CWAG Roundup

Attorneys General vs. Governors in the Western States

November 12, 2015

Greetings! 

 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:
 
REGISTRATION OPEN FOR CWAG WINTER DINNER
 
CWAG's "Dinner with the Attorneys General," is set for Tuesday, December 1, 2015, at The Mills House in Charleston, South Carolina.  We invite your participation in this Endowment Dinner benefiting the programs and goals of CWAG.  Attached please find the sponsorship and registration information. This engaging dinner includes participation by approximately 25-30 Attorneys General and their top staff from across the country. We hope your schedule will allow you to attend this year's event and participate in this premier opportunity for exchanging views and forging relationships.  Since seating is limited we ask that you register no later than Monday, November 16 by completing and submitting the attached registration form.   Please contact CWAG Meeting Manager, Janine Knudsen, at 916.704.1057 or Janine.Knudsen@CWAGWeb.Org with any questions or to confirm your participation.  
 
SAVE THE DATE
 
CWAG Alliance Partnership Binational State Attorney General Exchange July 16-17, 2016
CWAG Annual Meeting July 17-20, 2016
Sun Valley Resort
Sun Valley, Idaho
 
The Conference of Western Attorneys General (CWAG) Alliance Partnership, CWAG Chair and Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum along with Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden cordially invite you to attend the 2016 CWAG Alliance Partnership Binational State Attorneys General Exchange and CWAG Annual Meeting.  
 
The Binational State Attorneys General Exchange will be held from July 16 to July 17 at the Sun Valley Resort in Sun Valley, Idaho, immediately followed by the CWAG Annual Meeting which runs from July 17-20, 2016.  
 
CWAG anticipates the attendance of Mexico's Federal Attorney General Arely Gomez Gonzalez, as well as approximately 20 state Attorneys General from Mexico and the United States to be in attendance at the Binational Exchange, in addition to other federal and private partners.  We expect approximately 22-25 state Attorneys General along with their top staff along with other government and private sector partners in attendance at the CWAG Annual Meeting.
 
We also want to advise you that dates have been announced for the RNC and DNC which are in conflict with the CWAG Annual Meeting.  Due to meeting planning beginning years in advance, CWAG will keep our meeting dates and hope you are able to join us.
 
Please direct any questions regarding the Binational Exchange to Lauren Niehaus atlniehaus@cwagweb.org or the CWAG Annual Meeting to Janine Knudsen atjknudsen@cwagweb.org.
 
ATTORNEYS GENERAL v. STATE GOVERNORS
 
Recently, members of CWAG have found themselves involved in controversies with their respective state governors over the policy implications of state attorneys general filing lawsuits without the approval of the governor. These issues arise occasionally so CWAG will highlight a few important cases of such conflicts. CWAG has recognized several member attorneys general in the past for their courage in enforcing the law despite high political risks. Most recently, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden was honored with the CWAG Profiles in Courage Award for his efforts to obtain the highest return on state resources to benefit education. To do this, he had to sue his Governor, Secretary of State, Superintendent of Public Instruction and Controller, all of who were members of the same political party. For those interested, the National Association of Attorneys General publishes a book titled "State Attorneys General Powers and responsibilities" which is edited by Emily Myers of NAAG. It is a great source of material to research issues related to the authority of state attorneys general.
 
Colorado's top environment official blasted the state's attorney general for suggesting that she may challenge President Obama's first-ever federal limits on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. "In no way shape or form would I want her legal challenge to be a reflection of the state's position on reducing carbon emissions," Larry Wolk, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, told High Country News. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper filed a petition with the state Supreme Court to rule that CWAG Attorney General Cynthia Coffman cannot sue the federal government without his approval. The petition cites three lawsuits by General Coffman against the federal government. General Coffman joined a Wyoming lawsuit fighting federal rules for oil and gas fracking on public lands. She joined a North Dakota lawsuit challenging federal clean air rules. She also joined a lawsuit challenging President Obama's plan to cut air pollution from power plants. These actions raise "serious questions about the use of state dollars and the attorney-client relationship between the governor, state agencies and the attorney general," said Jacki Cooper Melmed, chief legal counsel to the governor. "I am disappointed to learn (Hickenlooper) is taking this course," General Coffman said in a statement. "This is not in the best interest of Colorado or Coloradans, who elected each of us to serve different roles within our system of checks and balances." General Coffman said the governor is departing from past examples during his tenure of dealings with the attorney general's office: "The governor's action is an expression of his frustration with the legal challenges I have filed against the federal government. I am pursuing those challenges because it is my responsibility as the independently elected attorney general to serve as a check against the abusive, unlawful exercise of federal power over the lives of Colorado's citizens."
 
There is a chill between Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval and CWAG Attorney General Adam Laxalt over General Laxalt joining a lawsuit that challenges new federal land-use restrictions across Nevada by the Department of the Interior concerning the sage grouse. Governor Sandoval also was not happy with General Laxalt after he joined 25 other states in suing to block President Barack Obama's "executive amnesty" for undocumented immigrants.  When General Laxalt filed the amended complaint in federal court regarding the sage grouse restrictions, Governor Sandoval said General Laxalt "is acting in his personal capacity and does not represent the State of Nevada, the Governor, or any state agencies," and that the governor is "disappointed that the Attorney General has again chosen to ignore a direct request from his client." General Laxalt stated: "It's important that we use that litigation tool to make sure the federal government takes the states seriously."
 
MARIJUANA IN INDIAN COUNTRY
 
An American Indian tribe slated to open the nation's first marijuana resort is destroying its crop and temporarily suspending the project in South Dakota while leaders seek clarification from the federal government, according to the tribe's attorney. The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe, which planned to open a lounge selling marijuana on New Year's Eve, was the first tribe in South Dakota to legalize the drug following the U.S. Department of Justice's decision last year to allow tribes to do so on tribal land. CWAG Attorney General Marty Jackley told The Associated Press that the tribe's attorney and local law enforcement informed him about the decision, which he said was "in the best interest of both tribal and non-tribal members." General Jackley acknowledged that he and tribal officials haven't always agreed, but said their discussions about the issue have been good and promised to help the tribe as it moved forward. He said he planned to meet with tribal officials.
 
NUCLEAR WASTE
 
With the public spotlight on a troubled Idaho National Laboratory waste treatment plant, U.S. Department of Energy officials met with a citizens' advisory board to explain the failure to comply with written assurances to process 900,000 gallons of liquid nuclear waste into solid form by the set deadline. The negotiations between state officials and the Department of Energy were publicized by CWAG Attorney General Lawrence Wasden of Idaho in correspondence released to the public. In a letter to DOE, addressed to Steven Croley, DOE general counsel, and John Kotek, acting assistant secretary, General Wasden wrote that he supports INL's research mission, but was steadfast in insisting the agency needed to show progress in coming into compliance with the 1995 agreement. He also highlighted concern from DOE staff about whether the Integrated Waste Treatment Unit will work as it's supposed to. General Wasden offered a counter proposal that would have had DOE look at alternatives to using the treatment plant to process the 900,000 gallons. He offered DOE the option of putting a limit on how long it would continue to try to make the waste treatment unit operational. "I realize I cannot ask DOE to do the impossible as a condition of reaching an agreement on a waiver," General Wasden wrote. "At the same time, I cannot, consistent with my duty as Attorney General, agree to grant a waiver to allow DOE to bring fuel to Idaho ... without addressing how DOE intends to cure its breach of the 1995 agreement."
 
WATER LAW
 
A Utah state judge invalidated core provisions of a 2010 law that largely blocked anglers and other members of the recreating public from streams flowing over private ground. HB141, confusingly titled Public Waters Access Act, violates Article XX of the Utah Constitution, which requires public lands - including the public's easement to use rivers and streams - to be "held in trust for the people of the state," 4th District Judge Derek Pullan ruled. "Every parcel of public land, every reach of public water is unique. If Wasatch, Kodachrome Basin, and Snow Canyon State Parks were disposed of ... the public's right to recreate in other places would be of little consolation," the judge wrote. The law closed 2,700 miles of fishable streams, even though many of those miles benefited from habitat and stream bank restoration, flood abatement and other publicly funded projects, according to the Utah Stream Access Coalition, whose members pushed the legal challenge.
 
CONSUMER PROTECTION
 
The Attorneys General of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands sent a letter to United Airlines concerning their "subpar and declining service" on the Guam to Honolulu flight. CWAG Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson of Guam and CWAG Attorney General Edward Manibusan of CNMI are asking Interim United Airlines CEO Brett J. Hart to start up talks to help improve the declining service on United's Guam to Honolulu flight.  Some of their concerns include the loss of free inflight meals, increased costs for baggage, loss of free entertainment, older planes causing frequent breakdowns and insufficient flight crews. Both Attorneys General point out that the Guam to Honolulu flight is an international flight yet it acts as a domestic North American flight in terms of customer amenities. They also point out that the price of the Guam to Honolulu flight is more than twice the price of the Narita to Honolulu route.
 
Many travelers believe that hotels and resorts should be required to include mandatory resort fees in advertised nightly rates, according to a new national poll. The poll, commissioned by Travelers United, a non-profit group with 23,000 members, found that 80% of consumers want resort fees included in advertised pricing so that they can comparison shop. And 87% said they would be less willing to stay at a hotel or resort that charged a fee for activities or amenities they did not use. Many U.S. hotels and resorts charge mandatory fees for amenities such as use of fitness facilities, pools and WiFi. This year, U.S. hotels are projected to make a record $2.47 billion from fees and surcharges, according to a study by New York University's Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism. The Federal Trade Commission in 2012 acknowledged that many hotels and resorts were not mentioning the fees at all or if they did, they used fine print or vague language such as "additional fees may apply."

Chris Coppin

Legal Director

Conference of Western Attorneys General

111 Lomas, NW   Suite 300

Albuquerque, New Mexico 87102

505-222-9175

505-660-5901 (cell)

505-222-9183 (fax)

CCoppin@cwagweb.org