- Next sector for a boom in IP litigation: trade secrets? [Ike Brannon]
- Creating split among federal appeals courts, Seventh Circuit rules auto-erotic asphyxiation falls under insurance policy exclusion for “self-inflicted injury.” [Volokh; Tran v. Minnesota Life Insurance Company] In its commentary, the Institute for Justice is willing to go there: “Will the Supreme Court resolve the split? Don’t hold your breath.”
- “The county has assigned at least four prosecutors to handle the Bellevue cat case” as Miska, the most notorious cat in King County, Washington, lawyers up [KIRO]
- I’m quoted in article on Supreme Court’s agreeing to consider whether 1964 ban on employment discrimination because of sex includes ban on transgender discrimination [Nicole Russell, Washington Examiner]
- Federalist Society podcast on populist antitrust with Babette Boliek, Geoffrey Manne, William Rinehart, Hal Singer, and Joanna Tsai;
- Did a mobile home park violate housing discrimination law by checking applicants’ lawful immigration status? Fourth Circuit ruling threatens to open “disparate-impact” floodgates Supreme Court warned of in earlier case [Ilya Shapiro and Nathan Harvey on Cato cert amicus in Waples Mobile Home Park v. de Reyes]
New from me and Cato colleague Ryan Bourne in the Washington Post:
One thing we’ve learned in this year’s debate over a statewide $15 minimum wage, now set to become law after the legislature overrode Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) veto today, is that affluent central Maryland doesn’t want to listen to hard-hit rural Maryland….
In the debate over the $15 minimum wage, lawmakers from [already high-wage] Montgomery County, Baltimore City and Howard County were nearly unanimously in favor, with most delegates supporting strong versions of the scheme. Meanwhile, most lawmakers from depressed parts of the state were passionately opposed.
Guess who had the numbers to outvote whom?…
Affluent sections of Maryland can vote for $15 without much worry that a large share of their job base will disappear. Poor counties can’t.
Whole thing here (update: unpaywalled version). Related: Highly informative Jacob Vigdor/Russ Roberts interview on the Seattle studies, and on the strategies that employers (restaurants in particular) use to adjust [David Henderson, Econlib] More on the problems of applying a uniform law to portions of the country with seriously different wage levels and costs of living [Daniel McLaughlin, NRO] Some observations of mine at an earlier stage of the Maryland debate [Free State Notes] Ryan Bourne on adjustments at Whole Foods following its accession under political pressure to a $15 minimum [Cato].
- Politicians interfere with a complex industry they don’t understand: when the $15 minimum wage came to New York car washes [Jim Epstein, Reason: article, 13:32 video]
- “D.C. Repeals a Minimum Wage Hike That Restaurant Workers Didn’t Want” [Eric Boehm, Reason] “Tipping lawsuit leads popular Salem restaurant to declare bankruptcy” [Dan Casey, Roanoke Times]
- Challenging a premise: “Why a federal minimum wage?” [Scott Sumner] “Pew Map Shows One Reason a National $15 Minimum Wage Won’t Work” [Joe Setyon, Reason]
- New evidence on effects of Seattle $15 minimum: benefits go to workers with relatively high experience, “8% reduction in job turnover rates as well as a significant reduction in the rate of new entries into the workforce.” [NBER] “Minimum wage hike in Venezuela shuts stores, wipes out many jobs” [Hans Bader]
- “Ontario labour minister’s office vandalized after minimum wage cap announced” [Canadian Press, CBC background of Ford provincial government rollback of Wynne-era labor measures]
- DoL plans new rules on joint-employer definition [Jaclyn Diaz, Bloomberg; Alex Passantino, Seyfarth Shaw, earlier]
It would take a heart of stone not to laugh: after spurning Wells Fargo Bank, the city of Seattle has gone back after finding no other bank wants its business. “The City Council in February 2017 voted 9-0 to pull its account from Wells Fargo, saying the city needs a bank that reflects its values.” Aside from the scandal over fabricated customer accounts, “Seattle was the first to make the Dakota Access Pipeline — fully operational since last June — a major reason for severing ties with the bank.”
It turned out, however, that other large money-center banks like JP Morgan Chase have also riled anti-fossil-fuel activists with their own involvements in project finance. “Glen Simecek, president and CEO of the Washington Bankers Association, a trade association of banks across Washington, said he wasn’t surprised the city had a tough time attracting a new partner” citing “disdain” by members of the city council. “It is a challenge, I don’t envy bankers trying to walk that line. They want to serve the city, but the challenge of an activist city council makes that harder to do.” [Lynda V. Mapes, Seattle Times]
The only way to make the story funnier would have been for Wells Fargo to have said no.
A “union-backed activist group says Amazon should be charged with a crime for its threat to roll back job growth” if the Seattle City Council follows through with a controversial tax idea to assess larger firms a new per-employee tax. “The group, Working Washington, is asking Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson to charge Amazon with a Class B felony: ‘intimidating a public servant,’ citing the company’s move to pause some construction and leasing in the city pending the outcome of the vote on the so-called ‘head tax.’…Former state Attorney General Rob McKenna called the group’s prosecution demand absurd, saying the law in question is aimed at protecting individual public employees from personal threat, particularly of physical force.” [Jim Brunner, Seattle Times] More: John Sexton.
Commenter @Living4Winter on Twitter: “It’s so fricken weird when Ayn Rand comes true.” On Monday the Seattle city council voted 5-4 to approve the tax; a final vote will come later and Mayor Jenny Durkan has signaled that she may veto the measure. [KOMO] Update: the council unanimously adopts a tax set lower, at $275 rather than $500 per worker. [Matt Day and Daniel Beekman, Seattle Times]
More: Eugene Volokh with a more thorough First Amendment legal analysis (Working Washington’s theory “would criminalize a vast range of ordinary political action” including “an advocacy group’s threatening to boycott a city if the city council doesn’t change some law that the threatener thinks unjust.”)
A Washington court has struck down Seattle’s new law requiring landlords to rent to the first qualified tenant-applicant who applies, supposedly as a way of countering unconscious or implicit bias. Judge Suzanne Parisien
said the law violated property rights by stripping landlords of their ability to “freely dispose of property” and to choose their own tenant, a “fundamental attribute of property ownership.”
The judge also concluded the law violated landlords’ due process rights by imposing the rule without limitation. “A law that undertakes to abolish or limit the exercise of rights beyond what is necessary to provide for the public welfare cannot be included in the lawful police power of the government,” she wrote.
Finally, the judge said the law violated the First Amendment by broadly banning certain types of advertising by property owners absent individualized suspicion of discrimination. [David Kroman, Crosscut, earlier] More: Ilya Somin.
- “Special economic zones can be anything from tools of crony capitalism to seeds of a freer world order.” [Tom W. Bell on The Political Economy of Special Economic Zones by Lotta Moberg]
- 33 state constitutions have “baby Ninths,” which like federal version suggest existence and protection of some unenumerated individual rights. Potential there [Anthony B. Sanders, Rutgers Law Review forthcoming/SSRN]
- Judge hears argument on Seattle law ordering landlords to accept first otherwise qualified tenant who applies [Heidi Groover/The Stranger, earlier]
- Labeling of food, other products as “natural” helps keep class action lawyers in business [Julie Creswell, New York Times]
- SESTA, FOSTA, and trafficking: L.A. Times editorial warns on dangers of abridging Section 230 protections for Internet freedom [earlier here, here, etc.]
- Saga of Zen Magnets versus the CPSC, told in detail [Alan Prendergast, Westword (Denver); earlier; related, Nancy Nord]
- Among this administration’s most notable accomplishments — hurrah for Labor Sec. Alex Acosta and team — is to ditch its predecessor’s horrible overtime rules [Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post on opinion letters and internships] DoL rollback of Obama rules on tip pooling is fully justified [Christian Britschgi]
- “A Seattle Game-Changer? The latest empirical research further underscores the harm of minimum wage laws” [Ryan Bourne, Regulation mag] “Report: California’s $15 Minimum Wage Will Destroy 400,000 Jobs” [Scott Shackford]
- It just couldn’t have been Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne’s fault that some donut-franchise workers saw benefits and breaks trimmed after a minimum wage hike. “Instead, she attacked the employers.” [David Henderson; Robyn Urback/CBC and May Warren/Toronto Metro on changes by owners of some Tim Horton outlets]
- Study: grocery stores hike prices when minimum wage rises, “poor households are most negatively affected” [Tyler Cowen on Renkin, Montialoux, and Siegenthaler paper] New York enacts a minimum wage law applying to restaurant chains with at least 30 outlets, and presto-change-o, some upstate pizzerias have new names and are now separate businesses [Geoff Herbert, Syracuse.com]
- “Employer Responsibilities under the Fair Labor Standards Act After a Disaster” [Annamaria Duran, SwipeClock, promotional material for software product but informative even so]
- If lawsuits succeed in forcing ridesharing into employment mold, many will find it less attractive to earn money by driving [Coyote]
“In Yim v. City of Seattle, PLF is challenging an anti-discrimination law that prohibits landlords from choosing their own tenants. Today, we filed our opening brief to ask the Court to invalidate this oppressive and brazen violation of fundamental rights. Under Seattle’s ‘first-in-time’ rule, a landlord must offer a rental unit to the first person who submits an adequate application.” [Ethan Blevins, Pacific Legal Foundation, earlier on Seattle law purporting to require landlords to rent to first qualified tenant who applies] The law has been rationalized in part as a way to restrict the operation of “unconscious” bias. “The Seattle law illustrates an important downside of trying to use government regulation to offset the subconscious cognitive biases of the private sector: there is little, if any reason to believe that voters and politicians are less biased than the people whose behavior they are trying to regulate. Much of the time, they are likely to be more so.” [Ilya Somin]
THEY ARE NOT MESSING AROUND WITH THE NEW SUGAR TAX IN SEATTLE pic.twitter.com/xqmj7940y2
— hayden ? (@HaydenBedsole) January 5, 2018
The city of Seattle has now put its stiff new 1.75 cents per ounce tax on sugary beverages (text of bill) into effect, and Costco managers in the tech city, much to their credit, have not hesitated to post signs informing shoppers of its impact. According to a reporter’s photo, the sign atop a Gatorade Frost Variety Pack lists the regular Costco price of $15.99 along with $10.34 in newly added Seattle tax for a total of $26.33. Helpfully, an adjacent sign advises shoppers that the same item “is also available at our Tukwila and Shoreline locations without City of Seattle Sweetened Beverage Tax.”
- “First they interview people at the Costco who are rightfully shocked at how high prices on soda and sports drinks are now (they are almost doubled).”
- “Then they interview a public health advocate who says ‘that’s right! We want these prices to change people’s behavior and slow sales!’”
- “Then they talk to the consumer, ‘think you’ll change your behavior, maybe even shop somewhere else?’ And she’s like, ‘ya the Tukwila store is close enough.’ Then they ask a city council member if this will hurt local biz, who says ‘there is no data’ suggesting that.”
- “Then the SAME public health advocate says that people won’t respond to price increases, shopping elsewhere because it isn’t ‘worth their while.’”
- “You can’t have it both ways people! The tax is either big enough to elicit behavior change, which would slow sales and hurt local biz and potentially reduce calories, or it isn’t. Get your stories straight!”
In 2016 I wrote about Philadelphia’s soda tax that “while all taxes are evaded to some extent, excise taxes are especially subject to evasion based on local geography”, and followed up on the Philly measure’s possible openings for unlawful evasion and eventual public corruption. Seattle authorities intend to use the hoped-for $15 million revenue stream to fund various causes and organizations including an effort to bring fresh fruits and vegetables to urban neighborhoods, even though the once-voguish “food deserts” theory blaming dietary choices on the retail environment has sufferedone debunking after another in recent years. [cross-posted and expanded from Cato at Liberty]
P.S. I used to see this constantly from trial lawyers and their advocates on the question of whether it was a good thing for liability insurance rates to rise reflecting the big liberalization of tort recovery that was going on when I wrote The Litigation Explosion. Higher rates were socially desirable, they would say, because they would expose and discourage dangerous actors, such as incompetent doctors and drivers. There followed a big public reaction when it turned out it was not so easy to pick out bad apples ahead of time and that entire specialties like obstetricians and neurosurgeons were having to pay massive premiums. They then switched to the position that there was no connection between expected future payouts and liability premiums, that the problem was insurance companies being greedy, and that liability insurance rates should be frozen by law.
P.P.S. “Philadelphia implemented a 1.5-cent tax on soda in January of last year. …By August, the marketing firm Catalania found a 55 percent decline in the sale of carbonated soft drinks within the city limits — and a 38 percent jump in stores just outside of Philadelphia. Revenue from Philadelphia’s soda tax has also proven disappointing, coming in at $7 million below projections for fiscal year 2017.” [Christian Britschgi, Reason]