- So often those who seek to control the rest of us seem unable to achieve self-control. Case in point: sponsor of NY bill to search gun applicants’ social media accounts [Jon Campbell, Democrat and Chronicle, Sen. Rob Ortt on Twitter] More on Sen. Kevin Parker’s proposal: Scott Greenfield, and my earlier;
- Concerning an issue that Cato has warned about for many, many years, the emergency powers of the President [Elizabeth Goitein/The Atlantic, related video]
- Web accessibility suits hit colleges [Rick Karlin, Albany Times-Union], New York wineries [Brianne Garrett, Wine Spectator, Kathleen Willcox, Wine Searcher, Thomas Pellechia, Forbes], other defendants around New York [Stephen Rex Brown, New York Daily News, Jamie Herzlich/Newsday]
- “How the Feds Spy on Reporters” [Cato Daily Podcast with Julian Sanchez and Caleb Brown]
- Thread on what government subsidies have done to Canadian literature. Reason to resist letting subsidies be pushed further into US literary arts sector, let alone print news as some would like [Jonathan Kay Twitter thread]
- A likely story: “Scottish Grandpa Claims He Checked ‘Terrorist’ Box on Visa Form by Mistake” [Kevin Underhill, Lowering the Bar]
“New York City’s attempt to hold five of the world’s biggest oil companies responsible for damage from global warming didn’t seem to impress a judge during oral arguments Wednesday to determine if a lawsuit can proceed.” Judge John F. Keenan grilled the city about its standing to sue, its own investments in the energy sector, and its attempt to dress up an already-lost challenge to emissions as a not-yet-tried challenge to sales of products resulting in emissions.
“Aren’t the plaintiffs using the product?” Keenan asked. “Does the city have clean hands?”
“Yes, the city uses fossil fuels,” [plaintiff’s attorney Matthew] Pava responded.
Within hours of a New Yorker investigation reporting on the stories of several women who accused him of assault, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has resigned. “Women’s issues had been a focal point for Mr. Schneiderman.” In particular, among other domestic violence laws, Schneiderman had backed the toughening of penalties for choking and interference with a victim’s breathing. [Danny Hakim and Vivian Wang, New York Times] My City Journal piece three years ago detailed how Schneiderman had become one of the nation’s most powerful and consequential progressive politicos. We previously covered disgraced former New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer’s involvement as a law enforcer with laws he was later to trip over.
After a Florida lawyer’s TV ads cultivate his “reputation for aggressively going after drunken drivers,” guess what happens next [New York Daily News]
Well, isn’t this a shame:
Brad Fitch, president and CEO of the Congressional Management Foundation, told Bloomberg BNA Feb. 16 that House “Democratic chiefs of staff are freaking out” about finding room in their budget for overtime wages.
It’s not clear whether the Obama administration’s forthcoming edict on overtime will apply to legislative staffers, but House Democratic leadership decided it would be prudent for their members to at least gesture toward the spirit of the controversial rule by preparing for compliance. [BNA Daily Labor Report] Now “the rule is creating administrative headaches” and more:
“We don’t have a set-hour kind of situation here; some kids work 12, 14, 16 hours a day, weekends, and I feel terrible that I cannot afford to give raises to the staff,” Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) told Bloomberg BNA Feb. 11.
With $320,000 slashed from members’ representational allowances (MRAs) over the past four years, “I don’t see how we could pay overtime” for the “17 or 18 people that each of us is allowed to have—that’s problematic for me,” added Hastings, a senior member of the House Rules Committee.
Some members fear that an overtime mandate will result in having to send staffers home at 5 p.m., leaving phones unanswered and impairing constituent service. “Most members are of the sentiment that it’s impractical to be paying overtime,” said former Virginia Democratic Rep. Jim Moran, now a lobbyist, who suggests that members choose to close one of their district offices or reduce constituent correspondence to adjust to a smaller staff number.
In the bonbon box of schadenfreude, this is one of the ones I would save to eat last.
An administrative law judge has ruled that in 2014 the National Labor Relations Board, when it moved its headquarters to a different building in Washington, D.C., failed to carry out its obligation under federal labor law to fully negotiate the terms of the move with the union representing its workers. So if you’re a private company that feels constantly tripped up by the NLRB’s administration of the National Labor Relations Act, don’t feel bad: even the agency tormenting you can’t manage to comply [NLRB and NLRB Union, FLRA.gov via Jon Nadler]
“Law firm Morgan & Morgan PLLC has agreed to pay a former employee the wages she alleged are owed because the firm misclassified case managers as exempt from overtime pay, resolving a proposed collective action, according to documents filed Thursday in Georgia federal court.” [Law360; earlier on overtime actions against this firm, which itself files overtime suits]
It’s a familiar libertarian insight that regulation often holds government itself to lower standards than it does private actors. Pension funds for public employees are mostly immune from the federal solvency and funding requirements that apply to their private counterparts; Federal Trade Commission rules against false advertising by private companies do not restrain false advertising by government actors on the same topics; the FTC can fine companies massively for data breaches even as the federal government itself suffers gigantic losses of sensitive data to foreign actors with few, if any, visible career consequences for those who had dozed; anticompetitive practices per se illegal under antitrust law become legal when the states engage in them, and so on and so forth.
Now David Konisky of Indiana University and Manuel Teodoro of Texas A&M, in a study published by the American Journal of Political Science entitled “When Governments Regulate Governments,” have taken a look at some data:
Our empirical subjects are public and private entities’ compliance with the U.S. Clean Air Act and Safe Drinking Water Act. We find that, compared with private firms, governments violate these laws significantly more frequently and are less likely to be penalized for violations.
For the study, Konisky and Teodoro examined records from 2000 to 2011 for power plants and hospitals regulated under the Clean Air Act and from 2010 to 2013 for water utilities regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The study included over 3,000 power plants, over 1,000 hospitals and over 4,200 water utilities — some privately owned and others owned by public agencies.
* For power plants and hospitals, public facilities were on average 9 percent more likely to be out of compliance with Clean Air Act regulations and 20 percent more likely to have committed high-priority violations.
* For water utilities, public facilities had on average 14 percent more Safe Drinking Water Act health violations and were 29 percent more likely to commit monitoring violations.
* Public power plants and hospitals that violated the Clean Air Act were 1 percent less likely than private-sector violators to receive a punitive sanction and 20 percent less likely to be fined.
*Public water utilities that violated Safe Drinking Water Act standards were 3 percent less likely than investor-owned utilities to receive formal enforcement actions.
[After speculating that public operators may find it harder to raise funds promptly for needed facilities improvements:] Public entities also face lower costs for violating the regulations, the authors argue. There is evidence from other studies that they are able to delay or avoid paying fines when penalties are assessed. And officials with regulatory agencies may be sympathetic to violations by public entities, because they understand the difficulty of securing resources in the public sector.
Socialist Seattle councilor “allegedly structured her employees …to avoid payroll taxes, overtime, and insurance.” [Jason Rantz, MyNorthwest]