Roundup 03-31-11

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HUMAN TRAFFICKING



CWAG Associate Attorney General Greg Abbott of Texas has developed new
human trafficking prevention legislation based upon recommendations from the Texas
Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force‟s 2011 report. The task force is chaired by
Attorney General Abbott. If enacted, the legislation would amend current Texas law
governing the prosecution and punishment of human trafficking. It would also provide
civil remedies against human traffickers and implement the legislations new protections
for human trafficking victims. “Human traffickers use force, fraud and coercion to
essentially enslave their victims and compel them to work against their will for little or no
pay,” Attorney General Abbott said.



BORDER LAW ENFORCEMENT


CWAG Attorney General Kamala D. Harris of California announced the addition of
four Department of Justice special agents to a multi-agency task force in Imperial
County that targets the activities of transnational gangs, from street level crime to major
international conspiracies. "Violent gangs don't respect borders any more than they
respect the law," Attorney General Harris said, "but the collaborative efforts of local,
state and federal law enforcement agencies have already made great strides in
combating gang-related crimes along the border. My office is committed to doing
whatever it takes to protect the citizens of California from gang violence and drug-
running." General Harris and more than 20 other state leaders met to discuss border
violence and new opportunities to collaborate in the fight against drug gangs. The group
included members of the law enforcement community, federal and state legislators,
elected district attorneys, a United States attorney, and a representative from the
California Department of Corrections.



ENVIRONMENTAL LAW



Hydraulic fracturing, an increasingly common method of extracting natural gas that
involves shooting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals deep underground, has
sparked controversy around the country because drillers keep their chemical formulas
secret. But Texas, the leading gas-producing state, could help change industry
practices by requiring public disclosure of the chemicals used. A bill introduced this
month would create a web site containing information about the chemicals used in each
well. The bill has won praise from both industry and major environmental organizations
including the Sierra Club, the Texas League of Conservation Voters.

PUBLIC LANDS

Secretary of the Interior, former CWAG Attorney General, Ken Salazar, implemented
a new wild lands policy when he directed BLM to review lands with wilderness
characteristics and to designate wild lands under Secretarial Order 3310. Utah counties
have challenged the new policy to court, charging that the policy violates the mandate of
The Wilderness Act that only Congress has the authority to designate wilderness. The
suit, brought by Uintah County and the Utah Association of Counties, also charges that
the policy violates the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act requirement that BLM
follow rule-making procedures and a 2003 agreement on wilderness reviews between
the Interior Department and Utah.

FEDS CHALLENGE STATE LABOR LAWS


CWAG Attorney General Marty Jackley of South Dakota announced that he and
CWAG Attorneys General Tom Horne of Arizona and Mark Shurtleff of Utah have
by joint letter rejected the National Labor Relation Board‟s (NLRB) demand to “stipulate
to the unconstitutionality” of state constitutional amendments that guarantee their
citizens the right to vote by secret ballot. The Attorneys General noted that under the
NLRA, “secret elections are generally the most satisfactory--indeed the preferred--
method” of ascertaining whether there exists majority support for a matter. “South
Dakotans have spoken loudly on this issue with the passage of a Constitutional
Amendment guaranteeing the fundamental right to vote by secret ballot. If challenged,
our Attorney General‟s Office will vigorously defend our South Dakota Constitution,”
said Attorney General Marty Jackley.



PUBLIC FUNDS


CWAG Attorney General David Louie of Hawaii announced that certain internet travel
companies have been underpaying general excise and hotel taxes for more than 10
years and now owe Hawaii $170 million in unpaid taxes. The websites owing back taxes
include industry giants such as Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, Hotwire.com, Hotels.com,
Priceline and others. The state Department of Taxation has determined the tax evasion
began in 1999 and continued through 2010. The State plans to pursue back taxes,
penalties and interest owed. The attorney general's office estimates if the companies
pay the taxes as they're supposed to, the state can expect an additional $12 million-$14
million in annual revenues.
CWAG Associate Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen of Wisconsin announced that
the State has reached a $4.2 million settlement agreement with three of the defendants
in the litigation charging thirty-six (36) pharmaceutical manufacturers with defrauding
the Wisconsin Medicaid Program. The Department of Justice law enforcement action
pending in Dane County alleges that the companies reported fictitious prices to deceive
the Medicaid pharmaceutical reimbursement system to increase sales and market
share. Under the terms of the agreement, Merck & Company, Inc, Schering
Corporation, and Warrick Pharmaceuticals Corporation will pay a total of $4,250,000.00
to settle the State's claims. The payment comprises $3.7 million in restitution to the
Medicaid Program and $550,000 in costs and fees for prosecution of the action.


DUI APPS

CWAG Associate Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler of Maryland called on
Google and Apple to ban smartphone applications that help users avoid drunk-driving
checkpoints. The applications, currently available for download for Apple iPhone and
Google Android phones, provide the locations of police checkpoints and allow users to
report checkpoints to others. “These smartphone applications give drunk drivers a „how-
to' guide to evade DUI checkpoints and endanger the lives of innocent citizens on our
roads,” said General Gansler. “We strongly urge Google and Apple to take the most
responsible and reasonable step and ban these types of applications altogether. These
are nothing more than an overt method of circumventing laws that were specifically
enacted to save lives.”

PROTECTING CONSUMERS

CWAG Attorney General John Suthers of Colorado unveiled a new initiative aimed
at keeping Colorado consumers apprised of the latest scams. The Colorado Consumer
Fraud Awareness newsletter, a quarterly digital publication, will deliver information on
emerging fraud schemes as well as information about common scams and how
consumers can avoid falling victim to both. “Information is the best weapon we have to
combat and prevent fraud,” General Suthers said. “Through this newsletter, Coloradans
will be able to better prepare themselves to recognize and avoid scams.” Consumers
can         sign        up       to       receive         the        newsletter        at
www.coloradoattorneygeneral.gov/fraudawareness.

CWAG Attorney General John Kroger of Oregon announced an agreement that
shuts down a Eugene-based law firm that was the subject of dozens of complaints
about its debt collection practices. In addition to closing down McGavic & Finney PC,
the settlement requires founding partner Derrick E. McGavic to pay $70,000 and
surrender his license to practice law. "At a time when many Oregonians are struggling
to manage their debt, the Department of Justice is committed to holding unscrupulous
debt collectors accountable," said Keith Dubanevich, Chief of Staff and Special Counsel
to Attorney General Kroger. McGavic & Finney specialized in representing national debt
collectors that buy defaulted consumer obligations in massive quantities on the
secondary market – often for pennies on the dollar.

CWAG Associate Attorney General Pam Bondi of Florida announced a first-of-its-
kind settlement against attorney Marshall C. Watson and his law firm, one of the largest
foreclosure firms in Florida, for alleged improprieties in the prosecution of foreclosure
cases throughout Florida. This settlement, which calls for a $2 million payment and
imposition of certain requirements to conduct business, is the first stemming from
numerous investigations into Florida foreclosure law firms. “We are aggressively
investigating these law firms in order to protect the interests of everyone involved in
foreclosure proceedings. Homeowners, lending institutions and the courts deserve to
know that the law is being followed and all documentation is true and accurate,” stated
General Bondi. “Anything short of total assurance of complete accuracy during such
serious situations is unacceptable.”

INTERNET SAFETY



It's no secret that Facebook has plenty of underage users, but, according to a report
from the Daily Telegraph, the social network is doing its best to keep them out.
Facebook's chief privacy adviser, Mozelle Thompson, confirmed yesterday that the site
bans about 20,000 underage users every day, as part of its campaign to tighten its 13-
and-older age limit. Speaking to a Parliamentary cyber-safety commission in Australia,
Thompson added that the site has adopted mechanisms to detect when kids lie about
their ages, but acknowledged that they're still "not perfect.”

				
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