The Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 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.
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.
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.
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!
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."
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.
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.
The Sacramento Business Journal recently reported that Up to 40 CEOs back new business recruitment effort for the capital region. The recently formed Greater Sacramento Area Economic Council reportedly "will be modeled after an economic development group in Phoenix that has made several trips to Sacramento to talk to various stakeholder groups." The new council is expected to attend national and international business recruitment events to sell Sacramento along and to utilize other methods of actively recruiting Sacramento business.
What would it take for you to join us here in the capital region?
Recently, Starbucks has been in the news for "giving its baristas a shot at an online college degree." Starbucks has reportedly team upped Arizona State University to offer certain of its employees access to an online undergraduate degree available at a steep discount (the "Starbucks College Achievement Plan"). Starbucks and ASU News reported that "Through this innovative collaboration, partners based in the United States working an average of 20 hours per week at any company-operated store (including Teavana®, La Boulange®, Evolution Fresh™ and Seattle's Best Coffee® stores) may choose from more than 40 undergraduate degree programs taught by ASU's award-winning faculty, such as electrical engineering, education, business and retail management."
Beginning in the fall of 2014, the University of Texas at Arlington plans to offer a new Master of Construction Management (MCM) degree with an option to take courses online to help meet industry demand in Texas, especially in the thriving North Texas region. It will focus on management of construction projects in three main categories: (1) heavy, which includes highways, pipelines and infrastructure; (2) residential and commercial construction; and (3) general construction. Southern Association of Colleges and Schools' approval for the program is required and it is expected by August 2014 . Once its approval is obtained, students may apply and be admitted to the program.
Apparently it's true, "If you build it, the NFL will come." NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced Tuesday, May 20, that Minnesota was awarded the right to host Super Bowl LII, "[k]eeping with the tradition of rewarding teams with new stadiums." It confirmed that "[o]ne reason behind the league giving the nod to Minnesota is the nearly $500 million in public money going toward the team's new facility."
This week the Wall Street Journal published Exposing the EPA, an editorial that was very critical of EPA's consideration of a "pre-emptive" veto of the Pebble Mine Project, a proposal to develop America's largest copper and gold mine in Southwest Alaska. The Journal writes that EPA has been planning for several years to exercise its authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA) even before a permit has been filed with the US Amy Corps of Engineers (Corps of Engineers). This controversy highlights the problems inherent in the CWA's division of authority between the Corps of Engineers and EPA with respect to the administration of CWA Section 404's dredge and fill permitting authority. Under the CWA, the discharge of a pollutant into navigable waters is regulated by EPA under CWA Section 402 with regard to most point source discharges while the CWA Section 404 authorizes the Secretary of the Army, acting through the Corps of Engineers, to issue permits for the discharge of dredged and fill material into navigable waters. However, CWA Section 404(c) also authorizes EPA to veto the Corps of Engineers' specification of a disposal site specified in the permit.