By Andy Blom, TES Washington Editor
Impeachment. There, we’ve wasted enough time on that. But while we were all trying our best to ignore the dog and pony show in the Senate, free market policy advocates kept working on issues and ideas that affect America, and the world. Read on for this week’s policy news (and there may be a bit of opinion in there too)…
- Let’s Start with Good News — No More WOTUS! One of the more impressive regulatory overreaches of the Obama Administration was WOTUS — Waters of the United States. WOTUS gave Federal regulators extensive, undefined power to determine what was a “Water of the United States” and what could or could not be done on, near or around it. The result was lots of regulations, red tape, litigation, fines and anger. The new Navigable Waters Protection Rule returns much of the power to the states, and the people, bringing regulatory certainty to American farmers, landowners, and businesses. It’s a big deal and a big improvement — and it could affect you. Find out how here.
- In the States: Unfunded Benefits Threaten Taxpayers. As Public Employee Pension Reform staggers forward there is a staggering new problem to consider — Other Post Employment Benefit Liabilities (OPEB). Think health insurance, life insurance, Medicare Supplemental Insurance and more. Many states don’t adequately fund OPEB plans and many don’t pre-fund them at all. How big is the problem? Currently, total state unfunded OPEB liabilities exceed $1 trillion. California, naturally, leads the way with over $166 Billion in unfunded liabilities and even Kansas has nearly $285,000 in unfunded liabilities. Nebraska and South Dakota have…$0. The American Legislative Exchange Council has prepared an extensive report as part of their continuing series on State Fiscal Reform. Read up and prepare to open your wallet…unless you live in Nebraska or South Dakota… here.
- The Nation’s Infrastructure is Crumbling Because of…EIS? Author Greg Walcher of the Natural Resources Group brings some sobering facts, and hopeful news, about the state of our roads, highways, bridges, tunnels, airports and railways. Noting the ongoing decay and need for repair, Walter cites the problem — a massive environmental impact study industry — that delays improvements and raises costs dramatically. But there is hope in sight…a light at the end of the crumbling tunnel, so to speak: President Trump’s proposed changes to the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) process that would limit the the full process to two years and 300 pages, essentially cutting it in half. The details are fascinating and important. Walcher gives them to us at his website.
- Votes Have Consequences. Consider this Before You Vote for Climate Control. Never mind Greta Thunberg and climate scolds. Whether you believe there is an existential climate crisis or not, there are realities to policy decisions. Americans for Tax Reform has complied a list of 10 things that 2020 Democrat candidates would ban to “solve” the climate crisis. Take a look at how America, and your life, might change.
- The Revolting Populists — a Look into the Next Decade? The past decade has been increasingly turbulent. Populism has raised its voice with the election of Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Brexit, and similar events around the globe. Establishment elites have struggled to retain top-down control, but social media, and the internet age have made the public voice an increasing factor in politics and daily life. Will that trend define the roaring ’20’s? Martin Gurri, Visiting Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center, has an interesting take here.
- Silencing Dissent by Shutting Down…the Federalist Society? Really? The Committee on Codes of Conduct of the Judicial Conference of the United States has proposed that judges and clerks no longer be allowed to to be members of the Federalist Society, as it would cast doubt on a judge’s impartiality. This, allegedly, in contrast to the allowed membership in the notoriously liberal American Bar Association. Of course the ABA is politically active, and routinely endorses liberal positions. The Federalist Society does not take policy positions, lobby, file amicus briefs, or endorse candidates. They just make the liberal legal establishment nervous. Which is probably good for them. Quinn Hilyer tells the story here.
- Into the Weeds on Tariff Exclusions. But Weeds are Important. President Trumps controversial tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum have caused some complications, many arising from “Section 232” allowing U.S. manufacturers to apply for relief. Well, relief has been applied for tens of thousands of times through the program’s “exclusion request” process. And now the process have changed, introducing a new “portal” to replace regulations.gov. Complications, irregularities abound. Look more deeply into the complexities of trade and regulation here.
- ASSESSING THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION’’S “NAVIGABLE WATERS PROTECTION RULE”. Monday, February 3, 12 PM – 1 PM. The Heritage Foundation’s Lehrman Auditorium, 214 Massachusetts Ave, NE. RSVP at heritage.org/events.
- COALITION MEETING. Roundtable Policy Discussion. Wednesday, February 5, 12 PM – 1 PM. Americans for Tax Reform Conference Room, 6th Floor, 722 12th, NW. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org by 6 PM, 4/4/20. Lunch.
- AMERICA’S EXPIRATION DATE, The Fall of Empires and Superpowers and the Future of the United States. Author Cal Thomas. Thursday, February 6, 12 PM – 1 PM. The Heritage Foundation’s Lehrman Auditorium, 214 Massachusetts Ave, NE. RSVP at org/events.
- THE U.S. NEEDS A STRONG NATO. Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison. Thursday, February 6, 4:30 PM – 5:30 PM. The Heritage Foundation’s Allison Auditorium, 214 Massachusetts Ave, NE. RSVP at heritage.org/events.
- PENNSYLVANIA LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE. Congressman Jason Chaffetz. March 27-28. Radisson Penn Harris, Camp Hill, PA. Info and register at PALeadershipConference.org.
Andresen Blom is a Washington based policy and political analyst and author who has been published in The Wall Street Journal, The Hill, and Politico.