CWAG Roundup

 February 11, 2016

CWAG Chair, Oregon Attorney General Ellen F. Rosenblum, announces that she will hold her CWAG Chair Initiative on May 24, 2016, in Portland, Oregon: STUDENT DEBT: THE OBLIGATION OF A LIFETIME? A registration packet is attached and an agenda is under development.  
There is no greater category of consumer debt today than education-related debt.  Even credit card debt has been surpassed by the 1.3 trillion dollars of outstanding debt owed by former students and their families today. 
Never before have college students entered the workforce with such a staggering debt burden as they do today. This burden is crushing young people's hopes to move on in their lives in the ways many of us who went to school in a bygone era simply took for granted:  getting married, starting a family, buying a car -- buying a home -- starting a business, etc.  How ironic it is that, rather than improving young people's chances to advance in life, incurring significant debt in order to go to school may be having the opposite effect and stopping -- or at least slowing down-- this advancement.   
What can we, as state Attorneys General, do to address and help resolve this crisis? After all, we do not want our families or the people we serve to be stuck with these student debt obligations for their entire lifetime. Right?  
First and foremost, we can inform ourselves about it and discuss options and strategies that AG's can use to address it.  That's what this conference will do. It will be worth your time -- I promise! 
 We play an important role in protecting consumers -- which includes students, and former students -- from misleading, unfair and deceptive practices. These practices may involve those who work for educational institutions as well as in the loan industry itself.  In this context, they could involve debt servicing, debt consolidation, debt collection and loan underwriting.  They might involve loan co-signers and issues pertaining to discharging a student loan through bankruptcy.   Complaints relating to veterans being targeted by educational institutions for enrollment in programs that are not likely to lead to the jobs they are hoping for, but instead only to burdensome debt, will be discussed as well.  I think we can all agree that our veterans, who may have put off their education in order to serve our country, deserve a very hard look at whether they have been treated deceptively and unfairly.   
Please join me to help explore the problems that have brought us to this untenable situation. We will have speakers discussing all aspects of this issue of educational debt. They will describe the problem and offer constructive recommendations for best practices to be employed by educational institutions, the loan industry and government regulators.
Together, we can work toward helping to ensure that students and their families make wise and informed choices when deciding to take on educational debt; and that when the time comes to pay it back, the former student has graduated and is gainfully employed and prepared to repay his or her loans in amounts and on a schedule that works for everyone.   Only then can we rest assured that education-related debt will NOT be the obligation of a lifetime!
Thanks for considering this important invitation. I hope to see you in Portland and I promise to show you a good time here in addition to putting on a fabulous conference.
Ellen F. Rosenblum
Attorney General
State of Oregon
Chair of CWAG
The Conference of Western Attorneys General (CWAG), Oregon Attorney General and CWAG Chair Ellen Rosenblum along with Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden invite you to join your colleagues for the CWAG Annual Meeting, July 17-20, 2016 in Sun Valley, Idaho at the Sun Valley Resort. 
Please note the important dates and information below:
To register online or download and print the registration information in a PDF form to register manually use the following link:
If you have attended an annual meeting in the past few years your contact information has been saved in the registration system.  Please review your contact information during the registration process to make sure it is current.
To register, go to "Sign In" and enter the email address and password you or your assistant previously provided.  If you can't recall your password, click on the "Forgot Password" link and your password will be sent to the email that is saved in the system.
If you have not previously registered for the annual meeting go to "New Registration", enter your email and create a personal password to be used for future registrations.
Early Bird Registration:  The cutoff date for Early Bird registration is Friday, June 3, 2016 at 5:00p (PT).  Your online registration must be finalized or your manual registration form received via fax or email to the CWAG office by 5:00p (PT) on June 3.  All registrations received after this time and date will be charged the regular registration fee.
Onsite Registration:  Pre-registering for primary attendees and guests who would like to attend any of the substantive or social opportunities is required.  CWAG must make commitments to the hotel and activity vendors based on pre-registered guests prior to our arrival.  The registration fees cover the cost of activities and meals at the conference which have been pre-arranged.  Given the necessity of pre planning, we will not be accepting any onsite registrations.
Hotel Room Cut Cutoff:  The last day to reserve your room within the CWAG room block is Thursday, June 23, 2016.  If the room block sells out prior to that time, reservations will be accepted on a space available basis.  The reservation number for the Sun Valley Resort is 800.786.8259.  Ask for the CWAG room block to receive our discounted rates.
CWAG Attorney General Mark Brnovich of Arizona, will be hosting an International Cooperation Across the Border conference, in conjunction with the Conference of Western Attorneys General (CWAG) Alliance Partnership and the Southwest Border Anti-Money Laundering Alliance (SWBAML) February 29 to March 1, 2016 in Scottsdale, Arizona. This conference will provide an opportunity for US state Attorneys General, the state Attorneys General from Mexico and representatives from the PGR, CNVB, TRAC and other law enforcement agencies to meet and collaborate on topics surrounding transnational organized crime. For additional information on this conference, please contact Lauren Niehaus, Director of Program Coordination for the CWAG Alliance Partnership at: [email protected] or 303.827.9039.
Montana Senator Daines has introduced legislation to split the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in two. The Ninth Circuit, the largest of the 13 courts of appeals, has jurisdiction over federal appeals in nine states, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. The proposed legislation would create a new 12th Circuit Court of Appeals, which would consist of Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. The reconfigured Ninth Circuit would consist of California, Hawaii, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. Senator Daines said in a news release that the Ninth circuit's size and scope deny citizens in its jurisdiction equal access to justice. "When our courts are overburdened and overworked, Americans are left underserved and waiting too long for justice. It's time to take a serious look at how our court system can better serve the American people," Senator Daines stated.
A divided Supreme Court on Tuesday temporarily blocked the administration's initiative to limit carbon emissions from power plants, dealing an early and potentially significant blow to a rule that is the cornerstone of President Barack Obama's efforts to slow climate change. The court, in a brief written order, granted emergency requests by officials of mostly Republican-led states and business groups to delay the regulation while they challenge its legality. Although the Supreme Court's order is temporary and isn't a ruling on the merits, it indicates the court's conservative majority harbors misgivings about the Obama administration plan. It signals the rules could run into trouble in the courts, which could hamper the administration's ability to follow through on U.S. commitments in the Paris climate deal. "I am extremely pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court today granted North Dakota's request to stay the US EPA's 'Clean Power Plan' Rule, which is intended to regulate so-called 'greenhouse gas,' or carbon dioxide, emissions from existing electricity generating plants," CWAG Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem of North Dakota said. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the administration disagreed with the Supreme Court's move. "We remain confident that we will prevail on the merits," Mr. Earnest said. "At the same time, the administration will continue to take aggressive steps to make forward progress to reduce carbon emissions."
CWAG Attorney General Sean Reyes of Utah filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate federal land-use plan revisions aimed at conserving imperiled greater sage grouse. Those plan revisions, adopted by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service last September, were a crucial part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's much-lauded decision to not list sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act. Attorney General Reyes says the feds ignored what scientific evidence indicates would be best for Utah sage grouse and illegally trampled on the state's own conservation plan that Gov. Gary Herbert approved in 2013. The federal agencies "issued the mandatory management plan amendments ... completely disregarding land use agreements and Utah's sage-grouse conservation historical success," General Reyes said in a prepared statement. "This unprecedented action has jeopardized conservation of the species and reasonable public use of the land in Utah."
CWAG Attorney General Craig Richards of Alaska announced that, in accordance with an amendment sponsored by U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan, the state will seek authority to prosecute under the Mann Act. The Alaska Attorney General is seeking this authority so the Alaska Department of Law may evaluate whether to file charges against Bill Allen, the government's main witness in the case against the late Senator Ted Stevens. Allegations of sexual misconduct with a minor were unearthed during the 2008 trial of Senator Stevens, but were never pursued. "Today I wrote the U.S. Attorney General that I'm not aware of any reason that this request could undermine the administration of justice," General Richards said. "In fact, it would do the opposite. Allegations of Mr. Allen's misconduct remain an open and disturbing issue for our state."
In 2003, South Dakota legislators established the State DNA Database. Biological samples are taken from individuals arrested for sexual assaults and other qualifying felony crimes. The samples then yield DNA profiles, which are stored with the South Dakota Forensic Lab (SDFL). The SDFL manages this database and works closely with the South Dakota Department of Corrections, regional jails and statewide law enforcement with the collection of biological samples. When DNA samples are obtained from a crime scene or sexual assault, that DNA sample is then run in the DNA Database for potential matches. "The power of DNA to solve crimes and protect the public is experienced first-hand in South Dakota. The ability to match DNA from a sex offender or violent offender to evidence found at a crime scene is a valuable tool in solving crimes," said CWAG Attorney General Marty Jackley.
CWAG Attorney General Bob Ferguson of Washington filed charges against a Bellevue restaurant owner accused of using "sales suppression software" to hide cash transactions, pocketing nearly $395,000 in sales tax collected from her patrons. Yu-Ling Wong, owner of the Facing East restaurant, is charged in King County Superior Court with first-degree theft, "utilizing sales suppression software," and 21 counts of filing a false tax return. In all, the standard sentencing range as charged is 43 to 57 months. If aggravating circumstances are proven, the judge could impose additional time up to 120 months. General Ferguson believes this to be the first criminal case targeting the use of sales suppression software in the nation. "I will not tolerate businesses that line their pockets by stealing from taxpayers," General Ferguson said. "Using software to cheat on tax obligations is unfair to businesses that play by the rules and it robs Washington taxpayers of the money that is supposed to fund our schools, parks and roads."
The allegations are beyond chilling: two Virginia Tech freshmen charged with the premeditated kidnapping and killing of a 13-year-old girl who, authorities say, communicated with her murderer online. But the way they chatted,on a wildly popular messaging app called Kik, has increasingly become a source of concern for law enforcement. Law enforcement officials say Kik, used by 40 percent of American teenagers by the company's own estimate, goes further than most widely used apps in shielding its users from view, often making it hard for investigators to know who is using it, or how. "The Kik app has become so popular, it's probably the one where law enforcement has seen the most activity," said CWAG Associate Leslie Rutledge of Arkansas, who issued a public plea last year to parents in her state to educate themselves about their children's online habits after two Arkansas men used Kik to solicit nude photos from under-age girls.
CWAG Attorney General Lawrence Wasden of Idaho appeared before state legislators this week seeking an increase in funding for his office.  Wasden told legislators he believes deputies in his office "...every day practice law at the highest a manner that is cost effective and efficient."  Wasden went on to point out the office has returned $2.51 to state coffers for every dollar appropriated to it.  The request follows the recommendations of a legislative performance audit report, which states Idaho could save money by the Attorney General's office handling those cases, rather than hiring private attorneys.
CWAG Associate Attorney General Leslie Rutledge of Arkansas said that she is expanding the services offered at Attorney General Mobile Offices to include Prescription Drug Take Back boxes. Constituents will continue to receive help with consumer-related issues in filing consumer complaints and be provided with information about scams, identity theft, fraud and other protections, but now Arkansans will be able to dispose of their expired and unused medications.  General Rutledge noted at the announcement that without any promotion of the service during the month of January, the office has already collected more than 70 pounds at seven mobile offices. "The Drug Take Back program has proven to be an effective way of getting expired and unused prescriptions, which pose a serious danger, out of our medicine cabinets," said General Rutledge. "By providing Drug Take Back boxes at mobile offices, Arkansans will be provided with another collection site to properly dispose of these medications and protect their loved ones."
The city of Denver has released more than 28,000 packages of marijuana-infused edibles back into the market after recalling the products late last year when they tested positive for pesticides that are banned for use on cannabis. The release comes despite Gov. John Hickenlooper in November issuing an executive order mandating that all contaminated cannabis be destroyed as "a risk to public health" and "a threat to public safety." But Denver officials say that while they recalled the products in the wake of the executive order, they released certain low-level batches after the city attorney's office verified that "the XO (executive order) doesn't tell us, the city, to do anything," said Dan Rowland, spokesman for Denver's Office of Marijuana Policy. The released pot edibles, made by EdiPure and Gaia's Garden, contain trace levels of banned pesticides, amounts that are below the lowest allowed on food. The releases are the first time Denver has allowed recalled pot products back into stores. The state is unable to enforce the executive order because it has not developed standards for certifying labs to test marijuana products for pesticides, officials say.
As states around the country wrestle with deciding whether daily fantasy sports leagues constitute illegal gambling, CWAG Associate Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin of Rhode Island said that sites such as FanDuel and DraftKings are legal under Rhode Island law. "Despite daily fantasy sports being legal, I believe there should be strict regulations imposed on the operation of these sites to address the issues we have experienced with gambling in Rhode Island, including infiltration of the criminal element, youth participation and addiction issues," General Kilmartin stated. Also, a federal court in Massachusetts consolidated some 80 lawsuits from around the country to be heard as one in Boston. U.S. District Judge George O'Toole in Boston will oversee the consolidation. The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, which made the decision, oversees case consolidations when a company is sued in different federal courts over the same product or practice. Gathering the cases saves time and money when it comes to pretrial efforts to gather evidence.
CWAG Attorney General Doug Chin of Hawaii issued a formal advisory opinion stating that daily fantasy sports contests, such as those run by FanDuel and DraftKings, constitute illegal gambling under existing state laws. "Gambling generally occurs under Hawaii law when a person stakes or risks something of value upon a game of chance or upon any future contingent event not under the person's control," said General Chin. "The technology may have changed, but the vice has not. Hawaii is generally recognized to have some of the strictest anti-gambling laws in the country," added General Chin. 
Chris Coppin
Legal Director
Conference of Western Attorneys General
1300 I Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
505-589-5101 (cell)
817-615-9335 (fax)

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