Announcements, information and updates from CWAG Members and Associates
NAAG President, Attorney General Derek Schmidt of Kansas , wrote an op-ed piece recently about the opioid abuse in this country and what the state attorneys general are doing about it. The full article is attached. General Schmidt stated: "The legal marketplace for opioid medications sometimes enables addiction, intentional or careless diversion, or other misuse. At the same time, the illicit opioid marketplace for diverted medications or for heroin is large and growing. The human cost is high: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates opioid overdoses kill 91 Americans every single day. Prescription opioid misuse is estimated to cost more than $78 billion per year in health-care costs, lost productivity, addiction treatment and criminal justice costs. The problem is widespread but not uniform. In some parts of the country, opioid abuse and dependence is the top local public health and safety concern. In others, different illicit drugs remain the top worry - in my state of Kansas, for instance, the serious problem of opioid abuse remains second to the ongoing scourge of methamphetamine - but opioids are trending noticeably upward. That is why state attorneys general are important players in addressing this crisis. As a group that regularly works together to address interstate problems, state attorneys general have a national reach. But at the same time they are diverse state officials closely connected to local leaders - particularly law enforcement leaders. In short, state attorneys general are one of the natural bridges between the national dynamics of this crisis and its varied local realities. Individual attorneys general are tailoring local responses to emphasize the local aspects of the nationwide opioid crisis."
CWAG Attorney General Hector Balderas of New Mexico announced that he has brought a lawsuit on behalf of the State of New Mexico against the country's largest manufacturers and wholesale distributors of opioids, a crucial first step toward holding these companies responsible for flooding New Mexico's communities with prescription opioids and fueling the opioid epidemic by putting profits over people. The State of New Mexico is filing suit against five of the largest manufacturers of prescription opioids and their related companies and against the country's three largest wholesale drug distributors. The manufacturing companies pushed highly addictive, dangerous opioids, falsely representing to doctors that patients would only rarely succumb to drug addiction, while the distributors breached their legal duties to monitor, detect, investigate, refuse and report suspicious orders of prescription opioids. "New Mexico continues to endure the most catastrophic effects of the opioid crisis, all while major out of state corporations make billions in profits at the expense of our families and communities," said Attorney General Hector Balderas. "This lawsuit is part of my office's multi-pronged effort, Project OPEN, to combat the opioid crisis in New Mexico by holding drug manufacturers and distributors accountable, securing treatment resources, and increasing funding for law enforcement."
CWAG Associate Attorney General Ken Paxton of Texas praised President Trump's nomination of Texas' First Assistant Attorney General Jeff Mateer as a Federal District Judge: "Jeff Mateer is a principled leader-a man of character-who has done an outstanding job for the State of Texas as First Assistant Attorney General," said Attorney General Paxton. "I knew when I appointed him eighteen months ago that a greater calling could come, and I couldn't be happier for Jeff and his family for this well-deserved appointment and high honor. Judges who rule by the Constitution and the law are desperately needed today, and I am confident a Judge Mateer will faithfully fulfill this duty."
CWAG Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman of Colorado announced that her office will be proceeding with an appeal on behalf of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, after the U.S. District Court judge's decision in Millard, et al. v. Rankin. Although the United States Supreme Court has decided that sex offender registration laws are tools to protect the public and are not "punishment" of offenders, the District Court concluded that requiring three Colorado sex offenders to register is an unconstitutional additional punishment that is disproportionate to the crimes committed. "As Attorney General, protecting victims is one of the most critically important parts of my job," said Attorney General Coffman. "Colorado, its forty-nine sister states, and the federal government all have sex offender registry laws in place to inform the public and protect them from sexual offenders who have been found guilty of sexual crimes, including heinous crimes against children. Survivors of sexual assault are forever impacted by the trauma they have experienced, and we must never lose sight of the responsibility we have to prevent the victimization of more innocent people."
CWAG Attorney General Mark Brnovich of Arizona filed a lawsuit against the Arizona Board of Regents ("ABOR") for dramatically and unconstitutionally increasing the price of base tuition and mandatory fees at Arizona's public universities by more than 300 percent since 2003. The Arizona Constitution requires that "the university and all other state educational institutions shall be open to students of both sexes, and the instruction furnished shall be as nearly free as possible." "Every Arizonan dreams of being able to send their kids to college," said Attorney General Brnovich. "Within the last 15 years, Arizona went from having some of the most affordable public universities to having some of the most expensive. We believe the Board of Regents needs to be held accountable and answer tough questions for Arizona's skyrocketing tuition rates." The State alleges that ABOR has adopted unconstitutional tuition-setting policies, has abandoned its duty to serve as a check on the university presidents, and has ceased deriving tuition rates from the actual cost of instruction. According to the lawsuit, ABOR has misinterpreted its "nearly free" mandate to mean whatever the market rate is for peer institutions and made itself as the arbiter of "affordability" for Arizona's students and families.
CWAG Attorneys General Ellen F. Rosenblum of Oregon and Xavier Becerra of California issued a consumer alert following the Equifax data breach that affected 143 million Americans and over 15 million Californians. Equifax is one of the nation's three major credit reporting agencies.  According to Equifax, the breach lasted from mid-May through July, and compromised names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver's license numbers. "This is a monster data breach!" exclaimed Attorney General Rosenblum. "All of the personal information accessed by the hackers can be used fraudulently to validate the claimed identity of someone trying to open a bank or credit account. I urge Oregonians to assume your personal information has been hacked and take extra precautions to help ensure its safety. Here are some suggested actions to take." "Millions of Californians' personal information has been compromised as a result of this massive data breach. Equifax's response to date is unacceptable," said Attorney General Becerra. "My office has been and will continue to be in touch with Equifax until we get to the bottom of this massive data breach. We will do what's necessary to hold Equifax accountable. In the meantime, I urge all consumers to heed this alert to protect themselves."
CWAG Associate Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin of Rhode Island announced that the Office is part of a multistate investigation into the Equifax data breach looking how this breach took place, what the company is doing to assist and protect consumers now, and the steps the company is taking to ensure better protections for consumers going forward. "Since the Equifax breach was announced late last week, we have received countless calls and emails from consumers who are rightfully angry and frustrated over the lack of information and clarity from the company on how this happened, protections that are being offered, and what rights consumers may have against the company," said Attorney General Kilmartin.
CWAG Associate Attorney General Ken Paxton of Texas filed a petition with the Harris County District Court alleging that Solvera, an online reputation management company, violated the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act by abusing the legal system to deceive Harris County district court judges with its defamation lawsuits. The lawsuit alleges that Solvera perpetuated a "reputation management" scheme by filing lawsuits it knew contained false information, including fictitious plaintiffs and defendants. As a result, nationwide consumers, Texas attorneys and judges, along with search engines such as Google were all duped. "At every step in its so-called reputation management process, Solvera repeatedly employed false, deceptive and misleading practices," Attorney General Paxton said. "My office will not allow Texas consumers, attorneys, and courts to be confused and deceived by this unlawful behavior."
CWAG Associate Attorney General Maura Healey of Massachusetts announced that DraftKings, Inc. and FanDuel, Inc. will pay a total of $2.6 million after an investigation by her office into alleged unfair and deceptive practices by the companies prior to her office's 2016 promulgation of regulations governing daily fantasy sports. Through two settlement agreements reached with the companies, DraftKings and FanDuel will each pay $1.3 million. Funds from these settlements will be used by the Attorney General's Office for grant programs to protect consumers and engage young people in technology. "I am glad to have reached these settlements to address various consumer issues that existed at the early stages of this new industry," said Attorney General Healey. "We have since implemented a set of comprehensive regulations that provide consumers with broad-ranging protections and that have served as a model for many other states."
CWAG Associate Attorney General Tom Miller of Iowa advised the Iowa Department of Public Health that it should not implement a section in Iowa's new medical marijuana law that requires the state, before the end of the year, to license up to two "out-of-state" dispensaries from a bordering state. Those entities would have been expected to bring cannabis oil into Iowa in order to sell it. That's considered illegal under federal law, which categorizes marijuana as a type of controlled substance that is prohibited from being moved across state lines. But during the final hours of the legislative session in April, some Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature suggested adding the language to open the door for a partnership with a neighboring state like Minnesota. Geoff Greenwood, a spokesman for the attorney general's office, said in an email that if a state program authorizes or encourages diversion from one state to another, "it is possible that state's program may come under increased scrutiny from the federal government." He said the halt on implementation should remain "until the federal government provides further guidance regarding state medical marijuana programs."
Hawaii said that it aims to be the first state to have marijuana sales handled without cash, saying it wanted to avoid robberies and other crimes targeting dispensaries. All of Hawaii's eight licensed dispensaries have agreed to go cashless by Oct. 1, the governor's office said. The dispensaries will ask patients to use a debit payment app to buy their pot instead of cash. The app is already an option for marijuana transactions in six states, including California and Colorado. Iris Ikeda, the state's financial institutions commissioner, told reporters at a news conference that state officials haven't discussed whether people wanting to pay in cash will be turned away from dispensaries. "Oct. 1 is our target date to try to go cashless as much as we can," Ikeda said.
Chris Coppin | Legal Director
Conference of Western Attorneys General