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Jan. 4, 2021 by James Goodwin

Top Ten Regulatory Policy Stories to Look Out for in 2021 -- Part I

Thanks to the recent presidential election results, I’m able to do something I haven’t done in a long time: look at a new year with something resembling hope and optimism. As noted in my December 21 posts, the Trump administration wreaked havoc on our system of regulatory safeguards in 2020, as it did in previous years. The incoming Biden-Harris administration brings a strong mandate to undo the damage — and to go further by building a more just and people-centered government that can meet the pressing challenges America faces.

CPR recently launched Policy for a Just America with this opportunity in mind. This initiative aims to rebuild and reimagine government and offers detailed recommendations aimed at promoting a more robust and responsive regulatory system.

Will we seize the moment? Here are the first five of 10 storylines I’ll be following this year. Each could significantly influence efforts to build a regulatory system that can deliver safeguards that the American public expect and deserve.

  1. Will the U.S. Senate runoffs in Georgia put the Congressional Review Act (CRA) in play? Winning these elections would give Democrats full control of the White House and both chambers of Congress - and the …

Dec. 8, 2020 by Laurie Ristino
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Editor’s note: This post is part of the Center for Progressive Reform’s Policy for a Just America initiative. Learn more on CPR's website.

At long last, we’ve reached “safe harbor” day, when states must resolve election-related disputes. Under federal law, Congress must count votes from states that meet today’s deadline. Donald Trump is essentially out of time to steal a second term; our democracy, it appears, will survive, at least for now.

Like many of you, I’ve been thinking a lot about the election — and what Trump’s relentless efforts to undermine it mean for our country. I’ve been thinking about the last one, too, when Trump took the helm of our country after a campaign of lies and hate — even though he received nearly 3 million fewer votes than his opponent.

I’ve been reflecting on other moments when our …

Oct. 19, 2020 by James Goodwin
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This post was originally published on the Union of Concerned Scientists' blog. Reprinted with permission.

For many of us, the prospect of a Supreme Court with Judge Amy Coney Barrett giving conservatives a solid 6-3 supermajority is nightmare fuel. The consequences extend beyond hot-button social issues, such as women's reproductive rights or individual access to affordable health care. If confirmed, Barrett would likely spur the aggressive pro-business agenda that the Court has pursued under the auspices of Chief Justice John Roberts.

A key item on that agenda is overturning something called Chevron deference, which some business groups have made a top priority in their broader campaign to bring about, as former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon put it, the "deconstruction of the administrative state." In other words, changing this key doctrine would undermine the ability of Executive branch agencies to regulate on a huge range …

Sept. 25, 2020 by Robert Verchick
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Grappling with a contentious dispute over cross-state air pollution, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the majority in Environmental Protection Agency v. EME Homer City Generation, first consulted the King James Bible. “‘The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth,’ she wrote, “In crafting a solution to the problem of interstate air pollution, regulators must account for the vagaries of the wind.”

It was 2014, and at stake was a complicated, science-driven plan crafted by the EPA to limit air pollution that wafts from one state to endanger communities in another. The plan, which budgeted air emissions in certain states, promised to save thousands of lives and bring cleaner air to poor and minority neighborhoods. But in so doing, it would force several aging coal plants to close. Industry cried foul, saying …

Sept. 24, 2020 by James Goodwin
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An underappreciated side effect of the modern conservative movement now epitomized by Trumpism is its dogged pursuit of any legal argument to support “the cause,” no matter how ridiculous or specious. Long-settled questions like nondelegation and the constitutionality of independent regulatory agencies are suddenly, if bizarrely, up for grabs again. Add to this list a new line of argument – now germinating like a mushroom spore in horse manure – that posits that citizen suit provisions, such as those included in the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, are unconstitutional infringements upon the so-called unitary executive.

Earlier this month CPR Member Scholar Joel Mintz demolished this argument in a pair of posts published here. In this post, I want to move the ball forward and argue that citizen suits offer an essential opportunity for public engagement in regulatory implementation and thus should be extended universally across the entire …

Sept. 3, 2020 by Katlyn Schmitt
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In the absence of meaningful action by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), more than a dozen states, including Virginia, have issued emergency safety measures to protect essential workers from the risks of COVID-19. But Maryland – home to one of the largest poultry industries in the nation – is glaringly absent from that list.

We’ve seen dramatic changes in response to the coronavirus in the transportation, retail, and restaurant industries, but behind the closed doors at poultry plants, workers face dire health risks while continuing to labor in fear of contracting COVID-19.

Prior to the pandemic, workers in the poultry industry faced some fairly egregious working conditions. Inside plants, workers labor side-by-side while as many as 175 birds whizz by every minute for "processing." Painful repetitive stress injuries and cuts due to increased line speeds are all too common at these processing facilities. Reports …

Aug. 20, 2020 by James Goodwin
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The Congressional Review Act (CRA) is a bad law and should be repealed. Yet, it has taken on outsized importance given that it provides one of the few vehicles for moving substantive legislation through a hyper-polarized Congress. The upcoming elections are thrusting it back in the spotlight, so let’s talk about the CRA and how opponents of the Trump administration’s assault on public safeguards might put it to its highest and best use.

First things first, though: The CRA only becomes viable if the Democrats sweep the presidential election and secure majorities in both chambers of Congress. Some polling suggests that the stars appear to be aligning in this fashion, just as they did at the beginning of the Trump administration when the full aggressive force of the CRA was first deployed. If this happens, that means any rules issued “late enough” in the Trump …

Aug. 3, 2020 by Matt Shudtz
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The nation is finally beginning to grapple with the widespread disparities in public health, economic opportunity, and community well-being across race and class that stem from longstanding systems of oppression and injustice. As systems thinkers, CPR's Board, staff, and Member Scholars have devoted considerable time to researching and understanding the roots of these inequities, considering the disproportionate impacts on frontline communities, and advocating for just policy reform.

Our Regulation as Social Justice project is an example. It recognizes that EPA, OSHA, and other "protector agencies" have a vital role to play in preventing harm to people and the environment through their statutory authority to adopt and enforce regulations. As they exercise that authority, agencies also have the capacity, indeed the moral obligation, to redress environmental and public health injustices by prioritizing the needs of overburdened communities in the development of their regulatory agenda and enforcement policies.

In …

July 29, 2020 by Katie Tracy
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Workers presently have no right to bring a lawsuit against employers under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) for failing to provide safe and healthy working conditions. If an employer exposes workers to toxic chemicals or fails to guard a dangerous machine, for example, they must rely on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to inspect, find a violation, and issue a citation. This omission in the 1970 statute is especially troubling in the context of COVID-19, as workers across the United States continue to face a massive workplace health crisis without any meaningful support from OSHA or most of its state and territorial counterparts.

OSHA has so far declined to adopt an emergency standard to address COVID-19, despite repeated calls by unions, workers, and advocates to do so. Moreover, rather than enforcing existing standards or holding employers accountable for violating their general duty …

July 28, 2020 by James Goodwin
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Today, a group of 136 law professors from across the United States, including 31 Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) Member Scholars, will send a letter to congressional leaders urging them to “ensure that our courthouse doors remain open to all Americans for injuries they suffer from negligence during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The letter, spearheaded by CPR Member Scholars Dan Farber and Michael Duff, comes in response to a push by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other corporate special interests to include a “federal liability shield” in the next COVID relief bill, which is now being negotiated in Congress. This shield would prevent ordinary Americans from holding corporations accountable in the civil courts when their unreasonably dangerous actions cause people to become sick with the virus.

As the letter explains, the federal liability shield would violate clear principles of federalism by intruding upon the traditional rights …

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