Although the nation’s longest-ever government shutdown has ended, agencies forced to furlough employees and shutter temporarily are still facing the effects of the funding gap. On January 25th, President Trump agreed to sign a continuing resolution that will reopen and fund the federal government through February 15th. The government reboot means that the roughly 800,000 federal employees furloughed or forced to work without pay should expect to receive their back pay soon, but the thirty-five-day suspension of government functions comes with significant aftershock. While various regulatory agencies scramble to address their backlog of work, life for Americans who interact with these agencies has been hindered indefinitely.
Following a public meeting in October, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) agreed to share joint regulation of cell-culture “meat” technology. This decision came on the tail end of public squabble between the two regulatory bodies regarding the oversight of cell-culture, or lab-produced meat. The regulatory framework for this type of quasi-agriculture has been unclear, especially after the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy issued the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology initiative that attempted to coordinate the roles of various agencies involved in emerging biotechnology. The new, definitive regulatory structure has been thoroughly praised and welcomed by top cell-culture meat companies, who have expressed open frustration with the older, confusing framework, claiming that it hindered both consumer protection and technological innovation.
In the age of digitization, data seems less secure than ever. Public companies constantly attempt to safeguard both personal and financial data, yet their efforts fail due to new outbreaks of malicious encryption viruses and persistent email phishing attempts. Data breaches and cyber fraud carry severe financial implications for public companies who fall victim to these types of attacks. But a new Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) report says that public companies that are easy targets of cyber scams could also be in violation of federal securities laws and accounting regulations that call for firms to safeguard their assets. Although the SEC has issued its warning to public companies about the compliance and financial risks posed by cyber fraud, many companies are still struggling to implement effective protections against newly-evolved forms of cyber-attacks.
A new set of student loan forgiveness regulations introduced earlier this year aimed to hack away at “borrower-defense” protections which shielded students from predatory loan practices by for-profit universities. Under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the Department of Education crafted new, more restrictive borrower-defense regulations after blocking an Obama Administration regulation from going into effect last year. U.S. District Court Judge Randolph Moss sided with consumer rights activists who argued against the Secretary of Education, alleging the Department of Education violated federal law and procedure by repealing the Borrower Defense to Repayment rule. The Trump Administration requested another opportunity to delay the regulations from taking effect, but Judge Moss has not yet ruled on their request.