In suburban Maryland, much ado about ADUs

As population and the job base in the Washington, D.C. area continue to expand, households face a crunch in the price of housing, made worse by the reluctance of local governments to permit residential construction near most of the major employment centers. A unanimous county council in Montgomery County, Md. has now made it slightly easier for homeowners to create in-law units or backyard cottages, but along the way had to face down noisy opposition. I tell the story in a new Cato post.

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Pharmaceutical roundup

Demands for new “domestic terrorism” laws

Since an attacker motivated by anti-immigration sentiments killed 22 at an El Paso, Texas Walmart, there has been a cry for new laws against “domestic terrorism.” Most who join in the outcry, however, haven’t begun to think through the implications, especially since these sorts of laws “rarely stay limited to their nominal purpose,” notes Fordham’s John Pfaff in a thread. “Criminal laws will inevitably be written broadly, and that breadth will inevitably mean they will expand their reach.”

Bad reasons to push for new federal laws: Prager v. YouTube

Conservative commentator Dennis Prager has an op-ed in yesterday’s WSJ restating his claims (made in a lawsuit dismissed last year and re-filed this spring in a new suit) that YouTube restricted his “Prager University” videos owing to anti-conservative bias. These claims of unfair treatment have gotten wide circulation, especially since the popular Prager U. series for the most part presents mainstream conservative views in a calm rather than incendiary tone. In his op-ed, Prager speaks favorably about the enactment of new “laws governing big technology companies” to restrain “their hostility to conservative voices.”

This Mike Masnick thread (language) gives another side to the story. YouTube’s optional “restricted mode,” meant to limit kid viewing, isn’t important or much used (only 1.5% of users enable it). The PragerU shows at issue did have some content about topics like rape, murder, and genocide that might disturb younger children. And many other well-known shows see a larger share of their episodes put into restricted mode. Thus 12% of Prager U. videos have been put in restricted mode, compared with 24% of History Channel videos, 28% of Vox videos and 54% of Daily Show videos. Matthew Feeney at Cato, James Pethokoukis at AEI, and Billy Binion at Reason have more.

One irony I see in this is that conservatives up till recently have tended to favor promoting parental-control modes in social media, or even making them the default, and have accepted the inevitability that the automated algorithms that inevitably drive these modes when applied to large bodies of material may sometimes sweep broadly enough to screen out even some responsible, sober, and fact-based discussions of topics to which parents might not want to expose younger teens.

Having now seen these modes in action, they seem to be having second thoughts.

P.S. “Conservatives have also spent decades opposing any attempt to revive the FCC’s old Fairness Doctrine, which required broadcasters to be balanced in their programming on controversial issues. ‘FCC bureaucrats can neither determine what is “fair” nor enforce it,’ the Heritage Foundation said in 1993.” [Margaret Harding McGill and Daniel Lippman, Politico, on reports of new White House executive order]

More: John Samples, Cato (“Dennis Prager, Big-Government Conservative”).

August 7 roundup

  • “We got nailed once because someone barehanded a bag of lettuce without a glove.” Kitchen-eye tales of NYC’s restaurant inspection regime [Saxon Baird, NY Eater]
  • Positive reviews for new HUD regs on housing discrimination, affordability, and supply [National Review: Roger Clegg; Salim Furth]
  • Sony isn’t making its robot companion dog available in Illinois because its facial recognition features fall under the state’s onerous Biometric Information Privacy Act; an earlier in-state casualty was Google’s “which museum portrait is your selfie like?” service [Megan Wollerton, CNet, earlier here and here] Is there any hope of slowing down the rush of class action suits filed under the law? [Chris Burt, Biometric Update]
  • Victory on a-peel: “3rd Circuit rules maker of banana costume is entitled to ‘fruits of its intellectual labor'” [ABA Journal, earlier here, etc.]
  • D.C. Circuit “Rips ‘Legal Artifice’ in Kasowitz Firm’s Megabillions Whistleblower Case” [Dan Packel, The American Lawyer; Cory Andrews, WLF]
  • Congress passes a law framed as pro-veteran, doesn’t take the time to spell out quite how it works, years later we meet the (presumably unintended) losers in the form of nonprofits that employ blind and deaf workers [Julie Havlak, Carolina Journal, quotes me]

Requiring adult supervision when kids use pool = unlawful discrimination?

It’s okay for a condo swimming pool to require adult supervision of children, right? Wrong: “familial status” is one of the many bases for protection under housing discrimination law. As a result, “any rule or policy targeting children is likely to trigger a discrimination accusation or a fair housing inquiry.” To defend it against attack, the condo must be prepared to prove that the rule or policy is both based on a “compelling business necessity” and represents the “least restrictive means” to achieve the stated purpose. You’d think safety might be an adequate reason, but in two cases federal courts in California have found otherwise. Some rules might survive if, e.g., they are based on Red Cross guidelines, but putatively improper motives such as reducing noise or crowd control must not enter into any rationale. Also, policies must permit unrelated companions, rather than just parents, to count as the supervision [Matt D. Ober, Washington Post]

Now, a push for more disclosure of who owns businesses

Cato event featuring David R. Burton, Richard Hay, Karen Kerrigan, & Diego Zuluaga:

Policymakers on both sides of the aisle have proposed new regimes for small-business beneficial ownership reporting. The aim of such legislation is to eliminate opportunities for money laundering and financial crime. However, the proposals before Congress would place heavy new compliance costs on millions of America’s small businesses while continuing to provide opportunities for bad actors to engage in illicit financial activities. Beneficial ownership reporting would add to an already onerous anti-money-laundering/know-your-customer (AML/ KYC) regulatory burden, cited by community banks as the single most costly financial regulation. Furthermore, international experience with beneficial ownership reporting requirements suggests that it will be difficult to make such requirements work in the United States.

Earlier on money laundering and know your customer (KYC) regulations.

Higher education roundup

“Time cards for adjuncts?”

Legislation in the California assembly aims at heading off the prospect that private colleges and universities will require adjunct professors to begin operating on time card systems:

In recent years, a number of colleges and universities have settled faculty overtime violation lawsuits filed by the same California law firm — lawsuits that even many adjuncts say are frivolous. Stanford University, for example, last year settled for nearly $900,000 in a class-action suit regarding instructors in its continuing studies program. Attorney’s fees accounted for one-third of the settlement, so adjuncts involved were each entitled to a partially taxable $1,417. Kaplan University also settled, according to public documents. Other suits have been settled more quietly. Public institutions in California, whose adjuncts are generally unionized, have not been affected.

Private colleges and universities have responded to the ongoing legal threat by either making or planning to make their adjuncts document all of their working hours on time cards.

Tinker with its details as one will, wage and hour law necessarily proceeds on the premise of regimenting the workplace by the minute. That’s why the time clock is its symbol. [Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed]