FEMA Administrator Confirmed

The Senate confirmed Peter Gaynor on Tuesday to be Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Gaynor previously served as the Director of Rhode Island’s Emergency Management Agency (RIEMA) and advised Governor Gina Raimondo on emergency management and response.

USMCA Passes Senate

The Senate passed the United States-Canada-Mexico trade agreement (USMCA) this morning 89-10. Earlier in the day, it made its way through committees of jurisdiction.  On the Senate Commerce Committee, Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Ed Markey (D-MA) voted against the agreement, citing its lack of environmental protections as the reason for their decision. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) voted in favor, but took the opportunity to criticize the agreement’s Section 230-like language. He asserted that it has allowed big tech to censor speech and expressed disappointment in its inclusion. Cruz added that US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told Republicans that the provision does not reform, but rather reflects, current law, so the “good news” is that current law can change.

War Powers Resolution

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) announced on Tuesday that they have the simple majority needed to pass a war powers resolution limiting President Trump’s ability to escalate tensions with Iran. The measure is expected to pass with support from all 45 Democrats, as well as Senators Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Lee (R-UT), Todd Young (R-IN), and Susan Collins (R-ME), but President Trump will veto the resolution.

Future of Work Caucus

On Tuesday, Reps. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) and Bryan Steil (R-WI) launched the Future of Work Caucus with approximately a dozen members. Per a Dear Colleague, the Caucus “will discuss the growing effects of automation on the workforce, the emerging impact of artificial intelligence on society, and how technological innovation might reshape the labor market. We hope to educate policymakers, stakeholders, and the general public with the latest information and empower them to successfully navigate the disruptions that are coming and are already underway.”

Phase 1 of US-China Trade Deal Signed

The US and China signed “Phase 1” of a trade deal on Wednesday after almost two years of sparring. One lingering problem the deal addresses, but does not thoroughly resolve, relates to forced technology transfers. In order to gain access to the lucrative Chinese market, foreign companies, which in some industries are required to form joint ventures with local firms to operate, are pressured to hand over sensitive technology as a “cost” of doing business. Phase 1 forestalls until later many of these thornier structural issues at the heart of the U.S.-China trade dispute. Phase 2 is certain to be even more complicated.

Report on FAA Certification Process

A Special Committee created by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao following the two fatal crashes of Boeing 737-MAX aircraft to examine the FAA’s certification process issued its report today. While the Committee generally praised the FAA’s certification processes, including its Organization Designation Authorization (ODA) process, and cautioned against any systemic dismantling of the FAA’s process, it made over twenty recommendations for improvements.

California Law AB 5

On January 9, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William Highberger held that AB 5 – the California law that went into effect on January 1 and transitioned thousands of workers from independent contractors to employees – is preempted as it applies to truck drivers due to federal law as applied to motor carriers. In a separate case, US District Judge Roger Benitez on January 13 extended a temporary restraining order that prevents the state from enforcing AB 5 as it applies to truck drivers pending his ruling on the motion for a preliminary injunction. A ruling is expected in the coming days. Read more about AB 5 and its impact here in last week’s Emerging Technologies Washington Update.

Read more in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Emerging Technologies Washington Update.