The Way

GB's Weekly Governmental Briefing

Through our Governmental Affairs practice, GB is helping to shape the laws and regulations that will define the times ahead. Acting on behalf of the best interests of our clients and our industry.
Each week, we bring it all into focus.

Zika Virus in the U.S.

Aug. 03, 2016
THE LATEST

Florida Gov. Rick Scott confirmed that as many as 14 people in South Florida have contracted the Zika virus after being bitten locally by infected mosquitoes. The Governor's announcement vaulted responses from public health agencies and elected officials. Federal health officials relayed that this cluster of infections is the first time the virus has been spread locally in the continental United States. The virus has spread significantly in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, where it could potentially affect some 10,000 pregnancies this year alone.

CONGRESSIONAL RECESS

Health officials have anticipated Zika's arrival in the continental United States since last fall. The confirmation that local mosquitoes have transmitted Zika in Florida echoed like a starter's pistol in Congress, which left on its summer recess without passing legislation to fully fund efforts to combat Zika. Florida Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) is urging Congress to sprint back to Washington to reconvene in an emergency session. The House and Senate are not expected to return until after Labor Day.

SPREAD PROJECTIONS

Daunting efforts to control the spread of the disease are underway. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has halted blood donation in South Florida. The most recent Zika studies suggest that a pool of 1.65 million childbearing women in Central and South America could be exposed to the virus by the end of the epidemic's first wave. Across the Atlantic, British health officials issued travel bans for women who are pregnant or who could become pregnant while in Florida. Yet, health officials in Rio de Janeiro, the host city for this week's 2016 Olympic Games, said that Zika should not deter travelers from coming to the Games, because cases of the virus had dipped significantly in recent months. We will continue to monitor this story as it develops.

Financial Services

DEBT COLLECTING

The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) proposed rules governing third-party debt collectors. The CFPB has federal rulemaking authority to enforce the provisions of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The CFPB's proposed regulations aim to protect consumers from unscrupulous behavior from debt collectors.

WHAT'S IN THE RULE?

Among the practices covered in the rule, collectors would be limited to six communication attempts per week, through any point of contact, to reach the consumer. And, collectors would also be required to include more specific information about the debt in the initial collection notices sent to consumers. The proposal under consideration would also add a "tear-off" portion to the notice that consumers could send back to the collector to easily dispute the debt with options for why the consumer thinks the collector's demand is wrong. We're keeping watch. We expect the CFPB will be addressing first-party debt collection practices in short order.

Making Our Way Around the Country

FERC

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) seeks to improve the cyber security of the country's electrical grid system. FERC has directed the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) to develop a new supply chain risk management standard that addresses risks to information systems and related bulk electric system assets. NERC is required to submit the new or modified Reliability Standard within one year of the effective date of the final rule. The final rule will take effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

OSHA

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will take its first steps this fall towards a rule to curb workplace violence. We expect to see OSHA address the problem within in the health care industry first, based on the agency's 2016 agenda. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), workplace violence represents an emerging, significant human and financial cost to U.S. employers, who are facing increased risks of onsite attacks each year.

RIO

On Friday, the world's greatest athletes will gather in Rio in pursuit of not just medals, records or achievements, but of an Olympic Ideal. The Games serve as reminder that it's not the triumph that counts, it's the fight! We're expecting there will be plenty of thrilling coverage over the next fortnight, in the media or from the insurance markets.

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