Announcements, information and updates from CWAG Members and Associates
December 13, 2018
HOT TOPICS
Articles on topics relevant to the work of Attorneys General around the nation.
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IDENTITY THEFT
43-State Bipartisan Coalition Urges Social Security Administration to Fight Identity Theft
December 10, 2018

California Attorney General Becerra joined a bipartisan multistate coalition of 43 attorneys general in a letter urging the prioritization of updates to the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) electronic databases and verification methods, so that institutions can instantly check for and flag synthetic identity theft. 

Synthetic identity theft occurs when identity thieves use real Social Security numbers, along with fictitious names and birthdates, to manufacture new identities. Currently, delays in the verification process at the SSA allow thieves an opportunity to use stolen identities before an incident is flagged.

In the letter, the attorneys general advise the SSA to implement electronic signatures, or other verification methods, so that financial institutions can verify identity and flag identity theft in real time to protect these vulnerable groups from severe harm.
"The Social Security Administration should use every resource available to protect the identity of vulnerable individuals... It’s time to move the SSA’s verification technologies into the 21st century to keep up with identity thieves who are exploiting our vulnerabilities. We urge the SSA to prioritize making its systems as nimble and strong as possible, when the funding is available from banks and others that will use the system, to combat this growing problem."
-Attorney General Becerra
Becerra joins the attorneys general of Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and Washington, D.C. in the letter.
FEDERALISM
AG Paxton’s Office Defends Federalism at U.S. Supreme Court
December 6, 2018

Leading a bipartisan coalition of 36 states, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office presented a strong case for the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold its longstanding view on states’ authority to prosecute criminals.
 
For almost two centuries, the Supreme Court has recognized repeatedly that if someone violates state and federal law, both governments can prosecute without violating the U.S. Constitution’s protection against double jeopardy. Lawyers for an Alabama man are asking the high court to overturn its earlier decisions.
 
During oral arguments in Gamble v. USA, Texas Solicitor General Kyle Hawkins urged the high court to reaffirm the longstanding rule that a single criminal act which breaks both a federal and a state law amounts to two distinct offenses and can result in two separate prosecutions. To rule otherwise would trigger a race to the courthouse between multiple sovereigns eager to vindicate their own criminal laws. Moreover, it would foster mistrust and competition among the states, rather than cooperation – all to the detriment of public safety.

Texas was joined by 35 other states representing, collectively, over 86 percent of the U.S. population: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
STUDENT BORROWER PROTECTION
AG Balderas Announces U.S. Department of Education to Allow TEACH Grant Recipients to Contest Conversion of Grants to Unsubsidized Loans
December 11, 2018

Attorney General Balderas announced that after investigating numerous complaints to the Office of the Attorney General and demanding that the U.S. Department of Education evaluate its conversion of thousands of TEACH Grants to Direct Unsubsidized Loans, the Department is finalizing a process that will provide an opportunity for certain TEACH Grant recipients whose TEACH Grants were converted to Direct Unsubsidized Loans to request reconsideration of the conversions.
OPIOID CRISIS
AG Hood Files Suit Against Opioid Distributors
December 6, 2018

The effort to hold companies accountable for their role in the statewide opioid epidemic continues with a new lawsuit filed by the State of Mississippi against multiple opioid distributors, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.

The state filed a complaint in Hinds County Circuit Court against opioid distributors Cardinal Health, Inc., McKesson Corporation, and AmerisourceBergen Corporation for failing to prevent the diversion of opioids in Mississippi. The lawsuit alleges that these three companies, who distribute the majority of highly addictive opioids, have failed to prevent the diversion of those drugs by breaching their legal duties to monitor, detect, investigate, refuse, and report suspicious orders of opioids, which the complaint states is a violation of the Mississippi Consumer Protection Act. As a result, Mississippi has been flooded with opioids and is suffering an ongoing public health crisis.

The state is seeking to curtail the massive flow of opioids being shipped into the State by these defendants which are then diverted into elicit markets.
Mississippi had enough opioids supplied to provide 61 pills for every man, woman, and child in the State. -Attorney General Hood
COLORADO HEALING FUND
New Colorado Non-Profit to Help Victims of Mass Tragedy
Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman, Lt. Governor Donna Lynne and Former Columbine High School Principal Frank DeAngelis announced launch of Colorado Healing Fund
December 11, 2018

Colorado now has a non-profit dedicated solely to helping victims of mass tragedy crime. The Colorado Healing Fund (CHF) is a new 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded by a group of community leaders and victim advocates. It establishes a safe, secure way for the public to give monetary donations to support victims and their families after a mass casualty crime in Colorado. Initial seed funding of $1M was provided by the Colorado Attorney General’s Office under the leadership of Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman.
 
The mission of CHF is to provide financial assistance that meets both immediate and long-term needs not otherwise met for victims, survivors, families and communities affected by a mass tragedy event in Colorado. Both year-round and in the aftermath of a mass tragedy crime, CHF will serve as a trusted point for the collection of public donations. CHF will work in conjunction with community partners, other non-profit organizations, government agencies and law enforcement to determine the needs of victims and coordinate the appropriate disbursement of resources and assistance to them.

Donations to the Colorado Healing Fund can be made online at www.ColoradoHealingFund.org . Checks and in-person donations will also be accepted at Colorado-based FirstBank (1STBank) locations.
WATER LAW
EPA and Army Propose New "Waters of the United States" Definition
December 11, 2018

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Army (Army) are proposing a definition of “waters of the United States” that clarifies federal authority under the Clean Water Act, which it hopes will result in significant cost savings, protect the nation’s navigable waters, help sustain economic growth, and reduce barriers to business development.

The agencies’ proposal is the second step in a two-step process to review and revise the definition of “waters of the United States” consistent with President Trump's February 2017 Executive Order entitled “Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the ‘Waters of the United States’ Rule.” The Executive Order states that it is in the national interest to ensure that the nation's navigable waters are kept free from pollution, while at the same time promoting economic growth, minimizing regulatory uncertainty, and showing due regard for the roles of Congress and the states under the Constitution.

The agencies will take comment on the proposal for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. EPA and the Army will also hold an informational webcast on January 10, 2019, and will host a listening session on the proposed rule in Kansas City, KS, on January 23, 2019.

More information including a pre-publication version of the Federal Register notice, the supporting analyses and fact sheets are available at: https://www.epa.gov/wotus-rule
CONGRATULATIONS
Attorney General Becerra's Work and Background Featured in the "Bloomberg 50"
December 6, 2018

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is featured in the annual “Bloomberg 50,” Bloomberg Businessweek’s list featuring leaders across the business, entertainment, finance, politics, and technology and science sectors “whose 2018 accomplishments were particularly noteworthy.” Attorney General Becerra was recognized for his work protecting California’s residents, environment, resources, and values.
WYOMING AGO UPDATES
Wyoming Governor-Elect Names AG
Wyoming's newly elected governor picks high-level state administrator for attorney general
November 26, 2018

Wyoming's newly elected governor has chosen a high-level administrator already in state government to be attorney general.

Bridget Hill will be attorney general, replacing Attorney General Peter Michael. Hill has directed the Wyoming Office of State Lands and Investments since 2013. Before that, Hill was the attorney for several different state agencies.

We'd like to offer General Michael a warm farewell, and we thank him for his support and enthusiasm for CWAG during his time in office.
AILD
Updated American Indian Law Deskbook Is Now Available

The American Indian Law Deskbook  is a concise, direct, and easy-to-understand handbook on Indian law. The chapter authors of this book are experienced state lawyers who have been involved in Indian law for many years.

American Indian Law Deskbook  addresses the areas of Indian law most relevant to the practitioner.
Topics include:
  • Definitions of Indians and Indian tribes
  • Indian lands
  • Criminal, civil regulatory, and civil adjudicatory jurisdiction
  • Civil rights
  • Indian water rights
  • Fish and wildlife
  • Environmental regulation
  • Taxation
  • Gaming
  • Indian Child Welfare Act and tribal-state cooperative agreements
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