4/1/21: Infrastructure, vaccine surges, and poultry
The most important US policy news of the past two weeks
Welcome to the third edition of High Impact Policy Review, or HIPR! If you already know the spiel, you can skip down to updates. But if it’s your first time here, my name is Arushi Gupta, and I started this newsletter because I realized that being constantly inundated with political news made it hard to understand what really mattered, and that many issues receive far less coverage than they deserve, given the impact they will have. For example, although the U.S. is one of the largest foreign aid donors and approximately 10 percent of the world population lives in extreme poverty (on less than $1.90 a day!), we rarely talk about the foreign aid decisions that can and do change their lives completely.
This biweekly (every 2 weeks) newsletter will (i) provide updates on U.S. policies relevant to potentially high-impact cause areas, such as foreign aid, farmed animal welfare, and criminal justice reform and (ii) inform you of potentially high-impact U.S. policy opportunities that I see around! I’ll do my best to cover the most neglected and important policy news I become aware of — the decisions that impact a large number of individuals (human or non-human), but which don’t always reach the front-page headlines. For that reason, I won’t always include the biggest news, unless it’s very important, because it’s likely stuff you’re already hearing about!
The Biden administration has introduced a $2 trillion infrastructure bill, called the American Jobs Plan, which they hope to pass by July 4th. A second measure focused on the care economy (in addition to the $400b in this bill), called the American Family Plan, will be introduced in a few weeks. A lot of the infrastructure spending is climate-focused, including $85b for public transit, $80b for intercity rail (like Amtrak), $35b for climate-related R&D, and $174b for electric vehicles.
Outside of climate spending there’s also $100 billion for universal broadband, $30b for preventing future pandemics, $50b for semiconductor manufacturing and research (to prevent supply chain failures like this years), and $45b to totally remove lead pipes from drinking water across the country. It will also spend “300 billion to promote advanced manufacturing, including a four-year plan to restock the country’s Strategic National Stockpile of pharmaceuticals, including vaccines, in preparation for future pandemics.”
The bill may have a tough time making it through the Senate at the moment without filibuster reform.
Biden’s administration announced a goal of getting 30GW of power from offshore wind farms by 2030.
A bill has been introduced in the Senate, expanding a tax credit for carbon sequestration projects, including direct carbon capture.
The Wyoming House has passed a bill to establish a $1.2M lawsuit fund to defend their coal industry by suing states that move away from using coal to generate electricity, which is… something.
Michigan Gov. Whitmer asked the White House to surge vaccine delivery to virus hot spots as cases rise sharply in the state (133% in the past week), but was told that the White House is not planning to change their vaccine allocation.
47 states and DC have a plan to make vaccines available to all adults by May 1 (and most will make it available earlier. The news that the Pfizer vaccine is very effective in teens is also promising, though no states have made plans to release the vaccine to anyone below the age of 16 yet.
White House is mulling lifting the intellectual property shield on COVID vaccines, but they missed the biggest opportunity to do so early in the pandemic.
CDC data suggests that people inoculated with the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines don’t transmit the coronavirus.
The US is sending millions of AstraZeneca vaccines to Mexico and Canada, as many people (including us) have been suggesting for a while.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield announced more than $596 million in U.S. humanitarian assistance to Syria — $100 million less than last year.
The Department of Defense is building prototypes for mini, portable nuclear reactors to provide their energy needs on the battlefield. The motive of finding carbon-free power sources is commendable but some are concerned about safety, and point out that the reactor would be a tempting target for an opponent.
Farmed Animal Welfare
Utah became the 8th state to prohibit cages for egg-laying hens. This law “also requires enrichments that are vital to the hens’ psychological and physical well-being, including perches, nest boxes, and areas designed for scratching and dust-bathing.”
The FDA received letters from the Good Food Institute as well as the Alliance for Meat, Poultry and Seafood Innovation and National Fisheries Institute regarding cell-cultured seafood products.
The Alaska Department of Law sued 21 poultry companies seeking more than $1 billion in damages for price-fixing.
Fox News is facing a defamation suit from Dominion Voting for peddling conspiracy theories about their voting machines being used to rig the 2020 elections. It’s exciting that they might finally be held to account for some of their lies, but the prospect of more defamation lawsuits is troubling for other media companies.
SPLC, NAACP, and the ACLU are suing Georgia over their new elections laws.
Ohio has filed a suit against the Covid stimulus bill, which if it succeeds, could totally change the way that federal grants to states are used; the federal government could become totally unable to put conditions on their grants, causing programs like Medicaid to fall apart.
HR 1 remains stalled as Senator Manchin remains uncertain about the bill, and filibuster reform is still not happening.
There has been a LOT of news in New York the past two weeks. New York’s governor signed legislation legalizing marijuana for adults over 21 this week.
New York passed a law that will restrict prisons and jails from holding people in solitary confinement for longer than 15 days. Currently, a majority of those in solitary (nearly all-day isolation) for serious rule violations spent between one and three months inside - and some were in isolation for more than a year. The law, celebrated by advocates for incarcerated people, will not go into effect until next year.
New York City ended qualified immunity for policy officers becoming the first state in the nation to do so.
Virginia repealed the death penalty - the first southern state to do so.
The DC law decriminalizing natural psychedelics including magic mushrooms, ayahuasca, and mescaline has gone into effect.
A visa ban on H, L, and J visa holders, enacted on June 22, 2020, has expired, allowing those who were outside the country to finally re-enter.
Arizona has introduced a bill that would allow app developers to sell apps outside of Apple and Google app stores.
The House passed the Equal Rights Amendment, which would become the 34th Constitutional amendment, and make gender equality a part of the Constitution. However, it's unclear whether it'll pass in the Senate and it could still face a legal challenge afterwards.
Future of Life Institute is hiring a Policy Advocate and Policy Researcher. Cause area: existential risk
The Good Food Institute is hiring a Lead Regulatory Counsel and Policy Fellow. Cause area: climate, farmed animal welfare
The Open Markets Institute is hiring a Summer Agriculture Policy Intern. Cause area: farmed animal welfare
Consumer Reports is hiring a Senior Policy Counsel, Climate, Energy and Sustainability Policy. Cause area: climate
Earthjustice is hiring a Senior Researcher and Policy Analyst, several litigation positions, and more. Cause area: climate
Fair and Just Prosecution is hiring a Research and Policy Fellow. Cause area: criminal justice reform
Cornell Tech’s Digital Life Initiative is hiring for their Technology Law and Policy Fellowship. Cause area: technology policy
Council on Foreign Relations is hiring several summer interns in foreign policy. Cause area: foreign policy
Interested in learning more on how to increase your engagement with high-impact U.S. policy? Check out a list of resources on the HIPR website!
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Until next time,