Policy Area

At a May 14 event to kick off Infrastructure Week 2018 in Washington, D.C., U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao both reiterated the Trump administration’s hopes for a comprehensive infrastructure package this year and acknowledged the challenge inherent in making it a reality.

“This administration sent out a bill on Feb. 12 of this year to the Congress and we hope that there will be a bipartisan effort to talk about how we can rebuild and repair our infrastructure,” she said. “The difficulty is how do we pay for it.”

Virginia Legislature Votes for Expansion

On May 30, the Virginia Senate voted, with 4 Republicans supporting the measure, to expand Medicaid eligibility to all individuals with income at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty line, according to the Washington Post. Later in the day, the House of Delegates approved the bill by 67 to 31. Gov. Northam, a pediatrician who campaigned in 2017 on expanding Medicaid, is expected to sign the bill.

Climate Adaptation

Earlier this year, electric utility FirstEnergy announced that it would close three nuclear power plants—Beaver Valley in Pennsylvania, Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants in Ohio—by 2021.

According to an analysis done by the research firm Brattle Group, the retirement of these three nuclear...

Recent polls record the American public’s concern about health care costs—and analysis documents the increase in out of pocket costs, up 11 percent on average in 2017. Policymakers worry that national health care spending—reaching $3.3 trillion or $10,348 per person in 2016 according to the official federal estimate and accounting for 17.9 percent of gross domestic product—is unsustainable.

At a recent meeting I attended in Washington, D.C., a group of researchers and health care industry officials addressed the question “Why are Healthcare Prices So High, and What can be Done About Them?”

My biggest take aways were slides showing that 50 percent of healthcare cost increases are driven by the prices charged and that Medicare and Medicaid have been able to hold healthcare prices steady while private insurance has seen a 70% increase since 1996.

Collins v. Virginia is like a tricky logic problem. Police need a warrant to search the curtilage of a home but not to search a vehicle. So is a warrant needed to search a vehicle located on the curtilage of a home? Yes holds the Supreme Court.

More technically, in an 8-1 decision the Supreme Court held that the Fourth Amendment automobile exception does not permit police officers to search vehicles parked in the curtilage of a home without a warrant.  

In addition to the prospects for a federal infrastructure package in 2018, one of the other major topics at various events during Infrastructure Week 2018 (May 14-21) in Washington, D.C. was public-private partnerships. The National Association of Counties and the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings hosted an event May 17 on “modernizing infrastructure policies to advance” P3s. Two veterans of P3 deals, John Porcari of WSP and Judah Gluckman of the D.C. Office of Public-Private Partnerships, were among the panelists. Here’s a report on some of what was said. 

While a comprehensive infrastructure bill may not be in the cards for 2018, that doesn’t mean infrastructure won’t factor into this year’s Congressional agenda. It also didn’t mean Infrastructure Week (May 14-21) was completely devoid of infrastructure-related news. Far from it. Here’s a roundup of some of the infrastructure news from the last couple of weeks.

On March 23, President Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 into law, a federal law that included $380 million in grants to be made available to states. This 2018 HAVA Election Security Fund is the first new appropriations to be dispersed to states since Fiscal Year 2010.

Virginia has the largest known uranium deposit in the United States. Since its discovery in the 1980s the Virginia legislature has banned uranium mining. Unsurprisingly the land owner, Virginia Uranium, wants to mine. In Virginia Uranium v. Warren the Supreme Court will decide whether the Atomic Energy Act (AEA) preempts the ban.

The AEA allows states to “regulate activities for purposes other than protection against radiation hazards.” Virginia and Virginia Uranium agree uranium mining isn’t an “activity” per the AEA so states may regulate it for safety reasons. Uranium-ore milling and tailings storage are “activities” under the AEA so states can’t regulate them for safety reasons. Milling is the process of refining ore and tailings storage refers to the remaining (radioactive) material which must be stored.

Would it surprise you to learn that more than 750,000 people in Oklahoma, including most Tulsa residents, live on an Indian reservation? That isn’t exactly what the Tenth Circuit held in Murphy v. Royal. But it illustrates what is at stake in this case, which the Supreme Court will decide next term.  

Patrick Murphy killed George Jacobs. Oklahoma prosecuted Murphy. Per the Major Crimes Act states lacks jurisdiction to prosecute Native Americans who commit murder in “Indian country.” Murphy is Native American. Murphy and Oklahoma disagree over whether the murder took place on a Creek Nation reservation.

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