CWAG Roundup

March 17, 2016
Greetings! 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:
 
SAVE THE DATE
 
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
 
CWAG ANNUAL MEETING REGISTRATION NOW OPEN
 
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: https://www.cwagweb.org/sunvalley/registration
 
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.
 
EDUCATION DEBT
 
CWAG Attorney General Kamala D. Harris of California requested that the U.S. Department of Education revise its proposed regulations regarding debt relief for students allegedly misled by "predatory" and for-profit colleges that advertise inflated job placement rates and asked that the Department "do more" to protect the students affected. Defrauded students have a right under Federal law to have loans discharged when their schools engage in misrepresentations and other unlawful conduct. According to General Harris, the process for asserting this right is unclear. General Harris called on the Department to revise its regulations in a manner that ensures "fair and effective defense-to-repayment procedures." Specifically, General Harris commented that the procedures must (i) refer to state law for a basis to assert a defense; (ii) not include a statute of limitations for borrowers to assert a defense to repayment; (iii) provide procedures for broad and instantaneous relief to student borrowers affected by schools' deceptive practices; and (iv) ban schools from making the discharge process burdensome and expensive.
 
HUMAN TRAFFICKING
 
CWAG Associate Attorney General Bill Schuette of Michigan announced the filing of criminal charges against Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings, III for human trafficking. Members of the Michigan Attorney General's office, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Ingham County Sheriff's Office jointly conducted the investigation based on information provided by witnesses in another case, which led to Stuart Dunnings. General Schuette stated: "Human trafficking is a crime that puts people, in this case young women, into situations where their lives are endangered and where they are manipulated and brutalized. During an investigation into a suspected human trafficking ring, we discovered that one of our own was using the services of women who were being trafficked."
 
ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT
 
CWAG Attorney General Craig Richards of Alaska announced that the federal district court overturned the listing of the Arctic subspecies of the ringed seal. "We are pleased that the court has yet again overturned a speculative ESA listing by agreeing that the listing was not justified," said Assistant Attorney General Brad Meyen. "The listing was based on 100-year projections lacking credible scientific evidence that the seals are actually at risk within a few generations-numbering now in the millions." In order to list a species under the Endangered Species Act, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) must show a connection between the scientific data and the decision to list. NMFS admitted that ringed seals are very numerous but listed them anyway. Alaska and others sought to overturn the threatened listing on the grounds that the decision lacked the necessary scientific evidence to support the decision. "We have long maintained that listing of the ringed seal was not warranted." Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Sam Cotten said. "The animals are healthy and show no evidence of decline."
 
PUBLIC LANDS
 
Wyoming Governor Matt Mead announced he is directing CWAG Attorney General Peter Michael to intervene in a federal lawsuit environmental groups filed last month in Idaho. The lawsuit seeks to force the federal administration to impose more restrictions on oil and gas drilling, grazing and other activities blamed for the decline of greater sage grouse across the West. The groups claim the conservation effort the government announced last fall has loopholes and won't protect the bird from extinction. Governor Mead says the lawsuit shows that the federal Endangered Species Act needs to be amended so successful conservation efforts are celebrated instead of challenged.
 
Utah budget leaders on approved setting aside $4.5 million as the first payment toward a lawsuit aimed at asserting state ownership of tens of millions of acres of federal land within Utah's borders. The lawsuit money is being set aside in case CWAG Attorney General Sean Reyes decides to file the public-lands lawsuit that has been years in the making. The $4.5 million carved out now marks the first time funds are actually being earmarked for such a court fight. ''It will be there so if the attorney general does weigh in on it, we don't have to come back into special session and appropriate it,'' said Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy. "It's in anticipation of the possibility of that happening."
 
CWAG Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman of Colorado announces the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the Colorado Roadless Rule in a case in which General Coffman represented the State of Colorado as a friend of the court. The Rule was the result of a six-year cooperative rulemaking process between the United States Forest Service and the State of Colorado. The result was a rule that protects over 4 million acres of pristine "roadless" areas and provides heightened protection for over a million acres of land for the benefit of the citizens of Colorado. At the same time, the Rule respects existing ski area development plans, protects water supply infrastructure, and allows the State to engage in responsible land stewardship to mitigate the risk of wildfires in mountain communities. "The Colorado Roadless Rule is a good example of cooperative government," said General Coffman. "The court rightly recognized that it is appropriate-and perfectly lawful-for Coloradans to have a voice in how public lands in our State are managed."
 
NUCLEAR WASTE CLEANUP
 
CWAG Attorney General Bob Ferguson of Washington announced that a U.S. District Court judge resolved the latest lawsuit in Washington's long-running efforts to hold the federal government accountable for the cleanup of nuclear waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation with a 102-page ruling and related orders. In an often scathing assessment of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the court decried the federal government's "total lack of transparency." The ruling requires greater transparency on the part of the federal government; sets forth earlier, firmer deadlines than the feds advocated; and grants the state of Washington direct opportunities to return to court to hold the U.S. accountable when needed. The court also encouraged the parties to work together going forward. "This ruling is a significant victory for the people of Washington," General Ferguson said. "The federal government has long been more focused on excusing its delays than being a good partner in cleaning up the toxic mess they left behind at Hanford. We went to court to hold them accountable, and the court agreed with the state of Washington. I am optimistic that, with this decision, the federal government's track record of hiding the ball is now behind us. I hope today's ruling signals the beginning of a more positive partnership and real progress on moving forward to clean up Hanford."
 
IMMIGRATION
 
CWAG Attorneys General Bob Ferguson of Washington and Kamala D. Harris of California filed an amicus brief stating that immigrant children should not be forced to represent themselves in complex deportation hearings. The "friend of the court" brief was filed with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in J.E.F.M v. Lynch, formerly J.E.F.M. v. Holder. This class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of thousands of children, challenging the federal government's willingness to carry out deportation hearings against them without legal representation. For the most part, these children are fleeing to escape violence and crime back in their home countries. A majority of the children are coming from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. "Hundreds of these children are already in Washington, some of them as young as eight," General Ferguson said. "An immigration proceeding cannot be conducted fairly where an experienced lawyer represents the federal government and an indigent child has no lawyer at all. It's not just unreasonable - it's un-American."  General Harris stated, "Children are some of the most vulnerable members of our society. A child forced to navigate our complicated immigration system should be provided with due process. For these children, adequate legal representation can mean the difference between life and death. We must live up to our nation's principles of justice, equality, and fairness, and guarantee the right to due process for children seeking safety within our borders."
 
MARIJUANA
 
CWAG Associate Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin of Rhode Island, along with the Conference of Western Attorneys General (CWAG) and the Taubman Center for American Politics and Policy at Brown University, is hosting a forum on marijuana policy in Rhode Island. The forum, entitled Marijuana Regulatory Policy: Lessons from Western States, will feature presentations by government officials and industry leaders from states that have legalized recreational marijuana and medical marijuana. "In Rhode Island, important public policy decisions are currently being considered regarding the legalization of marijuana for recreational and medicinal use. Before the State can seriously consider legalizing recreational marijuana, it is imperative to discuss the challenges of creating a robust regulatory framework for a new industry, the cost-benefit analysis of creating a government oversight structure and enforcement of the industry, and the integration of recreational marijuana with the current medical marijuana environment," said General Kilmartin.
Chris Coppin
Legal Director
Conference of Western Attorneys General
1300 I Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
505-589-5101 (cell)
817-615-9335 (fax)
Chris.coppin@cwagweb.org

Conference of Western Attorneys General | 1300 I Street | Sacramento | CA | 95814