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.
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.
Ranju Das of Amazon recently unveiled a new facial recognition service called Rekognition at a developer conference in Seoul, South Korea. This service is being launched in part with the Orlando, Florida’s police department. This software is capable of live facial recognition and movement tracking using the municipality’s surveillance cameras located around the city. According to a statement from the Orlando Police Department, they are not using the technology in an investigative capacity and in accordance with current and applicable laws.
The home sharing industry is booming and the sharing economy is more than established in many cities across the United States. Companies like Airbnb and Uber are leading the way for the industry’s boom. As expected, property rights will be a hot topic surrounding these companies and property owners for years to come. Efforts made by the states to regulate this industry, promote economic growth and protect the best interests of their constituents will continue to be under a microscope.
On May 23, 2018, following a series of deadly school bus incidents, the National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB, announced its recommendation to implement seat belts on all new school buses. A 2017 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report showed the average number of school bus related fatalities was 30 deaths per year and that 0.4 percent of national traffic fatalities were school-transportation related.