Wage and hour roundup

  • Finally, Republicans introduce bill to stop Obama’s overtime edict [SHRM, Connor Wolf, Veronique de Rugy] “Congress realizes new overtime rules stink” at least as applied to themselves [Suzanne Lucas, Evil HR Lady, earlier] Knowing whether you’re in FLSA compliance can be tricky enough to fool HR specialists [Eric Meyer]
  • “German army forced to lay down weapons due to ‘overtime limits'” [Telegraph, U.K.]
  • “Minimum Wage Hike Kills Popular Upstate NY Eatery” [Legal Insurrection] “Please don’t be the reason the future of our farm ends here and now” [WENY, upstate New York]
  • “How raising the minimum wage hurts disabled workers” [Naomi Schaefer Riley, Philanthropy Daily] Maryland moves to end exception that allowed workshop programs for the disabled to pay subminimum wages, and if clients sit at home as a result, at least they’ll have their rights on [Capital News Service]
  • Proposed D.C. ordinance restricting “predictive scheduling” of employee hours would snarl retail and restaurant operations [E. Faye Williams, Huff Post]
  • “Economically, minimum wages may not make sense,” said Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown, and then proceeded to sign the bill [Scott Shackford, Reason] “UC Berkeley Touts $15 Minimum Wage Law, Then Fires Hundreds Of Workers After It Passes” [Investors Business Daily]

“Non-Driving Text Sender May Be Liable in Crash”

Query: If you’re not the driver of a car, can you be held liable for a collision that occurs when the recipient reads and responds while driving?

Answer: Quite possibly, yes.

Lawyer/blogger Eric Turkewitz has been covering this issue of lawsuits against persons on the other end of a negligent driver’s text conversation for a while and now reports on a Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas decision in a case called Gallatin v. Gargiulo.

Food roundup

  • Almond growing in California is not all that water-intensive compared with other crops. So why does it gets demonized in the name of social justice? [Victor Davis Hanson, Hoover]
  • Had unexpected findings of a study on dietary fat and health 40 years ago been fully aired, nutrition policy might have taken different turn [Peter Whoriskey, Washington Post] “Today’s scientific hypotheses may be wrong. Better, then, not to make them law.” [David Boaz, Cato]
  • Royal Crown Cola was on its way to becoming one of the great soda companies, then came the cyclamate scare compounded by the irrational Delaney Clause [Mental Floss]
  • Jayson Lusk on the economics of food waste;
  • “Menu Mandates and Obesity: A Futile Effort” [Aaron Yelowitz, new Cato Policy Analysis, earlier]
  • “When an industry demands that the government regulate it more strictly, you usually don’t have to look very far to find a barely-hidden agenda.” [Jesse Walker, Reason on catfish makers]

“I’m a lawyer. And lawyers write letters.”

Dwain Downing, an attorney in Arlington, Texas, says he is suing a Mansfield diner that ran out of soup at 2 p.m. during a Saturday lunch special. The server and on-site manager told Downing that while he didn’t have to order the sandwich, two sides, and soup special at all if the lack of soup made it unattractive to him, the restaurant’s policy was not to discount the $7.95 price or offer a third side dish as a substitute. “Downing demands $2.25 – the cost of an additional side at Our Place – plus $250 in legal fees.” Why didn’t he handle it through an online review, calling the owner on the phone or simply not coming back? “‘I’m a lawyer,’ Downing said Friday by phone. ‘And lawyers write letters.'” [Marc Ramirez, Dallas Morning News]

What’s the problem with Rhode Island officials and free speech, anyway?

Seriously, what’s their problem? [Hans Bader on the Rhode Island attorney general’s proposal for a ban on many hostile social media posts, covered here earlier] Meanwhile, a Providence Journal editorial blasts home-state Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse:

…in dealing with [carbon dioxide emissions], or any crisis, it is vitally important that America not discard its essential values of freedom.

Regrettably, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., continues to make noises about using government to prosecute some of those who willfully persist in questioning the scientific consensus on climate change. …

This is troubling: a U.S. senator and attorney general [Loretta Lynch], both sworn to uphold the Constitution, mulling legal action against American citizens and companies for the “crime” of challenging a scientific theory. A number of Democratic attorneys general — including Rhode Island’s Peter Kilmartin — have also expressed interest in prosecuting those whom they believe are deliberately misleading the public about this issue.

Turning such disagreements into punishable acts of fraud would seem to be legally difficult. But that may not be the point. The threat alone could have a chilling effect on free speech, by intimidating dissenters into silence. Such an approach would be an affront to the scientific method, which involves the free exploration of ideas. …

President Thomas Jefferson said in his first inaugural address: “Error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.”

There is no reason to pit environmentalism and free speech against one other. We can join together to protect our planet without trying to silence those who argue against us.

Some more recent commentary on the AG subpoena investigation Sen. Whitehouse helped orchestrate: Richard Epstein, George Will, Ronald Rotunda. As Prof. Rotunda points out, the government not only declines to prosecute advocacy research in other contexts, but often funds it. And the 2012 Alvarez v. U.S. (stolen valor) case establishes that outright, knowing lying for advantage often receives constitutional protection as well, on the recognition by the courts that “if the government can punish that, we go down a steep slippery slope. … The marketplace of ideas, not the subpoena power of government, should decide what is true or false.” More: “The environmental campaign that punishes free speech” [Sam Kazman and Kent Lassman (CEI), Washington Post]

More talks on redistricting reform

I’ve been doing a fair bit of speaking on the cause of redistricting reform in Maryland, which is sure to be back next year although the powers that be in the legislature just adjourned for the year without letting it reach floor consideration or even a committee vote. I joined popular D.C.-area radio host Kojo Nnamdi and had a chance to explore the issues at more depth on Frederick County’s “Eye on Our Community” with Kai Hagen.

In the Herald-Mail, Tamela Baker also has a great write-up of my speech this week (with PowerPoint!) at Hagerstown Rotary. Don’t hesitate to invite me to speak on this topic just because you’re in another state — the issue is a national one.

Medical roundup

Federal court slaps down Kamala Harris grab for donor lists

“Today a US District Court ruled in favor of Americans for Prosperity Foundation’s lawsuit against California Attorney General Kamala Harris, ruling that her demands for the Foundation to hand over its list of members and supporters is unconstitutional.” [AFP] We’ve repeatedly covered Harris’s unprecedented drive to demand disclosure of donor lists by nonprofits that carry on activities in California, a step likely to lead to private and public retaliation against individuals and groups revealed to have donated to unpopular or controversial causes.

As the WSJ notes in an editorial, U.S. District Judge Manuel Real “declared her disclosure requirement an unconstitutional burden on First Amendment rights,” finding that there was scant evidence the disclosures were necessary to prevent charity fraud, that (contrary to assurances) her office had “systematically failed to maintain the confidentiality” of nonprofits’ donor lists, some 1,400 of which Harris’s office had in fact published online. As for retaliation against donors, “although the Attorney General correctly points out that such abuses are not as violent or pervasive as those encountered in NAACP v. Alabama or other cases from [the civil rights] era,” he wrote, “this Court is not prepared to wait until an AFP opponent carries out one of the numerous death threats made against its members.”

A plaintiff’s lawyer and union ally, Harris recently surfaced as an apparently key player in the alliance of state attorneys general intent on using criminal investigatory powers to probe so-called climate denial at non-profit research and advocacy groups as well as at energy companies like ExxonMobil. That makes at least two episodes in which Harris has signaled interest in unprecedented and aggressive steps to pry open the internal workings of private advocacy organizations that take positions adverse to hers. Harris is a leading contender in the Democratic Senate primary to succeed California Senator Barbara Boxer.

Update: Now expanded and adapted into a longer post at Cato.