Improving Public Policy

  • December 05, 2016

Port State Measures Agreement

Commercial fishing vessels like this one in the North Sea will face greater scrutiny from nations that signed the Port State Measures Agreement. © Guy Vanderelst/Getty Images

A treaty to fight illegal fishing  

The Port State Measures Agreement, a U.N. treaty designed to prevent illegally caught fish from entering into the global market, went into effect in June after 30 governments, including the European Union, committed to what is the world’s first binding agreement to strengthen inspection protocols for foreign-flagged fishing vessels coming into their ports. Now those suspected of illegal fishing face a higher risk of being turned away at ports or having their catches and vessels seized. This at-port policing is safer and more efficient and cost-effective than confronting illegal operators on open waters.

European Union to prohibit bottom trawling below 800 meters

On June 30, the European Parliament, Council of Ministers, and European Commission reached a deal to prohibit bottom trawling below 800 meters in EU-controlled waters of the North Sea and the northeastern Atlantic Ocean. This 360,000-square-mile expanse—more than twice the size of California—includes the continental slope, an area of high diversity of fish species and deep-water bottom habitat for cold-water reefs and coral gardens. Pew has been working to establish a ban on bottom trawling in this region since 2007 to protect fragile marine ecosystems and maintain healthy fish stocks.

Western lands initiative makes progress on protections in Alaska

On July 29, the Bureau of Land Management issued its final plan for 7 million acres of public land in Alaska’s eastern interior. Pew has been working with Alaska Natives to raise awareness of the conservation value of this land to ensure that the BLM extends substantial administrative protections to the unique areas in the region, including the White Mountains National Recreation Area, the Steese National Conservation Area, and the Upper Black River.

Caribbean nations form shark sanctuaries

Four Caribbean nations announced new shark sanctuaries in June. St. Maarten and the Cayman Islands closed their exclusive economic zones to commercial shark fishing. Together, these two countries’ protected areas cover 46,000 square miles, which expands the world’s 14 sanctuaries to cover a total of 5.9 million square miles—an area bigger than Canada. In addition, Curaçao and Grenada announced that they would introduce shark sanctuaries legislation to protect an additional 22,000 square miles of ocean. Pew worked closely with all four jurisdictions during the past two years as part of a larger goal to protect sharks from overfishing and promote policies that help maintain sharks’ crucial role in marine ecosystems.

CITES increases protection for sharks and rays

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) extended protections in October by listing silky sharks, three species of thresher sharks, and all nine species of mobula rays. Two-thirds of the 182 CITES member governments voted to add the species to Appendix II, which requires that any catch of the animals be deemed sustainable before trade in fins and gill plates can begin again. This important step furthers Pew’s goal of reducing shark and ray mortality to sustainable levels so populations of these ancient predators can begin to recover.

Shhhh! Recreation contributes billions to U.S. economy

Pew released a peer-reviewed white paper in March that showed visits to quiet recreation areas—places with nonmotorized activities such as hiking, mountain biking, camping, hunting, and fishing overseen by the Bureau of Land Management in 11 western states and Alaska—supported 25,000 jobs and generated $2.8 billion for the U.S. economy in 2014. Pew’s western lands initiative and environmental science teams collaborated with outside experts on the first analysis of its kind. Pew’s initiative seeks to protect BLM’s undeveloped public land, which is critical to maintaining large ecosystems and the species that depend on wild terrain.

Commercial tuna fishing contributes billions to the global economy each year

To mark World Tuna Day on May 2, Pew released Netting Billions: A Global Valuation of Tuna, a report that included the first estimate of the annual revenue generated by commercial tuna fishing around the world. It found that commercial fishing vessels catch enough tuna to contribute more than $42 billion to the global economy every year. That’s greater than the gross domestic product of more than half of the world’s 196 countries. Highlighting the ecological and economic value of this fish is an important element of Pew’s global tuna conservation campaign, which is working to end overfishing of five commercially fished tuna stocks in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans by 2018.

At least 30% of the ocean needs protection  

A peer-reviewed study supported by Pew and released in March found that protecting at least 30 percent of the ocean is necessary for achieving fisheries and marine conservation goals, which include protecting biodiversity, avoiding collapse of some fish populations, maximizing fisheries yield, and minimizing trade-offs between conflicting concerns such as ecotourism and commercial fishing. The review of 144 published studies found there is a strong scientific consensus on safeguarding a minimum of 30 percent of the world’s oceans, a finding that will inform the development of future conservation benchmarks and policy efforts.

U.S. finalizes first standards for drilling in Arctic waters

The Department of the Interior released new offshore drilling regulations in July that include most of Pew’s recommendations to improve drilling safety and oil spill prevention in the U.S. Arctic Ocean, which is home to sensitive wildlife habitats and extreme weather conditions requiring specialized rules. Over the past six years, Pew has developed guidelines for these regulations, proposing them to federal regulators and providing technical expertise and detailed science-based recommendations. The rules now require measures such as oil spill response plans that are tailored to the Arctic, a separate relief ship available should an operator lose control of a well, and critical containment equipment in the Arctic.

FDA to strengthen safety of compounded drugs

On July 7, the Food and Drug Administration issued draft guidance prohibiting compounding of drug products—the creation of customized medicines to meet a patient’s unique needs—that are essentially copies of commercially available or approved drugs. Compounded drugs are not FDA-approved and therefore untested for safety and effectiveness. FDA’s guidelines uphold the integrity of the regulatory framework for pharmaceutical manufacturing and compounding, which is designed to ensure that patients receive safe and effective medications. Pew submitted comments largely in support of the draft guidance, agreeing that it strongly supports public health. FDA will review this input before issuing final guidance for implementing the provision of the Drug Quality and Security Act that pertains to compounded drugs.

Federal rule would regulate payday lending

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in June proposed the first federal rule to regulate payday and other high-cost, small-dollar loans. Citing Pew research, the proposal’s recommendations include effectively eliminating the two-week, lump-sum payday loan and shifting the market to installment loans to be paid off in months instead of weeks. During a comment period, Pew’s small-dollar loans project will work to add to the proposal an ability-to-repay benchmark of 5 percent of a borrower’s pretax monthly income that could save millions of borrowers billions of dollars.

States create and strengthen budget stabilization reserves

In the spring, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Wyoming enacted laws that created or modified their budget stabilization—or rainy day—funds, which can help states manage large swings in revenue. Previously, Kansas was one of four states without a rainy day fund. Oklahoma established a second reserve fund that will help smooth its most volatile revenues. Wyoming strengthened its fund by adopting evidence-based withdrawal provisions and procedures. Pew worked in all three states, providing testimony, state-specific research, and technical assistance to legislators and other stakeholders.

5 states to begin evaluating tax incentives

Alabama, Colorado, Hawaii, Utah, and Virginia passed legislation this year to evaluate their economic development tax incentives. They join 22 states and the District of Columbia, which since 2012 have enacted bills that provide legislators with empirical evidence on the outcomes of incentives. Policymakers are able to use this information to shape policies that obtain the best possible results for the states’ taxpayers and economies. Pew collaborated with stakeholders and provided state-specific research to legislators and evaluators.

Kentucky will study local fiscal monitoring laws

This year, Governor Matt Bevin (R) signed legislation requiring that Kentucky’s Legislative Research Commission study the impact of municipal bankruptcy laws and methods of monitoring local governments, and include an examination of best practices used by other states. The law draws on Pew’s research, and supporters of the legislation have asked Pew to provide technical assistance during the development of the study.

Counties in Maryland and Pennsylvania commit to evidence-based policymaking

Two counties—the first local governments outside of California—have partnered with the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative, a joint project of Pew and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which collaborates with state and local governments to implement an effective approach to evidence-based policymaking. Montgomery County, Maryland, and Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, will serve as important case studies for other counties. Results First helps governments identify and invest in programs that provide the greatest return on investment for taxpayers.

New federal rules protect consumers’ rights with banks

On May 5, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau proposed rules to prohibit financial companies from including mandatory arbitration clauses in their customer agreements that ban consumers from participation in class-action lawsuits. A Pew survey found that 91 percent of consumers favor having the right to join class-action lawsuits, but most account agreements now don’t allow consumers to take their disputes to court and instead require resolution of disputes with a third-party decision-maker, with small opportunity to appeal. Pew’s consumer banking project has advocated for the elimination of clauses that restrict consumers’ participation in class-action lawsuits.

Membership in Electronic Registration Information Center grows

Last summer, New Mexico, Ohio, West Virginia, and Wisconsin became the newest members of the Electronic Registration Information Center, known as ERIC. Now, 20 states plus the District of Columbia, representing nearly a third of the nation’s eligible voters, are part of the nonprofit organization. ERIC works to improve voter roll accuracy and streamline the registration process for newly eligible voters. Since helping to establish ERIC in 2012, Pew has offered ongoing assistance to the center, which is governed and managed by its member states.

Maryland, Alaska, and Kansas pass criminal justice reform bills

  • On July 11, Alaska Governor Bill Walker (I) signed a package of criminal justice legislation putting his state at the forefront of research-based policies designed to protect public safety, hold offenders accountable, and control corrections costs. The state had projected its prison population would rise by 27 percent over the next 10 years but now forecasts that the reforms will reduce the amount by 13 percent, cutting costs by $380 million. Some $98 million of those savings will be invested over the next six years into recidivism reduction programs, pretrial supervision, violence prevention programs, and victims’ services.
  • On May 19, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) signed into law legislation to enhance public safety, hold offenders accountable, and control corrections costs. The Justice Reinvestment Act is projected to reduce Maryland’s prison population by nearly 1,200 inmates within 10 years, freeing up at least $80.5 million for investment in efforts to reduce recidivism rates by expanding and improving substance abuse treatment programs and enhancing community supervision practices.
  • On April 11, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback (R) signed juvenile justice legislation that diverts lower-level offenders from court and limits how long young people can be held in detention or residential facilities, among numerous other policy improvements. The legislation is expected to reduce the number of youth sent to out-of-home facilities by 60 percent and free up $72 million for reinvestment by 2022. This legislation is a result of Pew’s efforts to work with states to promote data-driven, fiscally sound policies and practices in criminal and juvenile justice systems.
Port State Measures Agreement

Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Utah are studying criminal justice reforms with help from Pew. © iStockphoto

3 states announce initiatives to safely reduce populations, costs in criminal and juvenile justice systems

  • On June 17, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards (D) and other state leaders directed the state’s Justice Reinvestment Task Force to develop data-driven recommendations to protect public safety while reducing the state’s corrections population and costs. Recommendations will go to the governor and Legislature in March for consideration during the 2017 session. Pew will provide technical assistance and data analysis to state officials throughout this process.
  • In August, Oklahoma state leaders launched a review of the state’s criminal justice system aimed at developing data-driven reforms to better protect public safety, hold offenders accountable, and control corrections costs. With assistance from Pew and the Crime and Justice Institute, the Oklahoma Justice Reinvestment Task Force will submit recommendations to the governor and Legislature in December for consideration during the 2017 session.
  • Utah Governor Gary Herbert (R) and other state leaders announced on June 16 the formation of a juvenile justice working group that will conduct a data-driven examination of the state’s juvenile justice system and issue policy recommendations aimed at protecting public safety, holding youth accountable, containing costs, and improving outcomes for youth, families, and communities. The group will submit its findings and policy recommendations for consideration during the 2017 session. Pew will provide technical assistance and data analysis, similar to the effort that resulted in a comprehensive package of adult criminal justice reforms in 2016.