Wrapping Up 2016 in Washington
As 2016 comes to a close, I’d like to introduce myself as AIHA’s new director of Government Relations and highlight some of the latest goings-on in Washington.
I hail most recently from ASHRAE, where I co-led their government affairs office, working on indoor environmental quality, sustainability, and a great number of other issues related to industrial hygiene. I am honored to represent AIHA and look forward to working closely with the membership. If you want to get more engaged in government relations or chat about politics and policy, please shoot me an email.
Astronauts’ medical leg up. Before heading home, U.S. House members passed the “To Research, Evaluate, Assess, and Treat Astronauts Act”—also known as the TREAT Astronauts Act (H.R.6076)—by a unanimous bipartisan vote of 413 to 0. This bill would require NASA to establish a program that provides for the medical monitoring, diagnosis, and treatment of crewmembers for space flight-associated medical conditions. These services would be provided without any deductibles, copayments, or other cost-sharing obligations on the part of the crewmembers.
Following passage in the House, the bill went over to the Senate, where time ran out, meaning that this bill will need to be reintroduced next year when the 115th Congress convenes. Passage could come quickly, however, due to the widespread support for this measure.
Trump Administration takes shape, but questions loom. In a saga taking on reality-TV proportions, it seems barely a day goes by without President-elect Donald Trump making an announcement regarding those he wishes to bring into his inner circle of advisors and soon-to-be top federal agency bureaucrats. While all are important, some agencies cleave closer to OEHS interests; here are a few of those notables:
- Secretary of Labor: Andy Puzder (CEO of CKE Restaurants)
- Secretary of Health and Human Services: Tom Price (Republican U.S. Representative for the 6th District of Georgia)
- Administrator of EPA: Scott Pruitt (Attorney General of Oklahoma)
- Secretary of Energy: Rick Perry (Former Governor of Texas)
- Secretary of Education: Betsy DeVos (Chairwoman of the American Federation of Children)
- Secretary of Defense: Gen. James Mattis (U.S. Marine Corps)
- Secretary of Homeland Security: Gen. John Kelly (U.S. Marine Corps)
With some of Mr. Trump’s nominees are drawing considerable concern from Senate Democrats, one of the key questions is whom will they fight hard to oppose, given that it is unlikely they can hold up all of his picks? Mr. Trump has put together an ambitious plan for his first 100 days in office, which makes one wonder how much and where will he give in to Democrats (and some of his fellow Republicans) to accomplish his goals. Will he pull back on some of his first-choice nominees to have a better chance at passing his 100-day priorities, or will he scale back his legislative plans in order to help push through those he wants at the head of influential government agencies?
New federal regulations on farmworkers. Ready or not, here they come! On Jan. 2, 2017, new regulations first proposed in 2015 that are designed to protect those who work with pesticides on farms, forests, nurseries, and greenhouses will go into effect. The new regs cover a range of topics. I won’t go into the details here, but the big headlines you should be aware of are that these workers will now be more protected from the potential dangers posed by pesticide exposure through the use of personal protective equipment, new recordkeeping requirements, as well as required training, testing, and medical evaluations that match up with OSHA standards. New requirements will also call on employers to provide workers with specified quantities of water for pesticide decontamination. If you’re interested in drilling-down into this new rule, I invite you to visit EPA’s website.