Articles Posted in In the News

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The Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. ยง 552 (FOIA), is a federal law that allow for the full or partial disclosure of previously unreleased information and documents controlled by the United States government. FOIA defines agency records that are subject to disclosure, outlines mandatory disclosure procedures and grants exemptions from disclosure. Many states similar laws governing the disclosure of previously unreleased information and documents controlled by the state and its agencies. The theory is that the government should be open and transparent unless the government has a good reason to withhold the information sought. On March 31, 2015, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a long opinion in Sea Shepherd Conservation Society v. Internal Revenue Service, regarding the IRS’s response to Sea Shepherd’s FOIA request seeking information from the IRS about its investigation of Sea Shepherd.
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Seattle’s new minimum wage legislation passed by the Seattle City Council and signed into law by Mayor Murray on June 3, 2014 provides for an increase in the minimum wage in the City of Seattle to $15/hr., phased in over time, beginning April 1, 2015. The minimum wage ordinance has a different schedule for increasing the employees’ pay based upon the employers’ number of employees in the U.S. and whether the employer pays toward its employees’ medical benefits plan.
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Today, Pillsbury attorneys James Lloyd, Vince Morgan, Adam Weaver and Tamara Bruno published their client alert titled USGS’s Increase of Texas’s Earthquake Risk Level: Commercial Real Estate and Insurance Implications. The Alert discusses the increase in seismic activity in the Fort Worth Basin and the likelihood that this increase will lead to a corresponding rise in the official earthquake risk level for the Fort Worth Basin when the United States Geological Survey (USGS) releases an updated earthquake hazard map in the coming months. This map and the USGS’s estimates of seismic risk play a crucial role in determining insurance costs, building codes and lenders’ insurance requirements.

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Yesterday, Pillsbury attorneys Chris Wall, Steve Becker, Nancy Fischer, Aaron Hutman and Stephanie Rohrer published their advisory titled Treasury and Commerce Departments Issue Regulations to Implement New Cuba Policy. The Advisory discusses the Obama administration’s implementation of its promised changes to U.S. sanctions and export controls for Cuba, changes effective January 16, 2015. Although most trade and transactions still are prohibited, the revisions to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR) and Export Administration Regulations (EAR) ease licensing requirements in a number of areas, including exports to and imports from Cuba of certain types of goods and services, telecommunications and Internet services, travel and travel services, financial services, remittances, and treatment of Cuban nationals in third countries.

If you have any questions about the content of this blog, please contact the Pillsbury attorney with whom you regularly work or Chris Wall, Steve Becker, Nancy Fischer, Aaron Hutman or Stephanie Rohrer, the authors of this blog.

Additional Source: A New U.S. Course for Cuba Relations: What Does It Mean for Business?

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Today, Pillsbury attorneys Jim Chudy and Brian Wainwright published their advisory titled Five Facts About the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014. The Advisory provides an overview of the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 (Division A of H.R. 5771), signed into law by President Obama on December 19, 2014, an Act that extends many tax provisions that had expired at the end of 2013.

If you have any questions about the content of this blog, please contact the Pillsbury attorney with whom you regularly work or Jim Chudy or Brian Wainwright, the authors of this blog.

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Recently, Pillsbury attorneys Chris Wall, Steve Becker, Nancy Fischer, Aaron Hutman and Stephanie Rohrer published their advisory titled A New U.S. Course for Cuba Relations: What Does It Mean for Business? The Advisory discusses President Obama’s unexpected announcement signaling a “new course” for Cuba after more than 50 years of comprehensive U.S. sanctions, and possible opportunities for certain exports markets including telecommunications, building materials, agricultural equipment, and certain goods for use by Cuban entrepreneurs.

If you have any questions about the content of this blog, please contact the Pillsbury attorney with whom you regularly work or Chris Wall, Steve Becker, Nancy Fischer, Aaron Hutman or Stephanie Rohrer, the authors of this blog.

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Yesterday, the California Contractors State License Board Chairman David Dias announced the selection of Chief Deputy Registrar Cindi A. Christenson to serve as the board’s new Registrar of Contractors, effective January 1, 2015. Her qualifications include having served as the CSLB’s second in command since 2009. Dias also noted that “She also will have the distinction of serving as CSLB’s first female Registrar of Contractors, among the known 15 executives who have served in this position since 1929.” Congratulations Ms. Christenson!

Additional Sources: Sac Bee, Christenson becomes first female to hold key exec post with state contractors’ board; California Looking For Next Registrar of Contractors; California CSLB Registrar of Contractors Announces Departure

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A report titled Validity of Caltrans’ Environmental Hydrogen Embrittlement Test on Grade BD Anchor Rods in the SAS Span dated December 2, 2014 prepared by Yun Chung, Materials Engineer (Retired), purportedly for Steve Heminger, Chair, Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee recently surfaced. Seven other professors, consultants and engineers purportedly reviewed the report and provided comments, including Robert G. Bea, Ph.D., Russell Kane, Ph.D., Harold J. Mantle, P.E., Charles J. McMahon, Jr., Sc.D., Cory Padfield, P.E., Patrick Pizzo, Ph.D., and Pierre R. Roberge, Ph.D., P.E. The Chung Report responds, in part, to Caltrans’ conclusion “that all the 2,210 HDG BD rods in the SAS are “safe” as installed from future EHE failures.” The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge Self-Anchored Suspension Bridge Evaluation of the ASTM A354 Grade BD Rods was issued on September 30, 2014.

In part, the Chung Report concludes that “This review revealed that Caltrans’ EHE test protocols and data interpretation are both problematic and unscientific and that their conclusions as to the integrity of the [self-anchored suspension span (SAS)] could not be supported.” Section 8.0 of the Chung Report sets forth 12 conclusions and recommendations, including that “Caltrans’ conclusions and recommendations in their September 2014 report on the A354 BD Rod Evaluation are incorrect and will not resolve the concerns about possible hydrogen embrittlement (HE) failures of hot dip galvanized (HDG) Grade BD rods that are critical to the structural integrity of the self-anchored-suspension (SAS) span.” Among other things, the Chung Report recommends that Caltrans should “adopt the strategy of using HDG BD rods that are metallurgically not susceptible to EHE failures, for example those with peak hardness of 32 – 35 HRC maximum” and “identify HDG BD rods in the SAS that are susceptible to EHE failures and replace them with new HDG BD rods or equivalent rods not susceptible to EHE failures.” As for monitoring, the Chung Report recommends that Caltrans “concentrate on the tower base anchor rod performance because they are not replaceable and their failures would be critical to the SAS structural integrity…. It may take years but it is difficult to predict the timeframe of EHE failures. Caltrans should develop a risk analysis of the tower base anchor rod performance.”

Additional Source: The Sacramento Bee, Independent report calls Bay Bridge Tests ‘unscientific,’ ‘erroneous’ (Dec. 2, 2014).

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The Nevada State Contractors Board (NSCB) recently received the National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies’ 2014 Innovation in Regulation Award, an award that recognizes innovation, creativity, and excellence in regulation of contracting/construction industries. NSCB was recognized for its efforts in 2012 to partner with The Home Depot and local building departments to create and launch PermitsUSA, a kiosk system placed in The Home Depot stores allowing contractors and consumers to purchase building permits from multiple jurisdictions at one time.

NSCB describes PermitsUSA as a “product of a unique public-private partnership created to encourage the purchasing of select building permits while enhancing the process and convenience for users to do so.” It “links to building jurisdictions’ systems, allowing users to interface directly with the various building departments through the in-store kiosk display.”

NSCB reported that between September 2012 and June 2013, a total of 644 building permits were pulled using PermitsUSA in Nevada-based Home Depot stores, generating a total of $42,850 among the four participating jurisdictions. It further reported that The Home Depot is expanding PermitsUSA to Oregon and Florida this year, among others, and hopes to include options for additional permit purchases, license renewal, a national licensed contractor database, a national permits database, property data, and improved compliance among its participating jurisdictions in the future.

NSCB was also recognized for its development and launch in 2014 of a mobile application designed to provide the public with immediate and direct access to contractor license information and filing complaints.

Additional Source: Nevada State Contractors Board, Horizons (Nov. 2014); State Contractors Board Receives National Innovation in Regulation Award

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The Sacramento Ronald McDonald House recently broke ground on a project to double the capacity of its housing facility located at 49th Street on the U.C. Davis Medical Center campus with a $6 million expansion. The expansion will add 20 bedrooms to the existing 18 bedroom facility, and add a kitchen, dining area, indoor playroom and fitness facilities. The 18,000 square foot expansion was made possible from a variety of fundraising efforts.

There are a total of 11 Ronald McDonald’s Houses in California. Reportedly, McDonald’s funds approximately 16% of the financial needs, which includes donating $0.15 for each McFlurry sold.

Additional Source: Sacramento Ronald McDonald’s House will double capacity in $6 expansion; Ronald McDonald House Charities