CWAG Roundup

August 18, 2016

Hillary Clinton has tapped former Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar (1999 to 2005) to lead her White House transition team. Salazar will chair a team that also includes former National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, former Michigan Attorney General Jennifer Granholm (1999 to 2003) and longtime Clinton allies Neera Tanden and Maggie Williams. Prior to his role at Interior Secretary under President Barack Obama, Salazar was U.S. Senator from Colorado from 2005-2009. From 1999 until his election to the U.S. Senate, Salazar served as Attorney General for Colorado. He currently works as a partner at the international law firm WilmerHale. The transition team will oversee planning for a potential Clinton administration should the Democratic nominee win in November.
CWAG Associate Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma announced that the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations, the State of Oklahoma and the City of Oklahoma City have reached a water rights settlement, which will be presented to Congress for final approval. When finalized, the settlement will resolve long-standing questions over water rights ownership and regulatory authority over the waters of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations' historic treaty territories, an area that spans approximately 22 counties in south-central and southeastern Oklahoma. General Pruitt commented, "Water is a shared resource, so finding a way to work together was vitally important. I commend the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations and City of Oklahoma City for working purposefully and tirelessly with the State over the past five years to reach an equitable agreement. The State retains its permitting authority over water in the Settlement Area, which is important since uniform permitting and administration provide certainty and consistency for the management and use of water resources. When finalized, the agreement will protect existing rights and provide certainty for future uses in southeastern Oklahoma and other areas of the state."
CWAG Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman of Colorado, in partnership with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Denver Police Department (DPD), and the West Metro Drug Task Force, announced the dismantling of a major heroin trafficking organization focused in Colorado. Operation Muchas Pacas, which launched in August 2015, has resulted in 25 indictments, the seizure of 47 pounds of Mexican heroin, with a total street value of $2.2 million, and over 1 pound of cocaine valued at $30,000. "Stopping the flow and sale of dangerous drugs in Colorado is a major priority of this office" said General Coffman. "This case was a great example of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies working together to dismantle an international drug trafficking network, and I thank the DEA, DPD, and the West Metro Drug Task Force for their work to keep our state safe."
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Hawaii's practice of holding open primary elections. The Democratic Party of Hawaii had sued the state office of elections in 2013 and sought to limit participation in the Democratic primary election to registered Democrats only. The Ninth Circuit ruled that the Democratic Party did not show that the open primary system burdens its associational rights. The Party offered no evidence that the open primary impacted its candidates or messages.  "The open primary is part of Hawaii's commitment to make voting easier and to include more persons in the democratic process," said CWAG Attorney General Doug Chin. "This ruling keeps Hawaii's primary elections open to all registered voters, regardless of their formal party affiliation."
CWAG Attorney General Kamala D. Harris of California announced that the State has reached a $252,000 settlement with two privatized military housing contractors over the companies' unlawful evictions of 18 military servicemembers and their families from private military housing complexes in San Diego and Orange Counties.  General Harris argued that these evictions violated the California Military and Veterans Code, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, and other state debt collection laws which protect servicemembers who are sued while serving on active military duty and are therefore unable to appear and defend themselves in court.  "It is unconscionable that companies would prey upon and illegally evict servicemembers and their families from their homes," said General Harris. "This agreement holds these contractors accountable for their unlawful conduct - including illegal evictions and privacy violations - and ensures that veterans' rights under the law are protected.  I want to thank the Navy Region Legal Service Office (RLSO) Southwest of San Diego for helping us secure justice for the servicemembers harmed by these companies."
CWAG Associate Attorney General Tom Miller of Iowa announced that a Connecticut-based marketing company that has been the target of previous consumer fraud enforcement actions will pay $300,000 to the state, refund Iowa consumers, and stop telemarketing to Iowans after violating a previous agreement to comply with Iowa's Buying Club Memberships Law. The consent judgment follows Trilegiant's violation of a 2013 "assurance of voluntary compliance" agreement with the Consumer Protection Division, in which the company committed to comply with the law. Among other requirements, the previous agreement compelled the company, when marketing buying club memberships to Iowans, to provide consumers with important disclosures mandated by state law. "The moment our investigator provided his Iowa address, the telemarketer should have stopped the membership sales pitch because it was missing the required disclosures," General Miller said. "Incredibly, the telemarketer asked the Iowan to come up with a mailing address in another state, to close the unlawful sale under the guise that it was outside of Iowa."
CWAG Attorney General Kamala D. Harris of California, 8 other states and the city of Chicago filed a motion to intervene in support of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) New Source Performance Standards to limit greenhouse gas emissions, specifically methane, from oil and natural gas operations. The new EPA standards mark the first time the EPA has directly limited greenhouse gases from the oil and natural gas sector and tightens existing limits on emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from oil and natural gas operations. Since the EPA published the emissions standards, Alabama, Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, North Dakota Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, as well as the American Petroleum Institute, oil and gas industry associations, and others have filed lawsuits challenging the rules. "Climate change is a real and direct threat to the health and well being of our communities.  We must do everything in our power to limit greenhouse gas emissions and preserve our planet for future generations," said General Harris. "These new federal standards are based on scientific evidence, and will curb the emission of harmful greenhouse gas pollutants into our environment and help mitigate the devastating effects of climate change."
An Oregon administrative law judge ruled that Oregon Department of State Lands acted lawfully when it rejected a developer's proposed coal export terminal at the Port of Morrow in 2014. The judge didn't accept arguments by Wyoming and Montana, both coal-rich states looking for markets, that the decision impeded interstate commerce. When Chinese demand sent coal prices skyrocketing in 2010, nine export terminals were proposed in Oregon and Washington. Industry analysts said the relatively small project in Morrow had the best chance of being built. They said it could fill a niche for Asian countries like South Korea willing to pay more to diversify against interruptions from more volatile suppliers such as Indonesia.
CWAG Attorney General Bob Ferguson of Washington urged the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit to reject two cases challenging Colorado's recreational marijuana laws. General Ferguson argues in an amicus brief that the appeals court should affirm the lower court decisions and dismiss the challenges to state law. The two lawsuits, Safe Streets Alliance v. Hickenlooper and Smith et al. v. Hickenlooper, argue that the federal Controlled Substances Act preempts Colorado state law, which provides for a regulated and licensed market in marijuana. Initiative 502 created similar recreational marijuana laws in the State of Washington. "Cases like this threaten the core of I-502," General Ferguson said. "The people of Colorado and Washington have voted to allow recreational marijuana, and my job is to make sure the will of the people is upheld."
A massive study published in the Journal of Drug Issues found that the proportion of marijuana users who smoke daily has rapidly grown, and that many of those frequent users are poor and lack a high-school diploma. Examining a decade of federal surveys of drug use conducted between 2002 and 2013, study authors Steven Davenport and Jonathan Caulkins paint one of the clearest pictures yet of the demographics of current marijuana use in the U.S.  They found that the profile of marijuana users is much closer to cigarette smokers than alcohol drinkers, and that a handful of users consume much of the marijuana used in the U.S. "In the early 1990s only one in nine past-month [marijuana] users reported using daily or near-daily," Davenport and Caulkins write. "Now it is fully one in three. Daily or near-daily users now account for over two-thirds of self-reported days of use (68%)."
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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