a bit longer before the EPA makes it easier to expand plants or build new additions without needing Clean Air Act permits. The EPA delayed by five months the dates for when it is set to release its changes to a Clean Air Act permitting program for construction and expansion, known as the New Source Review program, Amena H. Saiyid reports.

Obama Waters Rule Repeal: The EPA is pushing back its timetable for repealing a landmark Obama-era waters jurisdiction rule by at least four months in a move that might prolong confusion over how and where to implement it in the interim. The agency is now planning on finalizing this repeal in March of 2019, rather than next month as initially planned, David Schultz reports.

Toxic Mercury Air Limits: The EPA plans to complete its re-examination of toxic air pollution limits, including mercury for power plants, by November. The EPA is reconsidering the economic basis for 2012 limits set in the Obama administration for toxic air pollution that power plants emit. The EPA said it won’t revise the standards, but is following the Supreme Court’s orders to re-examine how the Obama White House calculated costs and benefits of the air pollution limits. Read more from Amena H. Saiyid.

Energy and Chemicals Agenda

Power Rule: The EPA’s efforts to repeal and replace the Obama administration’s signature climate policy could be complete next spring. The agency is aiming for March 2019 to finish repealing the Clean Power Plan, the previous White House’s regulation setting carbon dioxide limits for existing power plants. The EPA is also gearing up to complete the replacement, called the Affordable Clean Energy rule, that month. Read more from Abby Smith.

Efficiency Standards: The Energy Department is moving slowly on its efficiency standards for home and commercial appliances, but indefinite delays remain on over a dozen other appliance rules. The department moved efficiency standards for commercial ice machines, small electric motors, and walk-in freezers from its long-term agenda to pre-rule stages, but 14 other appliance standards are still in limbo. Read more from Rebecca Kern.

Chemical Facilities: The industry-friendly replacement for Obama-era chemical plant safety rules will move forward, despite an August court ruling questioning the EPA’s basis for making changes. Revisions to the risk management program, a set of safety standards aiming to keep first responders and communities near chemical plants safe, are expected by January. Read more from Sam Pearson.

Pesticide Rules: The White House is postponing the release of two farmworker protection rule proposals that would roll back changes made under the Obama administration. The EPA is weighing changes to the Worker Protection Standard and Certification of Pesticide Applicators Rule in January 2019. Those changes were previously set for this September, Tiffany Stecker reports.

Chemicals, Crude, Coal: Chemical manufacturers, electric power utilities and the petroleum and coal industries could be required to show the EPA they can afford cleanups if they cause an environmental disaster. The EPA is weighing whether to issue a financial assurance regulation for those industries, nearly a year after the former EPA head Scott Pruitt aborted years of work on a similar rule on hardrock mines, Sylvia Carignan reports.

Communications Agenda

Hearing-Disabled Reimbursements: The Federal Communications Commission is planning to reduce a reimbursement for hearing-impaired phone services that display a call’s text. The FCC could adopt a change in the reimbursement formula within 12 months. Read more from Jon Reid.

Anti-Spam Rule: The Federal Trade Commission is considering changing its rule enforcing a federal anti-spam law. FTC staff hopes to send a recommendation to the commission on possible changes by December, Alexis Kramer reports.

To contact the reporters on this story: Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com; Marissa Horn in Washington at mhorn@bloombergenvironment.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Cheryl Saenz at csaenz@bloombergtax.com

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