Jay Phillips

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The repeal of net neutrality rules under the Obama administration has now been in effect for four months. During this time, states have re-enacted the rules at the state level, urged the federal government to reinstate the rules, and appealed the decision to a D.C. federal court. Net neutrality is the principle that internet service providers—including Verizon, AT&T, Spectrum, and others—should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.

Natural disasters have continued to grow in number, strength and size since weather data has been recorded. Recently, California was subject to the largest wildfire in the state’s history; an estimated 1.2 million acres has already burned, and fire season is far from over. The East Coast and Gulf Coast have seen a stream of hurricanes for the past several years. So far this year, we’ve seen nine hurricanes form in the Atlantic Ocean alone with three making landfall. Many states continue to see flooding worsen as levees grow higher along the Mississippi, drainage infrastructure fails, or record rainfalls strike overnight. Hawaii continues to watch the eruption of Kilauea as well as manage Tropical Storm Olivia.

In March, Florida enacted HB 7087, which creates several one-time tax exemptions related to hurricane response, preparedness and recovery.

Sanctuary States Map

Immigration has been thrust into the federal and state spotlight following recent events. The backlog of immigration requests, the wait for a visa, and illegal immigration are issues government officials on all sides of the debate often address. Historically, the federal government has involved state and local officials in the enforcement of immigration laws, more so when public opposition to immigration grows. In 2018, the nation is still faced with solving a perplexing issue that has no easy solution.

The cost of nursing home/assisted living care has continued to rise. The average daily cost of nursing home care in the United States is $235, with a high of $800 per day in Alaska, and a low of $147 in Oklahoma. The increasing cost of care for loved ones has placed burden on the federal and state governments, as well as the American people searching for cheaper alternatives.

HR 2353, or the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006, was reauthorized by President Donald Trump through fiscal year 2023, under the new title Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V). The act was first established in 1984, then reauthorized in 1998, 2006 and now 2018 to increase the quality of career and technical education (CTE). This act adds $100 million over six years—an 11 percent increase over the fiscal year 2018 funding levels—aimed to expand the reach of CTE programs.

States are increasingly pursuing new streams of revenue to effectively operate and minimize debt. Some states have established or are pursuing a “millionaire’s tax” to minimize budget shortfalls and increase state revenue. The tax is primarily an income tax. California, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York have all established a such a tax. Massachusetts chose to not enact their version of the millionaire’s tax. In Arizona, a ballot measure is up for approval. Every state’s tax structure is different, but it boils down to taxing an individual which makes upward of $250,000 or more.

On June 28, 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Services, or VETS, announced a professional license and credential finder portal for military spouses. The webpage comes after President Trump’s Executive Order Enhancing Noncompetitive Civil Service Appointments of Military Spouses. The webpage provides a comprehensive one-stop destination for occupational licensing portability, pulls resources from across the federal government, and highlights states with licensing rights for military spouses.

Gag clauses are at the forefront of state policy decisions as state policymakers attempt to reduce the cost of prescription medications. Gag clauses are established in PBM-pharmacy contracts prohibit pharmacists from informing consumers, unless asked, about cheaper ways to purchase prescriptions or access more effective alternatives, i.e., a lower cost generic drug or newer brand name drug with better outcomes. From 2016 to 2018, 22 states enacted legislation to prohibit the use of gag clauses to provide consumers and pharmacists more ability to communicate about cheaper options. Another nine states have legislation still pending. Eight states have legislation regulating pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs, through audits, licensing and maximum allowable cost statutes that do not directly address gag clauses. More than eight states have Maximum Allowable Cost (MAC) statutes and auditing and licensing procedures enacted, however they also address gag clauses or claw backs specifically in their bill.

Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, or CRISPR, is currently the most direct and readily available methodology to edit DNA. Scientists are using this technology to develop drought-resistant plants, plants that do not need as much sunlight, plants that grow normally when over watered, and other variations. Since the United States Department of Agriculture, or USDA, announced in April that it would no longer regulate genetically edited crops, it is likely that a CRISPR-edited crop will soon come to market.The USDA decision leaves only the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, and the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, as the overseeing agencies of current CRISPR regulations. The FDA announced a Request for Comment seeking public input on their regulation of intentionally altered genomic DNA in animals in January 2018. The EPA regulates CRISPR-based innovation that would affect microbiomes, insect health and pest extermination agents.

An uptick in concern about digital privacy is sweeping the nation. Incidents such as injury law firm advertisements targeting emergency room patients based on location, smart home assistants recording conversations unbeknown to their owners, and Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal have all contributed to concerns about digital privacy.

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