Announcements, information and updates from CWAG Members and Associates
The CWAG 2017 Winter Dinner is scheduled for Tuesday, November 28th, 2017  in Jekyll Island, Georgia at the Jekyll Island Club Resort. Registration is now open.  If you have not received an email link inviting you to register via our new meeting portal, please contact meeting manager  Alejandra StephensThe Winter Dinner registration closes on Monday, November 20th.
CWAG Attorney General Hector Balderas of New Mexico hosted a delegation of 21 prosecutors, forensic scientists and investigators from the states of Jalisco, Nuevo Leon, Nayarit, Tabasco and Quintana Roo for a week-long training on investigative and trial presentation skills. As a border state attorney general, Attorney General Balderas works closely with Mexican law enforcement and Mexican attorneys general to prevent crime from crossing the border. This week's training is in conjunction with the Conference of Western Attorneys General Alliance Partnership and is funded by a U.S. State Department Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs grant. "We work closely with Mexican law enforcement, both at the federal and state level, to prevent violent crime from crossing our border, locate and extradite fugitives who flee to Mexico, and make our border safer and more secure," said Attorney General Hector Balderas. "We will continue to strengthen the partnerships we've built with the Mexican federal government, bordering Mexican state attorneys general, and local law enforcement on the border."
CWAG Attorney General Cynthia Coffman of Colorado led a thirty-five state amicus effort to support South Dakota's legal bid to collect sales taxes from out-of-state internet retailers. South Dakota is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review whether retailers can be required to collect sales taxes in states where they lack a physical presence. The case could have national implications for e-commerce. The state is seeking to overturn legal rulings issued mostly before the online shopping boom that hamstring officials who want to collect sales taxes from out-of-state retailers. "South Dakota is leading the national fight to bring tax fairness for our local retailers and to help support main street businesses," CWAG Attorney General Marty Jackley of South Dakota said. "Our small businesses and local retailers are the backbone of our economy," said CWAG Attorney General Becerra of California. "But right now, out-of-state and online retailers can do business in California without collecting state taxes. This puts our local businesses at a disadvantage. Given our changing economy, we urge the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider this issue." 
The United States Department of Agriculture adopted one of the most far reaching land management rules when it placed 58 million acres of National Forest into a protected classification that prohibits timber harvest, road construction, and indirectly nearly all development. This single action removed two percent of the entire United States land mass from the pool of lands that can be economically developed nationwide. CWAG Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth of Alaska announced that the State has appealed a lower court's ruling upholding the rule to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. "Since our prior agreement with the federal government exempting Alaska was dismantled by the Ninth Circuit, the State was left with no recourse but to continue its challenge to the Roadless Rule," said Attorney General Lindemuth. Alaska was disproportionately affected by the Roadless Rule as the Tongass National Forest is the largest national forest in the country and includes by far more restricted Roadless areas than anywhere else. Largely as a result of this rule, the State's once vibrant timber industry is struggling to survive. Utility companies, mining enterprises, and southeast communities that may want to improve access through road construction have also faced significant harm.
CWAG Associate Attorney General Brad Schimel of Wisconsin , previous recipient of the Wisconsin Victim Witness Professionals' "Professional of the Year" Award, has been fighting on behalf of crime victims for 28 years as a prosecutor. Attorney General Schimel announced that the Wisconsin Department of Justice Office of Crime Victim Services is providing $27.4 million to crime victim services in all 72 counties in Wisconsin through September 2018. "One of my core duties as attorney general is to provide assistance to crime victims in Wisconsin," said Attorney General Schimel. "But I can only provide this assistance with the help of hundreds of victim advocates in Wisconsin who are committed to improving the lives of survivors of unspeakable tragedies. This funding from DOJ will keep crime victims services at the local level available to citizens  across the state, ensuring that those who have been violated, mistreated, and wronged are not left behind during what is likely one of the worst experiences in a person's life."
CWAG Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt of Nevada announced a settlement with VietNow National Headquarters, Inc., an Illinois nonprofit corporation that claimed to help local veterans. The settlement resolves allegations that VietNow misrepresented its charitable programs to donors by appointing a receiver to dissolve VietNow. As a result of this multistate settlement, the organization VietNow will be dissolved. "As a veteran of the Iraq war, I am appalled by those who wrap themselves in the  American flag to prey on the good will of others," said Attorney General Laxalt. "I am proud that my Bureau of Consumer Protection has worked with other states to permanently prevent this charity from taking advantage of patriotic generosity just days before we celebrate Veterans Day." "VietNow asked kind and generous Iowans to donate to help veterans who need it, and those behind this organization helped themselves to most of the funds," Miller said. "It's offensive when con artists take advantage of peoples' gratitude toward veterans to line their own pockets, and those who really need the funds don't get it." CWAG Associate Attorney General Bill Schuette of Michigan began the investigation alleging thousands of deceptive solicitation violations against VietNow for misrepresenting its charitable programs to donors. Attorneys general in other states then began their own investigations of the non-profit and its principals, which resulted in the agreement to dissolve the organization. CWAG Associate Attorney General Tom Miller of Iowa joined the action and stated, "VietNow asked kind and generous Iowans to donate to help veterans who need it, and those behind this organization helped themselves to most of the funds. It's offensive when con artists take advantage of peoples' gratitude toward veterans to line their own pockets, and those who really need the funds don't get it."
CWAG Associate Attorney General T.J. Donovan of Vermont announced that a Vermont judge has given final approval to the State of Vermont's $4.2 million settlement with Volkswagen Auto Group. The settlement needed to be approved by a Vermont court after the case was sent back to Vermont from a multi-district litigation in California. The settlement's approval resolves the environmental portions of a case filed by Vermont relating to Volkswagen's sale and lease of diesel automobiles that were fitted with illegal "defeat devices" used to conceal the release of harmful pollutants in excess of Vermont's vehicle emission standards. This settlement is believed to mark the first time that Vermont and other states who have adopted California's stringent vehicle emissions standards, have secured environmental penalties from an auto manufacturer for violations of auto emissions standards.
CWAG Associate Attorney General Derek Schmidt of Kansas said more than 100 Kansas law enforcement officers and prosecutors received training on issues surrounding the investigation and prosecution of death cases resulting from opioid overdoses. Investigators and prosecutors from 50 different agencies convened at the Kansas Bureau of Investigation Forensic Science Center on the campus of Washburn University. The training was sponsored by Attorney General Schmidt and the National Attorneys General Training and Research Institute. "This training made available to Kansas law enforcement the hard-learned experiences of officials from states already hard-hit by the opioid overdose crisis," Attorney General Schmidt said. "So often, an overdose death is not merely an accident or a tragedy but is the direct result of criminal peddling of poisons on our streets and in our communities." Last year saw just more than 100 opioid overdose deaths in Kansas and a similar number of methamphetamine overdose deaths.
San Francisco's largest apartment landlord will begin allowing tenants to rent out their units on Airbnb Inc., a victory for the short-term-rental website that could prompt an outcry from opponents who say the site is helping to drive up housing costs. Veritas Investments, which owns more than 5,000 units in San Francisco, will allow tenants to rent their units to tourists and other temporary residents as long as they use the Airbnb platform. The company is piloting the program in five of its buildings, with about 100 units in total. "I'm just a fundamental believer that when you have a scarce resource, whether it's housing or parking lots, there's got to be a better way to share those scarce resources," said Yat-Pang Au, chief executive of Veritas Investments, which is based in the city. Airbnb, which was founded in San Francisco in 2008, has been in the cross hairs of numerous fights over housing scarcity, pitting it against tenant advocates and landlords alike. It has received a similarly contentious reception in other pricey cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Miami.
Chris Coppin | Legal Director
Conference of Western Attorneys General