Under the legislation introduced by State Representative Martin Howrylak (R-41), citizens who win an Open Meetings Act (OMA) case against a public body can recover court costs and legal fees. House Bill 5778 states that persons who who take a public body to court in a civil OMA case can recover court costs and legal fees. “Public bodies have a responsibility to operate transparently and when we fail to do so, citizens should not be forced to foot the legal bill for exposing an injustice,” Howrylak said in a statement.
In response to the new Department of Labor (DOL) overtime rule set to take effect December 1, Congressman Kurt Schrader (D-OR) introduced legislation, titled the Overtime Reform and Enhancement Act (OREA), which would incrementally phase in the new salary threshold over the next three years. The three-year window is designed to give businesses adequate time to adjust to the new standard. The bill would also eliminate a provision in the final overtime rule that allows for automatic updates to the salary threshold every three years. Read more about the legislation on Congressman Schrader’s website.
NAB Executive Vice President of Communications Dennis Wharton issued the following statement: “NAB appreciates Rep. Schrader’s efforts to ease the burden of the Department of Labor’s overtime pay rule by phasing it in over three years. Broadcasters are committed to creating well-paying jobs in their local communities but share the widespread concern that the overtime rule could have a devastating impact on our day-to-day operations. We will continue to work with Members of Congress on common-sense approach to this issue that benefits all stakeholders.”
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler announced via a blog post that the FCC will not be taking any new regulatory actions on retransmission consent as a result of its investigation into its good faith rules.
Specifically, Wheeler stated that the FCC “will not proceed at this time to adopt additional rules governing good faith negotiations for retransmission consent.” This effectively closes the existing retransmission consent proceeding and ensures that broadcasters and pay-TV companies continue to negotiate in the free market as they have for more than two decades. Chairman Wheeler said that the existing rules were adequate to ensure good faith negotiations.
The MAB feels this is a great victory for television broadcasters and the result of the broadcasters’ strong advocacy at the FCC and on the Capitol Hill.
According to a report in Gongwer, a divided 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a 20-year-old decision that required federal criminal booking photos automatically be released on request. The judges argued that releasing those photos violate a “non-trivial privacy interest” defendants have in those booking photos.
Booking photos convey an image of guilt, the court held in Detroit Free Press v. U.S. Department of Justice (USCOA docket No. 14-1670), though a defendant may not be found guilty. The ability to easily find a booking photo online can have a dramatic effect on an individual’s ability to find work and their personal prospects, judges ruled in the final decision.
The dissent argued that “the court’s decision obscures government’s most coercive functions – the powers to detain and accuse – and returns them to the shadows. Open government is too dear a cost to pay for the mirage of privacy the majority has to offer.”
A challenge to this ruling would require that a petition for hearing be submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The MAB has started its summer series of in-district congressional meetings with Congressman Justin Amash (R-3) and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-12). The focus of the meetings is to update lawmakers on the status of the incentive spectrum auction, discuss co-sponsorship of the Local Radio Freedom Act and advocate for preserving ad tax deductibility in any future tax reform legislation.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) updated its rules to add more specific warnings through the Emergency Alert System (EAS) before extreme weather strikes. The amended rules add three new “event codes” that can be used to warn the public about the storm surges and extreme winds that may accompany hurricanes and other severe weather events.
The three added codes signify an (1) “Extreme Wind Warning,” (2) “Storm Surge Watch,” and (3) “Storm Surge Warning.” The updated rules require EAS equipment manufacturers to integrate the codes into new equipment and will also enable EAS participants to update their existing equipment in advance of 2017 Atlantic hurricane season.
Further information about EAS is available here.
According to a report in Broadcasting & Cable, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) filed the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the FCC requesting access to documents used in the process that led to the FCC’s recent ownership rules proposals. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s quadrennial review of broadcast ownership regulations leaves those regulations essentially intact, and restored additional restrictions on TV joint sales and shared services agreements.
The request, from NAB General Counsel/EVP Rick Kaplan, asks for materials used by the Media Bureau, Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis, and Wheeler in connection with developing and/or drafting policy recommendations for the circulated proposals. The Commission has 20 days to respond to the request. MAB is monitoring.
To date, 31 legislatures have enacted laws and another five have adopted resolutions addressing drone usage, according to a study done by the National Council of State Legislatures (NCSL). In Michigan, nine bills have been introduced addressing drone usage but none were signed into law yet.
The MAB continues to lobby the state legislature to include ‘news gathering exemption’ in the no-drone fly zone bills. The MAB also supports state legislation to create a legislative drone task force with the power to recommend policy proposals about drone use.
According to the NCSL:
- 12 states have passed legislation providing privacy protections from other citizens that are specific to drones.
- 18 have passed legislation requiring law enforcement to obtain a search warrant to use drones for surveillance or to conduct a search.
- 3 prohibit law enforcement from using drones with attached weapons.
- 13 states have passed legislation that create criminal penalties for misusing drones.
Drone sales are estimated to grow from 2.5 million in 2016 to 7 million in 2020, according to the National Council of State Legislatures study. By 2025, drones will have created 100,000 jobs and wield $82 billion worth of economic impact.
A coalition of activist groups from Detroit and Flint, organized by the Sierra Club and Earth Justice, are calling for a federal interagency investigation into Michigan’s Departments of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Health and Human Services (DHHS) to determine if either agency violated civil rights laws of the Flint citizens in handling water complaints. The organizations are asking the federal counterparts of the Michigan agencies to conduct the investigation, with the U.S. Department of Justice coordinating. The coalition charged DHHS with failing in its duties to provide information about the services it was offering to Flint residents in languages other than English, to serve both Hispanic-American and undocumented populations there.
On June 30, President Barack Obama signed a Freedom of Information Act upgrade that orders the creation of a single federal online portal for info requests. Noting the federal government gets more FOIA requests than ever before, Obama said the bill codifies some of the reforms already made, and allows for ongoing efforts to make the process faster and cheaper.
Lead sponsor Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) said the signing was an “important step forward,” while Democratic co-sponsor Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said the bill brings “FOIA into the digital age.” The bill went through a series of changes to narrow its provisions throughout the process amid opposition from some federal agencies.