Powers of the Pen and Our Safety
The NY Times has two articles that raise the question of the pen being mightier than the sword.
“Dozens of major regulations passed recently by the Obama administration — including far-reaching changes on health care, consumer protections and environmental safety — could be undone with the stroke of a pen by Donald J. Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress starting in January, thanks to a little-used law that dates back to 1996.
And it comes with a scorched-earth kicker: If the law is used to strike down a rule, the federal agency that issued it is barred from enacting similar regulation again in the future.
The obscure law — called the Congressional Review Act — was passed 20 years ago at the behest of Newt Gingrich, then the House speaker and now a member of Mr. Trump’s transition team. It gives Congress 60 legislative days to review and override major regulations enacted by federal agencies. In the Senate, the vote would not be subject to filibuster.
The president can veto the rejection, which usually renders the law toothless. But when one party controls both the White House and Congress, it can be a powerful legislative weapon.
So far it has only been successfully used once: In 2001, a Republican Congress invoked it to eliminate workplace safety regulations adopted in the final months of President Clinton’s tenure. President George W. Bush signed the repeal two months after his inauguration, wiping out stricter ergonomics rules that had been 10 years in the making.
On Jan. 20, when Mr. Trump takes office with a Republican-controlled Congress — one that has indicated its zeal for undoing President Obama’s doings — more than 150 rules adopted since late May are potentially vulnerable to the ax, according to an analysis by the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center.
“It allows the election results to be applied almost retroactively, to snip off activity that happened at the end of the last administration,” said Adam Levitin, a law professor at Georgetown.” See
After steady declines over the last four decades, highway fatalities last year recorded the largest annual percentage increase in 50 years. And the numbers so far this year are even worse. In the first six months of 2016, highway deaths jumped 10.4 percent, to 17,775, from the comparable period of 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. See statistics at https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812332
“This is a crisis that needs to be addressed now,” Mark R. Rosekind, the head of the agency, said in an interview….
“Most new vehicles sold today have software that connects to a smartphone and allows drivers to place phone calls, dictate texts and use apps hands-free. Ford Motor has its Sync system, for example. Others, including Honda, Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz, offer their own interfaces as well as Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto.
Automakers say these systems enable customers to concentrate on driving even while interacting with their smartphones.
“The whole principle is to bring voice recognition to customers so they can keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel,” said Alan Hall, a spokesman for Ford, which began installing Sync in cars in 2007….
But Deborah Hersman, president of the nonprofit National Safety Council and a former chairwoman of the federal National Transportation Safety Board, said it was not clear how much those various technologies reduced distraction — or, instead, encouraged people to use even more functions on their phones while driving. And freeing the drivers’ hands does not necessarily clear their heads. “It’s the cognitive workload on your brain that’s the problem,” Ms. Hersman said….
“Insurance companies, which closely track auto accidents, are convinced that the increasing use of electronic devices while driving is the biggest cause of the rise in road fatalities, according to Robert Gordon, a senior vice president of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.
“This is a serious public safety concern for the nation,” See http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/16/business/tech-distractions-blamed-for-rise-in-traffic-fatalities.html