Create or retrieve your password by clicking here

Advocacy Update | Monday, Dec. 14 (AM)

December 14, 2020

Election and Transition News

  • State electors in the Electoral College will vote today to officially elect President-elect Joe Biden as President.
  • Rumors continue to circulate about potential picks for Secretary of Transportation. Elevate reported last week that David Kim, who currently serves as Secretary of the California State Transportation Agency, was being vetted. Published reports indicate that South Bend Mayor and former Democratic Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg is also potentially being considered for the position.
    • As a reminder, Mayor Buttigieg pushed for a $1T infrastructure package during the campaign that included transitioning to a vehicle-miles-traveled tax.
  • The transition team has added additional members its agency review teams as the transition continues and additional positions in the future Biden Administration are filled. Recently, the team added employees working for large tech companies, such as Facebook, to various teams including:
    • Zaid Zaid, currently a member of Facebook’s public policy team, to the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development teams;
    • Christopher Upperman, a manager on Facebook’s governance and strategic initiatives team, to the Small Business Administration team;
    • Rachel Lieber, an associate general counsel and director of investigations and strategic response for Facebook, to the Intelligence Community team;
    • Deon Scott, a global business operations program manager in people operations for Google and former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employee under President Obama, to the DHS team; and
    • Christiana Ho, the Florida Program director for the President-elect’s campaign, to the FCC review team.
  • Congress continues to negotiate COVID-19 relief as the Friday, December 18 deadline of the current expiration of the Continuing Resolution (CR) looms. That deadline could be extended, however via an additional CR.
    • The bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers who released the framework of a $908B COVID-19 relief package two weeks ago is expected to formally introduce the legislation and publish legislative language today. The group reached an agreement Sunday to break the two most controversial components, liability protections and state and local relief, into a separate bill.
     A two-bill approach may prove problematic given previous opposition to separating the provisions by Democratic Congressional leadership.
  • A group of close to 60 education organizations sent a letter to Congressional leaders Friday urging for increased funding to bridge the so-called “homework gap” faced by students across the U.S. by improving connectivity. The group wrote that the gap requires closer to $12B to bridge. As a reminder, the bipartisan framework currently includes $3B for a “connectivity fund.”
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech Friday for emergency use in people age 16 and above in the U.S. Friday. Initial doses have already begun being transported and will begin to be administered to those most at risk from the virus, including nursing home residents and frontline healthcare workers.
    • The FDA is expected to authorize Moderna’s vaccine later this month and the Federal government doubled its initial 100M dose order of the Moderna vaccine Friday.
    • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) cleared pilots and air traffic controllers to receive the Pfizer vaccine “with appropriate precaution,” such as waiting 48 hours before performing safety-related tasks, on Saturday. A full release on the announcement can be found here.
    • Other transportation industry groups, including in the aviation, rail and maritime industries are also pushing for their workers to be prioritized for the vaccine to protect the integrity of essential supply chains.

General Congress

  • Committee leaders on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and House Energy and Commerce Committees reached an agreement on so-called surprise medical bills Friday and hope to include the agreement in the end-of-year government funding package.
  • The Senate cleared the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on Friday sending the legislation to President Trump who, as recently as Sunday, repeated his threat to veto the legislation. Both the House and Senate cleared the NDAA with veto-proof majorities, but lawmakers would have to vote again to override the veto, a vote that could be difficult for some Congressional Republicans.
  • Negotiations on the end-of-year government funding package continue and details remain sparse. Public reports indicate that lawmakers are nearing an agreement and that a compromise on the omnibus could be announced as soon as today, with legislative text potentially following as soon as tomorrow. Elevate continues to engage on a myriad of potential inclusions including, but not limited to:
    • The Water Resources Development Act which would authorize a number of important water infrastructure programs and fundamentally improve the way Harbor Maintenance Tax funds are dispersed;
    • The above-mentioned surprise medical billing agreement;
    • Potential COVID-19 relief, including:
     Transit relief
     Airport and concessionaires relief
     Airline relief/Payroll Support Program (PSP) extension
     Relief for aviation manufacturers
     Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) second draw loans and 501(c)6 expansion
     State and local relief
     Provisions related to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
     Funding for hospitals/healthcare facilities/schools
     Single and multi-employer pension provisions
     Liability protections
     Broadband funding for, among other things, bridging the “homework gap”
     Reskilling/upskilling/apprenticeships
     Issues related to vaccine distribution and prioritization
     Travel and tourism relief
    • Energy legislation, including potentially the Americas Energy Innovation Act (S. 2657) which has been stuck in legislative limbo for months; and
    • Legislation tightening restrictions on the sale of vaping products.
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday on “The Role of Private Agreements and Existing Technology in Curbing Online Piracy.” The hearing will feature two panels of witnesses including:
    • Panel I
     Mr. Probir Mehta, Head of Global Intellectual Property and Trade Policy, Facebook, Inc.
     Ms. Ruth Vitale, Chief Executive Officer, CreativeFuture
     Mr. Mitch Glazier, Chairman and CEO, Recording Industry Association of America
     Mr. Joshua Lamel, Executive Director, Re:Create
    • Panel II
     Ms. Katherine Oyama, Global Director of Business Public Policy, YouTube
     Mr. Keith Kupferschmid, Chief Executive Officer, Copyright Alliance
     Mr. Noah Becker, President and Co-Founder, AdRev
     Mr. Dean S. Marks, Executive Director and Legal Counsel, Coalition for Online Accountability
  • A bipartisan group of lawmakers, led by Reps. Jackie Walorski (R-IN), Collin Peterson (D-MN), Darin LaHood (R-IL) and Ron Kind (D-WI) sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer Friday urging the Administration to extend active exclusions on Section 301 tariffs that are set to expire on December 31.
  • The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) issued a final rule Friday increasing the time that freight rail equipment can be left parked with its air brake system depressurized before necessitating a brake inspection. Canada passed a similar rule back in 2008 and has seen strong operational safety data since implementation. Specifically, Canada’s rule allowed for trains to be off-air for 24 hours. The FRA argues that the rule will decrease the number of idling locomotives, which could provide relief to communities affected by noise, vibration, and emissions from idling locomotives. The railroad industry, in comments on the draft rule earlier in the process, also pointed to an “annual $2M in fuel savings and a 3,600-ton reduction of carbon dioxide emissions” from allowing 24-hours off air.
    • The FRA has estimated that the industry could perform over 100,000 fewer class I brake inspections annually as a result of the rule.
  • The Department of Justice announced that any state attorneys general wishing to join the antitrust lawsuit against Google will have until January 15 to do so.
    • In addition to the Department of Justice lawsuit against Google, a coalition of states led by Colorado and Nebraska is expected to file its own lawsuit on Google’s control over the online search market as soon as this week.
  • Acting head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Adam Candeub was named Deputy Associate Attorney General and will begin that role today. Candeub has led efforts to implement President Trump’s Executive Order’s targeting tech and social media companies and has long been critical of Section 230 protections.
  • Hackers suspected to be working for the Russian government successfully reportedly breached multiple Federal agencies over the weekend, including the Departments of Treasury and NTIA, among others. It is unclear currently how significant the breaches were.
    Other News
  • The Supreme Court rejected Texas’s case to potentially invalidate electors in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Wisconsin, and Michigan. In a brief ruling, the Court wrote that Texas did not “demonstrate a judicially cognizable interest in the matter in which another State conducts its elections.”
  • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau restated his threat to impost a digital tax that would impact U.S. tech companies such as Facebook, Google, and Amazon, similar to the tax proposed by the European Union earlier this year. Published reports indicate that the unilateral tax would be imposed January 2022 under the current plan.
  • Prime Minister Trudeau is also pushing to expand Canada’s carbon tax amid attempts by the Canadian government to achieve significant emissions reductions by 2030. The new target would drive the carbon tax up to $133 per metric ton by 2030.
« »