CWAG ANNUAL MEETING
The Conference of Western Attorneys General (CWAG), Oregon Attorney General and CWAG Chair Ellen Rosenblum along with Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden look forward to seeing you for the CWAG Annual Meeting, July 17-20, 2016 in Sun Valley, Idaho at the Sun Valley Resort. A current agenda is attached to this Roundup.
Registration: If you have not yet registered for the meeting, we strongly encourage you to do so no later than COB today, July 8 to ensure inclusion in our events. You may register online at www.cwagweb.org/sunvalley/registration or print off a registration packet from the website and email the forms to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Room Block Sold Out: Despite our best efforts to gauge CWAG attendance, over the past several years the CWAG room block has sold out quickly and well before the "official" cutoff date. This year has proven to be no exception and our room block is currently sold out. Part of the problem is we run up against limitations in the size of resorts located in the scenic locations our guests love in the West.
We recommend you call the resort reservations number at 880.786.8259 to inquire about any possible room availability due to a cancellation prior to booking a room offsite. If no rooms are available below is a list of nearby hotels. Individuals should make a personal reservation as CWAG does not have any arrangements with them.
ALLIANCE PARTNERSHIP BINATIONAL EXCHANGE MEETING
CWAG Chair and Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum along with Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden will be hosting the 2016 CWAG Alliance Partnership Binational State Attorneys General Exchange. July 16 to July 17 at the Sun Valley Resort in Sun Valley, Idaho, prior to the CWAG Annual Meeting which runs from July 17-20, 2016. For additional information, please contact Alliance Partnership Deputy Director Lauren Niehaus at: LNiehaus@cwagweb.org or by phone at 303-827-9039.
COLORADO AG MAKES IMPORTANT HIRE
CWAG Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman of Colorado announced the appointment of Laura Chartrand as Deputy Attorney General for the Natural Resources and Environment Section. Before joining the Attorney General's Office, Chartrand was a policy advisor at the Western Governors' Association, where she advised the governors of 19 western states and 3 U.S.-flag islands on a variety of critical natural resources issues. "Laura brings a unique blend of leadership skills, legal acumen, and a demonstrated ability to build consensus on complex environmental issues," said General Coffman. "Her dedication to preserving and protecting the environment will serve our clients and the people of the State of Colorado well."
CWAG Associate Attorney General Tom Miller of Iowa announced that Fort Dodge-based cosmetology school La' James International College will forgive $2.1 million in student debts, significantly change its business practices, submit to outside oversight, and pay $550,000, through a settlement. The settlement, through a consent judgment, resolves a consumer fraud lawsuit filed in Polk County District Court in 2014, alleging La' James engaged in deceptive, omissive, and unfair practices in marketing, enrollment, and instruction. "This settlement addresses certain past practices by La' James' that we allege were simply unfair to many of its students," General Miller said. "We heard from students who tried in good faith to better themselves by enrolling in La' James' programs, and found the programs didn't always match the promises," General Miller added. "Looking forward, this agreement will help level the playing field for current and future students, and it puts in place an outside monitor to help ensure future fairness and compliance."
CWAG Associate Attorney General Leslie Rutledge of Arkansas, along with Rep. Bill Gossage and Arkansas Crime Information Center (ACIC) Director Jay Winters, unveiled a website, hosted by ACIC, to assist with the more than 500 active Arkansas missing persons cases. NeverForgotten.ar.gov, which was launched today, enables the public to access information on missing person cases with an easy-to-use searchable database. "Since I became Attorney General, I have consistently heard that our State can do a better job of helping the public easily find information about these cases," said General Rutledge. "Now, all Arkansans will be able assist our law enforcement community by visiting this public website and obtaining information about missing Arkansans."
CWAG Attorney General Tim Fox of Montana announced that the Montana Department of Justice has begun using CodeRED, a hosted emergency notification system, to issue the state's AMBER Alerts and Missing Endangered Person Advisories (MEPAs). At a press conference, DOJ officials thanked the Town Pump Foundation for its donation, which made the switch to the new alert system possible. "Thanks to the generous support of the Town Pump Foundation, for a period of three years, we'll be using CodeRED to support our AMBER Alert and MEPA Programs," said General Fox. "CodeRED provides multiple methods of rapid communication to the public whenever a child has been abducted, which is critically important in situations when every second counts," added General Fox.
CWAG Associate Attorney General Brad Schimel of Wisconsin announced that the Wisconsin Department of Justice's Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force participated in Operation Broken Heart, which joined 60 other ICAC Task Forces nationwide in identifying and arresting suspected child sexual predators during April and May 2016. During Operation Broken Heart, the Wisconsin ICAC Task Force made 87 arrests of suspected child predators and 129 community presentations on Internet safety. Dozens of Wisconsin law enforcement agencies who are members of Wisconsin's ICAC Task Force participated in Operation Broken Heart. Nationally, the operation resulted in 1,368 arrests and the task forces conducted about 2,300 presentations. "Children in Wisconsin and all across the U.S. are safer because of Operation Broken Heart's success," said General Schimel. "When I was elected Wisconsin Attorney General, I made protecting our State's most vulnerable a priority. I'm proud of the work the ICAC Task Force has done to investigate those individuals who use the Internet to exploit children."
CWAG Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman of Colorado won an important victory in her fight to hold the largest foreclosure law firm in Colorado accountable for allegedly charging grossly inflated costs in foreclosure proceedings. In State v. The Castle Law Group, LLC, the Colorado Supreme Court held that Attorney General Coffman can introduce critical evidence at trial to demonstrate that the Castle Law Firm used affiliated businesses to artificially inflate foreclosure-related costs. Attorney General Coffman alleges that the Castle Law Group and its principals, in concert with affiliated foreclosure-related businesses, systematically charged inflated and deceptive costs for routine services necessary to complete home foreclosures, while falsely representing that those costs were "actual, reasonable and necessary." "We intend to prove at trial that these defendants took advantage of the foreclosure process to line their pockets," General Coffman said. "This case is about ensuring the fairness and integrity of the foreclosure process, including for homeowners at risk of losing their homes. I look forward to proving my allegations at trial and holding these defendants accountable."
STATES V. FEDS
CWAG Attorney General Sean Reyes of Utah announced a district court has issued a national injunction against a Department of Labor (DOL) administrative rule in a case in which Utah joined with Texas, Arkansas, Alabama, Indiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, and South Carolina, as well as several private plaintiffs. Instituted on March 24, the rule-known informally as the "persuader rule"-purported to reinterpret a section of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) that has long exempted from federal oversight communications between lawyers and clients during union-organizing campaigns. The persuader rule would have narrowed that exemption to exclude from it "indirect communications" by management-side consultants and lawyers during union-organizing campaigns-including speeches or scripts provided to supervisors to share with employees and intended to sway employees against unionizing. Besides redefining the statutory exemption to exclude such communications, the rule also required attorneys and consultants to report those communications to DOL, which would compile them and make them publicly available on its website, where they could be used against the employers by third parties.
CWAG Associate Attorney General Bill Sorrell of Vermont and the Vermont Human Rights Commission issued Guidance on gender-based pricing, which is the practice of charging different prices for goods or services based on the consumer's gender. Gender-based pricing occurs right here in Vermont - from services such as haircuts and dry cleaning to goods such as personal hygiene products and children's toys. According to General Sorrell, "many Vermont businesses may not realize that they are engaging in illegal gender-based pricing, and many Vermonter consumers may not realize that they have been subjected to the unfair practice. We have produced the Guide to raise awareness and help eliminate all gender-based pricing in Vermont."
More than 100 Nobel laureates have a message for Greenpeace: Quit the G.M.O.-bashing. Genetically modified organisms and foods are a safe way to meet the demands of a ballooning global population, the 109 laureates wrote in a letter posted online and officially unveiled at a news conference on Thursday in Washington, D.C. Opponents, they say, are standing in the way of getting nutritious food to those who need it. "Greenpeace has spearheaded opposition to Golden Rice, which has the potential to reduce or eliminate much of the death and disease caused by a vitamin A deficiency (VAD), which has the greatest impact on the poorest people in Africa and Southeast Asia," the laureates wrote in the letter.
PUBLIC LANDS/FREE SPEECH
Several states have tangled with free speech issues in their Adopt-a-Highway programs. On July 5, the Georgia Supreme Court let stand a lower court ruling against the State's attempt to block a Ku Klux Klan group from participation in the Adopt-a-Highway program (S16A0367. State of Georgia et al. vs International Keystone Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Inc.). Volunteers who pick up litter along highways are recognized as sponsors on Adopt-a-Highway signs on the public right of way. In 2012, Georgia denied a Klan group's application on grounds that the Adopt-a-Highway program is for "civic-minded organizations in good standing." Rejecting that reasoning, the trial court in Georgia said viewpoint-based discrimination was not allowed under the Georgia Constitution. The Klan unit was represented by the American Civil Liberties Union. Meanwhile, a handful of states have explored plans to allow commercial advertising on highway right of way (public land) to supplement transportation funding, which would require federal signoff. Urging caution, Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) points to disputes over hate speech as a potential headache for States.