President Trump clean power plan

President Trump Issues Executive Order Amending Executive Order 13597

On June 21, President Trump issued an Executive Order Amending Executive Order 13597. This Executive Order rescinds a  provision, subsection (b)(ii) of Section 2,  of an Obama Administration era Executive Order Establishing Visa and Foreign Visitor Processing Goals and the Task Force On Travel and Competitiveness that read, “ensure that 80 percent of nonimmigrant visa applicants are interviewed within three weeks of receipt of application.”

Many observers view this rescission as necessary due to conflicting timelines presented by the Executive Orders with ongoing more aggressive vetting of applicants.

Farm, Green, Feild

Proposed Bill Would Create Safeguards Against Agricultural Worker Deportation

In early May, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced the Agricultural Worker Program Act (AWPA), a piece of legislation that will provide undocumented workers with heightened protection from deportation and aid them in obtaining legal status and citizenship. Specifically, the AWPA allows farmworkers who have worked in agriculture for at least one hundred (100) days of the past two years to earn lawful “blue card” status. Farmworkers who maintain this “blue card” status for five years may then become eligible to adjust to permanent residency or to a “green card” status. In a press release, Feinstein stated, “By protecting farmworkers from deportation, our bill achieves two goals – ensuring that hardworking immigrants don’t live in fear and California’s agriculture industry has the workforce it needs to thrive.” Bennet remarked that, “The failure to fix our broken immigration system has had real economic consequences for our farmers and ranchers. This bill serves as a necessary step until we can enact a long-term solution by passing comprehensive immigration reform.”

Advocates for the bill include Arturo Rodriguez, United Farm Workers (UFW) President, stating that “the United Farm Workers strongly supports and cheers Senator Feinstein’s introduction of the Agricultural Worker Program Act of 2017 because the act recognizes that the people who feed our nation should be able to earn the opportunity to gain legal status.” Nonetheless, others remain less optimistic for the Act, and project that the Act is unlikely to be passed under the Trump administration. The Colorado Springs Gazette remarked that the bill “has virtually no chance of becoming law, however, with President Trump in the White House and his fellow Republicans in charge of the House and Senate.” The complete text of the bill is available on Feinstein’s website.

This post was written by Aaron M. Phelps of Varnum Law.

Equal Pay

Oregon Expands Effort to Achieve Equal Pay

This month, Oregon joined a number of other states, including California, Massachusetts, Maryland, and New York by strengthening existing equal pay laws. The new law, the Oregon Equal Pay Act of 2017 (“OEPA”), has three (3) central components:

  • Applying equal pay protections to disparities based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status, veteran status, disability or age;
  • Curbing an employer’s ability to obtain or rely upon an applicant’s prior compensation to determine his or her current compensation; and
  • Changing and substantially limiting the defenses available to employers sued for alleged equal pay violations.

The bulk of the OEPA’s substantive provisions is effective January 1, 2019.

Broadening Scope of Equal Pay Protections

The OEPA prohibits disparities in “wages or other compensation” between employees performing work of a “comparable character” based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status, veteran status, disability or age. Work is of a “comparable character” if it requires “substantially similar knowledge, skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions [.]” This is a substantial expansion of prior law, which only applied to sex-based pay disparities.

The OEPA also limits an employer’s ability to rely upon prior compensation by:

  • Making it unlawful to seek information about an applicant’s or employee’s compensation history; and
  • Prohibiting employers from screening job applicants or determining compensation based on a prospective employee’s current or past compensation.

However, these pay history restrictions do not apply “during a transfer, move or hire of [an] employee to a new position with the same employer.”

Limited Defenses to Equal Pay Claims

Under prior Oregon law, an employer could defend a sex-based pay disparity by demonstrating that it was based on (a) a seniority or merit system, or (b) good faith factors other than sex.

However, under the OEPA an employer can only pay differential wages for work of a comparable character if the disparity is attributable to “a bona fide factor that is related to the position in question and is based on” one or more of the following:

  • A seniority system;
  • A merit system;
  • A system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production;
  • Workplace locations;
  • Travel, if travel is necessary and regular for the employee;
  • Education;
  • Training; or
  • Experience.

The employer must also demonstrate that the factor(s) creating the pay disparity account for the entirety of the differential.

Potential Limits on Remedies

In addition to back wages, employees bringing claims under the OEPA may also seek compensatory and punitive damages. However, the law limits remedies against employers that take specified steps to achieve pay equality.

Under the OEPA, a court “shall” disallow an award of compensatory or punitive damages if the employer shows that within three (3) years of the employee bringing the OEPA claim, the employer conducted a good faith equal pay analysis that: (a) was “[r]easonable in detail and scope in light of the size of the employer”; (b) related to the protected class at issue in the action (e.g., sex, age, race, etc.); and (c) “[e]liminated the wage differentials for the plaintiff and [] made reasonable and substantial progress toward eliminating wage differentials for the protected class asserted by the plaintiff.”

What This Means for Employers

Because the bulk of the OEPA changes are not yet effective, now is the time for employers to commence their compliance efforts including:

  • Reviewing job applications to ensure they do not seek prior compensation information;
  • Auditing compensation data to identify protected class-based disparities, if any. If this analysis reveals disparities, employers can avoid or limit future claims and damages by eliminating any identified differentials;
  • Training managers and human resources professionals regarding the permissible considerations when making compensation decisions, and how to document such decisions;
  • Revising employee job descriptions to ensure they reflect the substantive distinctions between positions – i.e., the fact that jobs are not of a “comparable character” is reflected in job descriptions; and
  • Revising employee reviews on which compensation decisions are based to ensure they reflect the considerations that are permissible grounds for a pay disparity under OEPA.
This post was written by Brian K. Morris of Polsinelli PC.


U.S.-Cuba Relations

President Trump Shifts the U.S. Policy Towards Cuba

As we have previously reported on the growing fear that the Trump Administration would roll back President Barack Obama’s plan to normalize relations with Cuba. Then-candidate Donald Trump was calling President Obama’s deals with Cuba “one-sided” and beneficial “only [to] the Castro regime.” Last week Friday, at an event at the Manuel Artime Theater in Miami, President Trump officially announced his Administration’s new public policy towards Cuba and fulfilled a campaign promise.

Cuban FlagPresident Trump’s speech culminated in the issuance of a National Security Presidential Memorandum and an accompanying White House Fact Sheet on the U.S. Policy toward Cuba.  In sum, President Trump’s directive:

(a)  Ends economic practices that “benefit the Cuban government” by prohibiting most economic activities with the Cuban military conglomerate, Grupo de Administración Empresarial (“GAESA”). This change is most likely to affect the hotel and tourism industry sectors, since these are the industries said to be largely controlled by GAESA. A list of companies that will be on the “blacklist” will be issued by the State Department at a later date.

(b)   Adheres “to the statutory ban on tourism to Cuba,” by amending regulations related to educational travel (i.e., by ending individual people-to-people travel) and enforcing the strict record keeping requirements related to travel to Cuba.

(c)   Opposes any efforts in the United Nations or other international forums to lift the embargo on Cuba.

(d)   Supports the expansion of internet services and free press in Cuba by convening a task force that will work with non-governmental organizations and private sector entities to examine the challenges and opportunities in those areas.

(e)  Keeps in place the Obama Administration’s elimination of the “Wet Foot, Dry Foot” policy.

(f)  Ensures that engagement with Cuba in general is advancing the interests of the United States.

As explained in the new FAQs issued by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the policy changes will not go into effect until the Treasury Department and the U.S. Department of Commerce have finalized their new regulations. Importantly, the new Cuba policy changes will not have retro-active effect. Those travel arrangements and commercial engagements that were in place prior to the issuance of the upcoming regulations will not be affected.

Al Cardenas, who heads the Latin America practice group at Squire Patton Boggs and previously served as the former Chairman of American Conservative Union and former Chairman of the Florida GOP, explains:  “Despite the emotional setting and rightful remembrance of the struggles of the Cuban people found in President Trump’s speech, which was focused on a Cuban exile audience, President Trump’s executive action preserves many of the changes made during President Obama’s Administration (some of which were outlined in President Obama’s 2014 Speech). For example, the respective embassies in Washington and Havana will remain open, the U.S. licenses issued to airlines and cruise line companies have been kept, efforts to expand direct telecommunications and internet access will continue, and the additional categories for travel to Cuba for the most part remain in place. While one-step back is the prohibition on U.S. travelers from staying at government-owed facilities, this should be a boon to the family-owned B&B’s and other rentals on the island. It remains to be seen whether there will be a significant drop off in tourist travel to the island.”

Viewed as a whole, President Trump is tightening some areas where improved economic relations with the United States could have benefitted some auspices of the Cuban Government.

This post was written by Beatriz E. Jaramillo and  Stacy A. Swanson of Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLP.
President Trump Executive Order Environmental Regulation

EPA Releases Final Test Guideline for Performance Against Bed Bugs

On June 14, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a Federal Register notice announcing the availability of a final test guideline, Laboratory Product Performance Testing Methods for Bed Bug Pesticide Products; OCSPP Test Guideline 810.3900, part of a series of test guidelines established by the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) for use in testing pesticides and chemical substances.  82 Fed. Reg. 27254.  EPA states that this test guideline provides “guidance for conducting a study to determine pesticide product performance against bed bugs, and is used by EPA, the public, and companies that submit data to EPA,” and “recommendations for the design and execution of laboratory studies to evaluate the performance of pesticide products intended to repel, attract, and/or kill the  common bed bug (Cimex lectularius) in connection with registration of pesticide products under the [Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)].”  EPA states that this guidance applies to products “in any formulation such as a liquid, aerosol, fog, or impregnated fabric, if intended to be applied to have a pesticidal purpose such as to attract, repel, or kill bed bugs.”  This guideline provides appropriate laboratory study designs and methods for evaluating the product performance of pesticides against bed bugs and includes statistical analysis and reporting.

EPA issued the draft guideline on February 14, 2012.  This original document was the subject of FIFRA Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) review conducted on March 6-7, 2012.  EPA indicates that the final version of the guideline reflects revisions to the original draft based on comments from the SAP and the public.  EPA states that the revisions include the following:

  • Decreasing the number of individuals and replicates tested;

  • Rescinding the recommendation to test each field strain for its resistance ratio; and including a resistance management statement;

  • Clarifying the agency’s Good Laboratory Practices (GLP) requirements;

  • Reducing the recommended length of time individuals are exposed to insecticides;

  • Recommending individuals to be observed up to 96 hours after treatment; and

  • Revising the statistical analyses recommendations.

EPA has also placed two other relevant documents in the docket:

This post was written by Lisa M. Campbell and Margaret R. Graham of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C..

Long-Term Effects of Nonfatal Drowning Cannot Be Accurately Predicted

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from 2005-2014, an average of 3,536 fatal unintentional drownings occurred per year in the United States. Approximately one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 years old or younger; children one to four years old have the highest drowning rates.

For every death caused by drowning, five children receive emergency room care for nonfatal drowning injuries. Nonfatal drowning can cause hypoxic-ischemic brain injury that may result in long-term disabilities ranging from memory problems and learning disabilities to total loss of basic functioning (persistent vegetative state).

A recent review study found that neurocognitive outcome of children after drowning incidents cannot be accurately predicted from early examinations and treatment. In the study, researchers sought to:  a) report the main factors related to the outcome of drowned children, and b) present existing evidence of long-term neurologic outcome. While some injuries caused by near drownings become evident shortly after the incident, the evidence showed that the initial neurological examination may not reveal all of the long-term effects related to hypoxic brain injury in young children. Skills such as divided attention and executive functions may be negatively affected after a brain injury caused by a nonfatal drowning. Long-term follow-up of drowned resuscitated children should be undertaken.

The review study showed that the long-term outcome of survived drowning victims depends mainly on the severity of the initial ischemic brain insult, the effectiveness of immediate resuscitation with transfer to the ER, and on the post-resuscitation management in the hospital. The study noted that the most susceptible areas to ischemic injury are vascular end zones, hippocampus, insular cortex, and basal ganglia. With greater severity of hypoxic-ischemia, more extensive and global neocortical injury will occur.

Electroencephalograms (EEG) provide useful information to differentiate between patients with good and poor neurological outcome. However, the accuracy in predicting long-term neurological outcome is lacking. The increased use of neuroimaging techniques such as MRIs can add valuable information. The ability to see the degree of edema and brain swelling is better with an MRI than with a CT scan. But the fact remains that data on long-term follow-up and outcome are scarce.

This post was written by Bruce H. Stern of  Stark & Stark.
encrypted messaging

CFPB Proposes Additional Changes to the Prepaid Rule

On June 15, 2017, the CFPB announced that it is proposing for public comment certain modifications to its prepaid rule. The rule, which was issued in final form in October 2016, limits consumers’ losses for lost and stolen prepaid cards, requires financial institutions to investigate errors, and includes enhanced disclosure provisions.

The final rule unexpectedly granted Regulation E error resolution rights to consumers holding unregistered prepaid accounts, a provision that was not part of the CFPB’s original proposal. Financial institutions criticized this aspect of the final rule, arguing that providing error resolution rights to holders of unregistered accounts would invite and open new avenues for fraud. Financial institutions also argued that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to investigate alleged errors if they have little to no information about the purchasing customer. As a result, financial institutions have claimed that, if the CFPB retains error resolution rights for unregistered prepaid accounts, they would no longer provide immediate access to funds on such accounts.

To address these concerns, the current proposal would require consumers to register their prepaid accounts to qualify for Regulation E error resolution rights, including the right to recoup funds for lost or stolen cards. Under the CFPB’s proposal, however, Regulation E error resolution rights would apply to registered accounts even if the card was lost or stolen before the consumer completed the registration process.

The proposal also requests comment on provisions that would create an exception for certain digital wallets. Under the proposed exception, customers using digital wallets linked to a traditional credit card product would continue to receive Regulation Z’s open-end credit protections and would not receive the protections of the credit-related provisions of the prepaid rule.

As discussed in a prior post, in April 2017, the CFPB extended the compliance date for the prepaid rule from October 1, 2017, to April 1, 2018. In the latest proposal, the CFPB requests comment on whether it should extend the compliance date even further.

The proposal also includes other adjustments and clarifications regarding the definition of a prepaid account, pre-acquisition disclosure requirements, submission of prepaid account agreements to the CFPB, and unsolicited issuance of access devices. Along with its proposal, the CFPB has released an updated version if its Prepaid Rule Small Entity Compliance Guide.

Comments on the CFPB’s proposal are due 45 days after publication in the Federal Register.

This post was written by Lucille C. Bartholomew of Covington & Burling LLP.

Farm, Green, Feild

NAFTA Renegotiation Would Intend to Benefit Farmers, Ranchers

In recent weeks, the Trump administration took the first step toward renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Robert Lighthizer, United States Trade Representative (USTR), sent a letter to Congress placing Congress on official notice of the Administration’s intention to renegotiate the Agreement with an eye toward advancing the interests of U.S. farmers, ranchers, workers, and businesses. The USTR’s notice to Congress created a ninety-day window before formal negotiations could begin. According to Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) Associate National Legislative Counsel, John Kran, “This is the opportunity for the country to react to the President’s notice, and for feedback from voters and members of Congress to get surfaced and shared with the Administration before the formal negotiation process can begin.” The Administration hopes to renegotiate a new NAFTA within the next six months.

In a formal statement, Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President, said the American Farm Bureau will work with the Administration, Congress, other agricultural groups as well as with officials in Canada and Mexico to rectify issues with NAFTA which have limited the trade potential of U.S. farmers, ranchers, workers and businesses. Sonny Perdue, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, issued the following statement: “While NAFTA has been an overall positive for American agriculture, any trade deal can always be improved. As President Trump moves forward with renegotiating with Canada and Mexico, I am confident this will result in a better deal for our farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers.” Sonny Perdue acknowledged that while NAFTA has been good for farmers, the same cannot be said for other U.S. industries, such as manufacturing.

To stay informed on the progress of NAFTA modernization, visit the Michigan Farm Bureau’s new Trade page.

Thist post was written by Aaron M. Phelps of Varnum LLP.

The Best Housewarming Gift for the Unmarried Couple: An Estate Plan

“Thinking too long about doing something is often the reason it never gets done.” 
–Everyday Life Lessons

In recent years, a growing number of Americans are deciding to cohabitate instead of getting married or remarried. Often, individuals of all ages, state they do not need an estate plan, either because they are not married or because they do not have children. These are not reasons to avoid preparing your estate plan and, in fact, are often more reason to ensure your estate is in order. Although this article will not discuss everything that unmarried cohabitating couples should have in place, it is a decent starting point for a conversation with your partner and, eventually, an estate planning attorney.

Estate plans are important for a devoted unmarried couple, because without an estate plan, you have no input into major healthcare and financial decisions for your partner.

Medical Decisions

You have been together for years or even decades, but if you are hospitalized, can your partner speak on your behalf and make decisions for your care and well-being? Sadly, no. Failure to have a valid Health Care Power of Attorney in place may result in a courtroom battle between your partner and family. A Health Care Power of Attorney is a document whereby you name an Agent to act on your behalf if you are unable to make reasonably informed medical decisions for yourself. Undertake an honest discussion with your partner concerning your wishes. Topics to discuss include organ transplant during life, removal of life sustaining treatment, burial arrangements, organ donation and religious limitations. Your wishes will be explicitly stated within the Health Care Power of Attorney, which your named Agent must follow to the best of their abilities.

Real Property and Holding Title

Throughout your relationship, you may have purchased a home (or several homes, depending on your lifestyle). Consider this scenario: you both paid half of the down payment for the home, and you each pay half of the monthly mortgage payments, but because your partner had a better credit score, the home is only titled in his or her name. If your partner dies without a Last Will and Testament that leaves the property to you, that property is not yours, and unless you purchase it for fair market value, you will have to vacate the home. If your partner did have a valid Last Will and Testament, it could provide that the home be distributed directly to you. Other options include your partner recording a Beneficiary Deed, which states that when he or she dies, the property passes to you by operation of law; another option is that your partner could deed the property to be held in both your names, as joint tenants with right of survivorship. Be aware that such a transfer may have gift tax implications and may affect your mortgage. Discuss these matters with your attorney before proceeding.

Distribution of Your Assets

By living together, you have likely acquired mutual possessions and one of you may have supported the other for a period of time, e.g. during graduate school, through loss of employment or through a disability. Because of this, there may be assets that you both believe are shared, even if they are in the sole name of one partner.

estate tax planning non us citizensIf you do not have a valid Last Will and Testament, your estate is considered intestate. An estate that passes through intestate succession means your assets will be distributed according to Arizona law. In this scenario, the following persons will receive your assets: first your legal spouse, then your children, siblings, parents, grandparents and finally, if none of the foregoing are then living, to issue of your grandparents. If you want to leave anything to your partner, you must execute a Will that provides for the distribution of your estate to him or her. There are also other options you can discuss with your attorney, such as beneficiary designations and language that provides for transfer on death of the assets.

You may also want to consider leaving your partner as your beneficiary on a life insurance policy or on any retirement accounts. At the very least, be aware of who is named as your beneficiary on your policies and accounts and be sure those are your wishes.

Although seeking the advice of an attorney is important, start the conversation at home, informally.

How to Start

Have a casual conversation with your partner to discuss the basics.  These topics will likely require multiple conversations.  If you are not sure how to start, go straight to the source.  Many attorneys charge a one-time flat fee for an initial consultation. You will want to find an attorney with whom you are both comfortable and, preferably, that you will use in the preparation of your documents. When you are satisfied with your decisions, engage the attorney and get drafts started.  Review the drafts with your attorney in his or her office and then take the drafts home to read and digest alone. Take your time. Be sure to ask any questions and voice any concerns; this is why you are paying the attorney. Throughout the process, it is important to remember that most estate planning documents can be revised if your circumstances or living arrangements change.

If it is important to you, discuss your plan with your family so they do not feel left out of important decisions.

Acceptance by Family and Friends

There is a chance some of your family or friends may not agree with your lifestyle or the decision to live together. Attempt to inform your friends and family that your desire is for your partner to be the lead in making decisions on your behalf, and that the two of you have discussed it and made each other aware of your personal wishes. Doing so may also avoid potentially costly and time-consuming legal battles should you become incapacitated or die.

Take the first step and work your way through it. Although it may seem overwhelming initially, the process should only take a couple of months. Once finished, you will both be able to sigh with relief knowing these issues have been resolved.

This post was written by Amber Hughes Curto and Amy K. Povinelli  of Ryley Carlock & Applewhite, A Professional Corporation.

The Zoning and Land Use Handbook

The ABA presents The Zoning and Land Use Handbook by Ronald Cope.

zoning land useZoning law has a major impact on the development of our cities and villages, and where we live and work; it also plays a major role in numerous business and real estate transactions. The Zoning and Land Use Handbook is a reference guide for zoning and related land use issues.

This book will help the busy general practitioner answer the most frequently asked questions and provide guidance on basic zoning procedures, property rights, and the nature of zoning litigation. In addition, this handbook provides an introduction to zoning law for land use practitioners, and will be helpful to laypersons and professionals not familiar with land use or zoning law.

Click here to purchase the book.

About the author:

“Ron Cope is the most authoritative and impressive source of knowledge about the legal aspects of land use, urban planning, and zoning. During my 45 years of planning practice, he has remained my go-to expert for every complex issue I have had regarding land use, planning, and zoning law. The Zoning and Land Use Handbook is a must-have resource that condenses Ron’s practical knowledge into a comprehensive guide.”
Allen L. Kracower, Chairman, Allen L. Kracower & Associates, Inc.

“Ron Cope is the dean of Illinois zoning lawyers. He is legally erudite and knowledgeable in all areas of real estate law and combines those with practical common sense.”
— J. Samuel Tenenbaum, Director, Investor Protection Center, Bluhm Legal Clinic, Northwestern University School of Law