Posts Tagged ‘disasters’

Gig/freelancer economy roundup

In an emergency that has made trucking, logistics, and home delivery uniquely important, fractured the schedules of countless parents and caregivers, and sent the services sector reeling, it would be nice if California and other states were not making war on the work arrangements needed for the situation. That’s why California’s AB5 fiasco (earlier here, here) along with similar moves in New Jersey and elsewhere, come at the worst time.

P.S. Related Cato post now up. Truckers especially have many more problems than this right this moment responding to the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, read about some of them here (and help if you can!) They have begun getting direly needed removals of regulations. But don’t let this one slip off the list.

An emergency bonfire of the regulations

So as to deploy medical services more effectively during the COVID-19 emergency, the Department of Health and Human Services has announced that it will forgo enforcement of rules restricting telemedicine, both by waiving HIPAA prohibitions on the use of everyday communications technologies like Skype and FaceTime, and by removing a requirement that reimburseable services be provided by the holder of an in-state license. At the same time, as I noted last week, many states have been relaxing rules prohibiting practice by out-of-state medical professionals (partial list here).

That’s part of a pattern in which governments are slashing many old regulations that they realize get in the way of crisis response and complicate the lives of ordinary citizens trying to work and shop under difficult conditions. My Cato colleague Chris Edwards links some of them in this post, including compilations by the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Americans for Tax Reform. (More: R Street Institute; Katherine Timpf, National Review. Hospitals and medical professionals aside, suspended rules include hours of service rules for truckers driving emergency medical supplies, requirements that Florida insurance agents keep public offices, rules forbidding the combined transport of food and liquor in Texas trucks, and federal standards restricting universities’ use of online classes. How many of these rules were unnecessary or unwise in the first place?

While movement of persons between communities may pose a danger during epidemics, movement of goods remains vital to prosperity and mutual exchange. Simon Lester points out in a Cato podcast that easing trade restrictions is a direct way to address difficult bottlenecks in emergency medical supplies. Relatedly, recent tariffs on medical supplies haven’t been helpful, encouraging large factories overseas to prioritize customers outside the U.S. (earlier).

In a reaction to the financial strains caused by the outbreak, the feds have been flooding the banking system with liquidity, both by relaxing regulations and through central bank operations. Cato’s Diego Zuluaga in a podcast distinguishes between liquidity objectives and (what is rightly more controversial) bailout objectives.

Easing license burdens for the duration, and afterward

In two emergency declarations Thursday, governors eased the burdens of licensing for the duration of the coronavirus emergency: Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced that persons holding valid out-of-state medical licenses could get them recognized on one-day approval, while Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan extended the expiration dates of all licenses, permits, registrations, and the like until 30 days after the end of the emergency. I put it in context in a new Cato post.

COVID-19 pandemic roundup

  • Certificate-of-need laws in 38 states restrict hospital bed capacity by giving competitors a lever to object. More beds would have helped with emergency preparedness [Jeffrey Singer; more from Eric Boehm; bed crisis feared within weeks]
  • White House, Congress negotiate on liability-limit measure aimed at freeing up 31 million expired but usable masks; “3M and Honeywell don’t feel comfortable providing them without assurances they won’t be sued.” [Michael Wilner, McClatchy; latest on HHS proclamation] Between death, business interruption, and enormous disruption to business practice, a landscape of litigation opens up [Bob Van Voris et al., Fortune]
  • Proposed executive order would bar import of critical medical supplies from China, closing supposed “loophole” that could save your loved one’s life as shortages of ventilators loom [Ana Swanson, New York Times; Greta Privitera, Politico Europe on triage decisions at Italian hospitals reeling under equipment shortages]
  • Courts canceling jury trials as virus spreads [Eric Turkewitz] Supreme Court building closes to public until further notice;
  • Newark, N.J. threatens to prosecute persons who make false statements about the pandemic [Mike Masnick, TechDirt (“a masterclass in how not to deal with the problem of misinformation about the coronavirus”); Eugene Volokh (while some kinds of lies can be criminalized consistent with the First Amendment, many of those relevant here cannot]
  • Memo to HR: EEOC has advised “that taking the temperature of all employees may violate the ADA under some circumstances, but has indicated that the rules may change during a pandemic” [Daniel Schwartz; employee temperature checks in Singapore]

Environment roundup

  • “Everything would be all renewable all the time if we could just pass the right laws.” The wishful underpinnings of the Green New Deal [Cato Daily Podcast with Caleb Brown and Regulation Magazine editor Peter Van Doren]
  • “The U.S. rail system is optimized for freight, vs. European and Japanese systems that are optimized for passengers (it is hard to do both well with the same network). The U.S. situation is actually better, much better, for energy conservation.” [Coyote]
  • Federalist Society discussions of climate litigation based on public nuisance theories: National Lawyers Convention panel with David Bookbinder, Eric Grant, James Huffman, Mark W. Smith, moderated by Hon. John K. Bush; “Originally Speaking” written debate with John Baker, Richard Faulk, Dan Lungren, Donald Kochan, Pat Parenteau, David Bookbinder; Boston Lawyers Chapter panel on municipal litigation with Steven Ferrey, Phil Goldberg, Donald Kochan, James R. May, Kenneth Reich] Climate nuisance suits have met with an unfriendly reception in American courts and there is no good rationale for filing copycat claims in Canada [Stewart Muir, Resource Works]
  • “Public Universities Exploit Eminent Domain Powers with Little Oversight” [Chris West, Martin Center]
  • Many pro-market reforms would reduce the risks to life and property from natural disasters, climate-related and otherwise [Chris Edwards, Cato]
  • “On patrol with the enforcer of DC’s plastic-straw ban” [Fenit Nirappil/AP via Peter Bonilla (“Welcome to the worst ride along ever”)]

Property law roundup

  • Playlist: songs about eminent domain and takings, property law and the road [Robert H. Thomas, Inverse Condemnation]
  • In-depth look into problems that develop when title to land is held as “heirs’ property,” leaving a dangerous collective tangle in place of individual right and duty [David Slade and Angie Jackson, Post and Courier (Charleston, S.C.)]
  • Dispute over remains of two dinosaurs locked in combat 66 million years ago, lately unearthed in Garfield County, Mont. and extremely valuable, hinges on whether their fossils are “minerals”; Ninth Circuit says they are under Montana law [AP via Molly Brady (“property professor dream hypo”), Murray v. BEJ Minerals]
  • “Government Should Compensate Property Owners for Flood Damage It Facilitated” [Ilya Shapiro and Patrick Moran on Cato amicus petition for certiorari in St. Bernard Parish v. United States] “Texas Court Rules Deliberate Flooding of Private Property by State Government in Wake of Hurricane Harvey can be a Taking” [Ilya Somin]
  • Constituent-group politics continues to shape use of federal lands, to the detriment of its economic value [Gary Libecap, Regulation and related working paper]
  • Caution, satire: Facebook parody of super-intrusive, restrictive, and meddlesome HOA [East Mountain West View Home Owners Association]

October 3 roundup

  • “Rejected Applicant Sues Law Schools for Violating Magna Carta” [Kevin Underhill, Lowering the Bar]
  • “Attorney sued for malpractice is suspended after releasing client’s psychiatric records” [Stephanie Francis Ward, ABA Journal]
  • Moving state and local alcohol regulation past the bootlegger/Baptist era [Cato Daily Podcast with Jeremy Horpedahl]
  • In Charlottesville today? I’ll be on a University of Virginia School of Law panel discussing redistricting / gerrymandering reform, campaign and election law, Maryland politics and more [Ele(Q)t Project]
  • Rejecting ADA claim, Georgia Supreme Court says man cannot blame sleep apnea for “alleged inability to be truthful, accurate, and forthcoming” in bar application [Legal Profession Blog]
  • Update: after national outcry, county D.A. in North Carolina drops charges of unlicensed veterinary practice against Good Samaritan who took in pets during Hurricane Florence [Wilson Times]

Liability roundup

  • Hoping to blame Pacific Gas & Electric power lines for Northern California fires, lawyers from coast to coast descend on wine country [Paul Payne, Santa Rosa Press-Democrat]
  • Courts should police lawyers’ handling of class actions, including temptation to sweep additional members with doubtful claims into class so as to boost fees [Ilya Shapiro, Trevor Burrus, and Reilly Stephens on Cato certiorari amicus in case of Yang v. Wortman]
  • “Seventh Circuit Curtails RICO Application to Third-Party Payor Off-Label Suits” [Stephen McConnell, D&DL] “Here Is Why The False Claims Act Is An ‘Awkward Vehicle’ In Pharma Cases” [Steven Boranian]
  • Litigation finance moves into car crash business [Denise Johnson, Insurance Journal]
  • Slain NYC sanitation worker’s “frequent advice to Sanitation colleagues about how to save for the future helped persuade the jury that Frosch had a viable career ahead of him in financial planning,” contributing large future earnings component to $41 million award [Stephen Rex Brown, New York Daily News]
  • “Ninth Circuit Overturns State Licensing Scheme Forcing Businesses to Incorporate in California” [Cory Andrews, WLF]

Between Puerto Rico and food shipments, the Jones Act

After a brief suspension during the moment of maximum public outcry, the Trump administration earlier this month allowed the Jones Act to go back into effect restraining trade between Puerto Rico and the U.S. mainland. According to this WSJ editorial, Puerto Ricans are paying the price:

Ricky Castro is a food and beverage wholesaler and president of Puerto Rico’s Chamber of Food Marketing, Industry and Distribution, known as MIDA, which boasts 200 members across the island. This month MIDA conducted an informal survey of 15 members and found there are roughly 1,400 containers of their provisions sitting in U.S. ports, waiting to be shipped to Puerto Rico.

Mr. Castro attributes the delay to the Jones Act, which mandates that U.S.-flagged, -built and -manned carriers conduct all shipping between U.S. ports. This means an oligopoly of three companies—Crowley Maritime Corp., TOTE Maritime and Trailer Bridge Inc.—conduct the vast majority of the protected trade between the mainland and the island, at inflated costs on aging ships. The ocean-going Jones Act fleet numbers a mere 99 vessels, compared to thousands available from foreign-flagged carriers.

Earlier here, here, here, etc.