News in Brief: Vote on Tax Deal Is Imminent, and More

Vote on Tax Deal is Imminent

House majority leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) said Monday that the House will likely vote this week on Obama’s tax package, according to Politico. “I believe that action is necessary and compromise inevitable,” Hoyer said at the National Press Club. He also said that House Democrats may insist that certain changes be implemented before they’re willing to pass the bill, including on estate tax rates.

Pot Legalization Effort Starts Again in DC

McClatchy Newspapers reports that a new trade group called the National Cannabis Industry Association has begun promoting pot on Capitol Hill. The organization is led by Aaron Smith, who previously served with the Marijuana Policy Project in California, which suffered a narrow defeat in its most recent legalization effort, Proposition 19. The National Cannabis Industry Association board includes 23 members representing dispensaries, operators, publications, and insurance providers.

New York Temporarily Bans Fracking

New York Gov. David Paterson ordered a seven-month moratorium on natural gas drilling in the state, which will stand until July 1, according to The Huffington Post. The ban only applies to high-volume hydraulic fracturing of horizontally drilled wells, like the ones that line the Marcellus Shale region; some environmental groups warned that the specifics of the moratorium leave a loophole for drilling companies to exploit, as it allows for drilling of vertical wells. Hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking,” involves blasting millions of gallons of chemically injected water underground to release natural gases. Opponents claim the practice contaminates drinking water, which the Environmental Protection Agency is currently looking into.