“Tech policy” is a broad and nebulous label. But from antitrust to national security to social media moderation, recent years have been filled with difficult questions about federal law and policy, and myriad proposals for major new regulatory initiatives surrounding new technologies and big tech companies. Moreover, these debates scramble familiar partisan and ideological lines. What policies might the new Biden administration pursue — in legislation, and in regulation?

To discuss this topic, the Gray Center hosted a webinar on February 11, 2021, with a panel of leading experts, including Loully Saney of the Day One Project, Alec Stapp of the Progressive Policy Institute, and Ted Ullyot, former General Counsel of Facebook. The conversation was moderated by the Gray Center’s Director, Adam White. This was the third event in the Gray Center’s series, “The Administrative State in Transition.”

Promptly after the election, President-elect Joe Biden’s official “transition” team announced that climate change would be one of the new administration’s top four policy priorities. The transition’s website listed a variety of familiar and new ways in which the Biden administration intends to grapple with this issue. And, of course, this is just one of several issues of energy and environmental policy that the new administration will be handling. What new legislative and regulatory initiatives should we expect? What challenges will they confront? What are their prospects for success?

To discuss these and other issues, the Gray Center hosted a webinar conversation with several experts, including Jonathan Adler of the Case Western Reserve University School of Law, Gene Grace of American Clean Power, and Lisa Heinzerling of the Georgetown University Law Center. The conversation was moderated by the Gray Center’s Director, Adam White. This was the second event in the Gray Center’s series, “The Administrative State in Transition.”

Over the last four years, the Trump administration continued the longstanding framework for OIRA regulatory oversight, but it also developed new oversight tools, such as the new regulatory budgeting framework of Executive Order 13771. How will the new Biden Administration structure its own frameworks for regulatory oversight? What old and new tools will it keep? And what new innovations might it deliver?

To discuss these and other issues, the Gray Center hosted a webinar conversation with several leading experts: Michael Livermore of the University of Virginia School of Law, Jennifer Nou of the University of Chicago Law School, and Stuart Shapiro of the Rutgers University Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy. The conversation was moderated by the Gray Center’s Director, Adam White. This was the first event in the Gray Center’s 2021 virtual event series, “The Administrative State in Transition.”

In 2008, Michael Livermore and Richard Revesz wrote Retaking Rationality, a book arguing that cost-benefit analysis of regulations should be recognized not as an anti-regulatory weapon, but rather a nonideological tool for promoting good government. Now they return with a new book, Reviving Rationality, which analyzes developments since 2008, and proposes further reforms for cost-benefit analysis going forward. They discuss it with the Gray Center’s Executive Director, Adam White.

Governments make rules. But governments often grant exemptions from those rules, either when the rules are written or in the ways they are enforced. And those exemptions are the subject of a new article: “Unrules” by Cary Coglianese, Gabriel Scheffler, and Daniel Walters.

 

The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Seila Law v. CFPB, and the upcoming case of Collins v. Mnuchin, return our attention to the Constitution’s allocation of powers among the President and Congress—and to the famous cases nearly a century ago when the Supreme Court tried to grapple with those issues amid the rise of the modern administrative state.

As it happens, Professor Robert Post of the Yale Law School is also thinking back to that era, as he writes the next volume of the Oliver Wendell Holmes Devise History of the Supreme Court of the United States. He gives us a preview in a fascinating and entertaining article for the Journal of Supreme Court History, titled “Tension in the Unitary Executive: How Taft Constructed the Epochal Opinion of Taft v. United States.” (Also available to read at SSRN.)

Last summer, the Supreme Court ended its year’s work with significant decisions involving administrative agencies. This new year now underway is set to include major cases involving agency structure and independence; transparency; and a host of other issues.

To discuss these issues and broader themes of administrative governance, the Gray Center’s annual Supreme Court preview featured three experts: Jonathan Adler of the Case Western Reserve University, Aditya Bamzai of the University of Virginia, and Katie Townsend of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. The discussion, in a live webinar on October 23, 2020, was moderated by our Executive Director, Adam White.

Congress’s enactment of the Clean Air Act fifty years ago was meant to change our environmental impacts — but did it change Congress, too? That is the question that Prof. Frank Manheim of George Mason University’s Schar School of Public Policy asks in his new working paper, “Transformation of Congressional Lawmaking by the Clean Air Act of 1970 and Its Effects.”

In this episode, part of the Gray Center’s “Congress and the Administrative State” conference series, Prof. Manheim and Adam White are joined by Prof. David Schoenbrod, a Trustee Professor of Law at the New York Law School and a Senior Fellow at the Niskanen Center, to talk about environmental law and modern lawmaking.

The executive branch’s bureaucracy gets a lot of attention. But Congress’s bureaucracy gets much less—yet it is extremely important. In a new Gray Center working paper titled “The Congressional Bureaucracy,” Professors Abbe Gluck and Jesse Cross analyze several parts of Congress’s bureaucracy—some well-known, like the Government Accountability Office, and others less so, like the Office of Law Revision Counsel.

 In this episode, they discuss their new paper with Gray Center Executive Director, Adam White, and Professor Josh Chafetz. Together, they consider what “the congressional bureaucracy” tells us about Congress itself and the laws that it enacts.

We often think of modern cost-benefit analysis as being a requirement primarily of executive orders, not statutes. Needless to say, Executive Order 12291 and 12866, and other executive orders and presidential documents, are of central importance. But Congress has done much on matters of cost-benefit analysis, too, often requiring agencies to consider costs and benefits, and sometimes even requiring rules to be net-beneficial.

Professor Caroline Cecot of George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School explores this in her new Gray Center working paper, “Congress and the Stability of the Cost-Benefit Analysis Consensus.” She discusses it in today’s episode, with Gray Center Executive Director Adam White and with Professor Ricky Revesz, NYU’s Lawrence King Professor of Law and Director of the Institute for Policy Integrity.

In 1994, Republicans won control of the House of Representatives for the first time in 50 years. Upon taking office, Speaker Newt Gingrich and his colleagues undertook major institutional reforms. What do those reforms tell us about conservatives’ modern views of the Constitution’s first branch of government, and how did those reforms affect Congress’s relationship to the President and administrative agencies?

This episode, part of the Gray Center’s “Congress and the Administrative State” conference series, centers around Philip Wallach’s new working paper, “The Revolution That Wasn’t: Conservatives Against Congress, 1981–2018.” He discusses the paper with the Brookings Institution’s Molly Reynolds, and the Gray Center’s Adam White.

Administrative Law scholars think of 1946 as the year that Congress enacted the Administrative Procedure Act. But too often we neglect another major law that Congress enacted in that year: the Legislative Reorganization Act.

The LRA was intended to position Congress for long-term management of the administrative state. But its proponents were disappointed to see major provisions dropped from the final bill, and after its enactment the LRA generally failed to live up to its framers’ expectations. How can the LRA inform debates about Congress today? And how should the LRA help us to understand the 1946 Congress’s goals for the APA itself?

Today’s guest is Professor Joshua Wright — a University Professor of Law at George Mason University, Director of the law school’s Global Antitrust Institute, a former FTC Commissioner, and one of the nation’s leading scholars of antitrust law and policy. Professor Wright and Jan Rybnicek recently co-authored an essay on recent calls to use antitrust law to regulate or break up “big tech” companies. The essay is titled “A Time for Choosing: The Conservative Case Against Weaponizing Antitrust,” and it is among the first essays in a series published by National Affairs, a quarterly journal on policy.

The series, edited by the Gray Center’s Executive Director, Adam White, is “Big Tech, Big Government: The Challenges of Regulating Internet Platforms.” In this episode, Professor Wright discusses his essay, particularly in light of the new House Judiciary Committee staff report calling for government regulation or break-up of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google.

On September 24, 2020, the Gray Center co-hosted a live webinar, “After 50 Years, What Is the National Environmental Policy Act Today?” in partnership with Antonin Scalia Law School’s Society for Environmental and Energy Law. On January 1, 1970, President Nixon signed the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) into law. A briefly worded but powerful law, NEPA requires federal agencies to consider the environmental impacts of the actions that they take, and the actions that they authorize others to take.

Fifty years later, how should we think of how NEPA has been implemented, and how it might be implemented in the years ahead? This webinar brought together two leading experts to tackle these questions: Professor E. Donald Elliott of Scalia Law, Yale Law, and Covington & Burling; and Professor Michael Gerrard of Columbia Law. The discussion was moderated by the Gray Center’s Executive Director, Adam White, with welcome remarks from Scalia Law student Gary Bridgens, president of the Society for Environmental and Energy Law.

Today’s guest is Professor Adam Mossoff, a leading scholar of intellectual property and Co-Founder of Scalia Law’s Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property (CPIP). Three years ago, CPIP and the Gray Center co-hosted a major conference on the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), a new regulatory body empowered to revoke companies’ patents through an administrative process instead of a judicial trial. Months later, in Oil States Energy Services v. Greene’s Energy Group, the Supreme Court upheld the PTAB’s constitutionality, and declared patent rights to be “public rights”—a discretionary grant of privilege by the executive branch, revokable at will. This decision had major ramifications for both intellectual property law and the innovation economy that rests on that body of law. In today’s episode, Professor Mossoff and Adam White revisit the Oil States decision—the issues, and the impact.

We admit it, administrative law is a complicated subject — and, some say, a notoriously dull one. AdLaw is often a challenging subject to teach in the classroom, and even more challenging outside of it. The Gray Center is only one of several institutions that attempt to bring these issues to non-specialists. Another is Ballotpedia.org: Two years ago it created an Administrative State Project to serve as a public resource on administrative law, and today its encyclopedic website offers hundreds of pages of educational materials on the administrative state’s modern work and historical underpinnings. In this episode, Adam is joined by Christopher Nelson, who manages Ballotpedia’s Administrative State Project.

Featuring Christopher Nelson and Adam White.

The Federal Trade Commission is a century-old agency facing some of the most cutting-edge technologies and issues of our time. How should an agency apply old laws to new technologies?

To conclude the Gray Center’s series of podcast conversations on innovation and regulation, Commissioner Noah Phillips joins Adam White to discuss issues ranging from the nondelegation doctrine, to agency structure and process, to issues like market competition and personal privacy. This live webinar was recorded on September 2, 2020.

During this era of disruptive technological change, heavy-handed regulation can stifle innovation and unintentionally undermine the public interest. Yet regulators are tasked by Congress with promoting particular policies, often under old statutes with outdated information. How can regulators best do their jobs in a way that promotes innovation and the public interest?

In a pair of new Gray Center working papers, Gus Hurwitz (University of Nebraska) and Geoffrey Manne (International Center of Law & Economics) offer two new ways to think of the regulatory task: “Regulation as a Discovery Process,” in which the regulatory process is geared toward promoting the creation and spread of knowledge; and “Regulation as Partnership,” in which the regulators and the regulated see each other in less adversarial terms.

Conversations about “the administrative state” usually focus on federal regulators, but for many upstart tech companies, local regulation often presents the most significant challenges. Uber and Lyft, for example, famously collided with local taxicab regulations. And “short-term rental” companies like AirBNB have faced countless regulations from countless regulators.

That is the subject of a new Gray Center Working Paper by Professor Jordan Carr Peterson (North Carolina State). In “Zoning for Disruption,” he finds that AirBNB’s arrival in a city can trigger significant regulatory responses not spurred by less-famous short-term rental companies. He describes that dynamic, and the wide range of regulations at issue.

Nearly 25 years ago, Congress enacted Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, declaring web sites would not be treated as “publishers” in posting third-party statements, and that their “good faith” efforts to edit or moderate content would not expose them to legal liability. In those days, this legal protection helped the early generation of Internet web sites grow and change the world. Today, Section 230 has become the central focus of today’s debates surrounding Facebook, Twitter, and other Internet platforms.

In this episode, Enrique Armijo (Elon University) and Matthew Feeney (Cato Institute) join Adam White to discuss the Gray Center Working Papers that they recently published on the Section 230 debates, and the broader technological and policy issues at stake.