ALLIANCE PARTNERSHIP NEWS
On March 30th, CWAG Attorneys General Balderas, Brnovich, Chin and Coffman traveled to Mexico City to meet with US Ambassador to Mexico Roberta Jacobson as well as recently appointed Attorney General of Mexico, Raul Cervantes Andrade, to discuss the CWAG Alliance Partnership initiative as well as areas where the two countries can continue to collaborate to combat transnational organized crime. Both the US Ambassador as well as Attorney General Cervantes Andrade expressed a strong desire to continue building the relationships between the US and Mexico state AGOs and CWAG looks forward to hosting the AG in Tampa, Florida September 27-29, 2017 for the CWAG Binational Attorney General Exchange hosted by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. Mexico Attorney General's Office coverage of the meetings can be found here. Photos and coverage from the US Embassy in Mexico City can be found here.
BORDER LAW ENFORCEMENT
CWAG Attorney General Hector Balderas of New Mexico
announced that Juan David Villegas was successfully extradited from Mexico and is on U.S. soil in the custody of the U.S. Marshal Service. Attorney General Balderas used the extradition process for the return of this fugitive back to the United States, and as a result Juan David Villegas was captured and returned to stand trial for the deaths of his wife and four daughters in New Mexico. Attorney General Balderas was recently in Mexico meeting with Mexican justice officials, including the Attorney General of Mexico (Procurador General de la República) Raúl Cervantes Andrade to continue to strengthen New Mexico's strong diplomatic relations with Mexico and personally thanked Attorney General Cervantes Andrade for his cooperation and effort to return Juan David Villegas to New Mexico. Attorney General Balderas also maintains regular communication with Mexican border state attorneys general regarding issues impacting the border and international extraditions. The United States' extradition treaty with Mexico allows extraditions of violent offenders or child predators, and the Office of the Attorney General is the only state agency in New Mexico that provides extradition support to local law enforcement and district attorneys.
CWAG Attorney General Bob Ferguson of Washington
filed a campaign finance lawsuit against Tim Eyman, alleging improper personal use of $308,000 in contributions made to political committees, concealment of contributions totaling $490,185 and misleading reporting. The lawsuit also accuses for-profit signature gathering firm Citizen Solutions of participating in a scheme to conceal campaign money the company funneled to Eyman. If successful, Eyman and his for-profit company, Tim Eyman Watchdog for Taxpayers, could face $1.8 million in penalties, plus $308,000 in reimbursement. Citizen Solutions and one of its principals, William Agazarm, could face penalties up to $924,555. "Taking kickbacks from contractors, using campaign funds for personal expenses, redirecting donations made for one initiative to a different initiative - it's hard to imagine what more Mr. Eyman could have done to show his contempt for our campaign finance disclosure laws," Attorney General Ferguson said.
FIGHTING DRUG ABUSE
CWAG Associate Attorney General Pam Bondi of Florida
is honored to be appointed to President Donald J. Trump's Opioid and Drug Abuse Commission. As a member of the commission, Attorney General Bondi will work alongside national leaders in the opioid fight on drug prevention, interdiction and treatment strategies. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will chair the commission. "I am honored to work alongside President Trump, Governor Christie and others to combat the national opioid crisis that is claiming thousands of American lives every year," said Attorney General Bondi. "For more than two decades, first as a state prosecutor and now as Florida's attorney general, I have fought drug abuse at the local and state level-with this appointment I will work with national leaders in this vital fight."
CWAG Associate Attorney General Josh Stein of North Carolina
applauded the North Carolina House of Representatives Health Committee, which unanimously passed legislation to confront the opioid crisis. The STOP Act, formally the Strengthen Opioid misuse Prevention Act, will ensure smarter prescribing and smarter dispensing of highly-addictive prescription drugs."I sincerely thank the House Health Committee for its support of this bill and, in particular, Chairman Murphy for his leadership on it," said Attorney General Stein. "Opioid addiction is tearing families apart all across our state and requires a swift policy response to prevent addiction and support those who are currently struggling. This bill is an important first step in a comprehensive response to the opioid crisis."
CWAG Associate Attorney General Maura Healey of Massachusetts
announced that a Kansas-based insurance company has agreed to pay more than $2.8 million to settle allegations that it used deceptive and unlawful practices to sell health insurance to Massachusetts consumers. The settlement will provide more than $2.3 million to consumers. According to the complaint, Unified Life Insurance Company (ULIC) sold health insurance to Massachusetts consumers that was not authorized for sale and engaged in a host of deceptive practices, such as claiming its insurance included services that it did not cover. According to the complaint, ULIC also excluded Massachusetts consumers from coverage based upon their health status or preexisting conditions, and failed to cover basic health services - such as behavioral health services, maternity services, preventive services for women and children, and other essential benefits required by Massachusetts law. The coverage at issue was sold across state lines and was issued through a third-party association. "This company sold sub-par health insurance that violated state law," said Attorney General Healey. "Recently revived federal proposals to take away our state's longstanding authority to oversee sales of health insurance will leave consumers and families more vulnerable to exploitation and create a 'race-to-the-bottom' that will raise prices and reduce access to quality health care for those in need."
PUBLIC HEALTH AND SAFETY
In recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, CWAG Attorney General Hector Balderas of New Mexico announced the launch of his office's statewide Conscious Campus initiative. The educational initiative aims to help college communities discuss the realities of sexual assault on campus, explore interventions, and benefit from community resources. "I applaud my alma mater, Highlands University and other participating colleges in New Mexico for taking steps toward making their campuses safer," said Attorney General Balderas. "This initiative brings together college and university communities, government officials, health professionals, and law enforcement to engage in a meaningful dialogue about the realities of sexual assault and connects students with critical resources."
Kicking off April's "Alcohol Responsibility Month," CWAG Attorney General Sean Reyes of Utah teamed up with Olympic Superstar Simone Biles and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org) to release a public service announcement to prevent underage drinking. In the video, through Responsibility.org's Ask, Listen, Learn: Kids and Alcohol Don't Mix program, Attorney General Reyes and Biles encourage parents to have conversations with their kids and teens about saying "no" to underage drinking. "Few people have as significant an impact on children as their own parents," said Attorney General Reyes. "Parents can be positive role models and are the best people to teach children to make healthy lifestyle choices. I owe my own mother and father so much for the lessons and examples they gave me."
ATTORNEY GENERAL RACINE LAUNCHES MEDIATION PROGRAM
CWAG Associate Attorney General Karl A. Racine of the District of Columbia
has launched a pilot program to resolve lawsuits against the District government through an informal mediation process. Under the program, any individual who has filed a lawsuit against the District of Columbia seeking $10,000 or less for property damage or personal injury may bring the claim before a neutral mediator. Because this process does not involve formal discovery by either side, the mediation is intended to allow individuals with meritorious claims to obtain a quick resolution and save taxpayers the cost of going to trial. "District taxpayers benefit when lawsuits against the city are resolved quickly and the District as well as the other party can avoid the costs of going to trial," said Attorney General Racine. "The Office of the Attorney General's new mediation program is an opportunity for the District government to provide a quick, fair, and informal way of resolving claims with resolutions agreeable to all parties."
CWAG Associate Attorney General Steven T. Marshall of Alabama
announced that the federal District Court for the Northern District of Alabama has dismissed CSX Transportation's lawsuit challenging the application of Alabama's four percent sales tax to CSX's purchase of diesel fuel, a ruling that could return more than $10 million in unpaid taxes to Alabama's Education Trust Fund.
Attorney General Marshall said, "I hope that Wednesday's opinion signals the end of nine years of litigation that has resulted in millions of dollars being withheld from Alabama's public schools. Everyone in this State benefits from stronger schools, so everyone, including railroad companies, needs to pay their fair share of taxes to support our schools."