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Prison Time for Environmental Noncompliance?

November 30, 2009 --

It Could Happen: Oregon’s Attorney General Announces Environmental Crimes Enforcement Unit
By Christopher Rycewicz, Brian T. Sniffen
Miller Nash LLP,
Oregon and Washington Law Firm

After less than one year on the job, Oregon Attorney General John Kroger appears close to fulfilling one of his campaign promises: increased prosecution of environmental crimes. He is in the process of appointing two statewide prosecutors to head up the new Environmental Crimes Enforcement Unit (the “ECEU”). According to a November 17, 2009, Department of Justice press release, Patrick A. Flanagan, a former Clackamas County district attorney, will head the ECEU. He will be assisted by Stephanie M. Parent, an environmental enforcement attorney. Mr. Flanagan and Ms. Parent will work under Mr. Kroger’s direction to prosecute environmental crimes statewide. We expect the ECEU to begin filing criminal complaints by the end of 2009. The ECEU will work closely with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the state’s environmental compliance agency. The two agencies will meet weekly to discuss who will be charged with environmental crimes.

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Study shows businesses scale back tech choices during recession

November 29, 2009 --

By Wells Fargo Bank,

Faced with an uncertain economy, some business owners are re-evaluating their use of technology. The latest Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index, surveyed October 5-9, shows over half of respondents (58 percent) reporting that they have delayed technology purchases due to the economy, including purchases of new computers (60 percent), new hardware (56 percent) and new software (56 percent). However, there is a narrow percentage (thirteen percent) who report accelerating purchases in order to cut costs or build efficiencies.

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State Treasurer presses climate transparency for investors

November 28, 2009 --

Treasurer Westlund seeks more transparency for investors about climate risks to companies
By Oregon State Treasurer Ben Westlund,

SALEM – In life and investing, there’s a truism that “What you don’t know can hurt you.” Oregon State Treasurer Ben Westlund is asking the Securities and Exchange Commission to reduce that uncertainty when it comes to climate change, and how the impacts could help or hinder companies and their bottom lines. Westlund is among the representatives of 20 major institutional investors that jointly submitted a petition Monday to the Securities and Exchange Commission, asking for greater transparency of climate-related risks and also opportunities because investors will ultimately pay — or profit – based on how well situated companies are when it comes to climate change.

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Holiday Advertising Up Despite Down Economy

November 27, 2009 --

Holiday shoppers will get an early start this year whether they are ready or not.  Retail giants have embarked on an advertising spending spree in an attempt to lure bargain shoppers to their stores earlier this year, signaling the economy may be on the rebound.

Target, Wal-Mart, Kmart, and Gap all plan to boost advertising spending over last year’s level in an attempt to get this seasons holiday shopping started early.  According to John Swallen, the senior vice president of research at TNS Media Intelligence, “We are seeing increases across a large number of retail advertisers. Clearly they are trying to jump-start their sales efforts.”

Already, we’ve seen the holiday season kick into gear, and retailers are trying to relate to the tough economic times.  “Frugal is the new cool,” says Bob Thacker, the senior vice president for advertising and marketing at OfficeMax  “Consumers may see as many Ebenezer Scrooges in ads this year as they see Santa Clauses.”  Kmart began their media blitz 30 to 40 days ahead of last year’s in an attempt to entice shoppers with their thrifty new slogan, “There’s Smart and there’s Kmart Smart.”

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Who Are the Working Poor?

November 26, 2009 --

by Jessica Nelson
Oregon Employment Department

The number of working poor in the United States increased slightly between 2006 and 2007. The working poor are individuals who were in the labor force for at least 27 weeks during the year, but still had incomes below the official poverty level. About 7.5 million people fit that definition in 2007, up from 7.4 million in 2006. The working poor accounted for 5.1 percent of all people who were in the labor force 27 weeks or more in 2007.

These figures come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) annual Profile of the Working Poor.

Those who were usually employed part time were more likely to be among the working poor. The working poor rate was 3.6 percent for those workers who were usually employed full time, while it was 11.9 percent for those usually employed part time.

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Consumer Attitudes: The Future of Saving and Spending

November 25, 2009 --

By Bill Conerly, Businomics, Conerly Consulting,

This recession has shaken people up, but what will be the lasting effects on consumer behavior?  That’s one of the key questions as we look forward at the nature of the recovery.  I’ve been arguing for a “return to normalcy,” in which people will abandon the exuberance of the boom, but without going overboard into miserliness.  However, some folks are looking for a return to Great Depression-born attitudes toward thrift.  So let’s look at the savings rate in the Great Depression and afterward.

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Government targets Flat TVs, Rum and Oysters

November 24, 2009 --

The latest consumer products that are being caught up in the regulatory spotlight are flat screen TVs, rum, and raw oysters.

Flat screen TVs
In California, the California Energy Commission (CEC) is considering new efficiency standards for television screens smaller than 58 inches.  If adopted, TVs sold in the state will have to be 33 percent more efficient by 2011 and consume 49 percent less energy by 2013.  It’s a proposal that shows a recent trend toward energy conservation even at the expense of middle class consumers.

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Washington Domestic Partnership Law Having Legal Impact

November 23, 2009 --

Washington Domestic Partnership Law Impacts Employee Benefits and Family Leave
by Dennis Westlind
Stoel Rives LLP, Attorneys at Law

Washington voters recently approved Referendum 71, giving registered domestic partners all of the rights and responsibilities of married couples under Washington state law. Prior domestic partnership laws gave registered domestic partners limited rights and responsibilities such as hospital visitation, health care decision making, inheritance and community property rights. The new law includes all of the rights and responsibilities granted to married couples under state law.

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Local Entrepreneurs: A new niche in reaching women

November 22, 2009 --

By Kylene Fickenscher
Oregon Entrepreneurs Network

Stephanie Stano, founder of Recycle Your Mat, and Zenana Rose of Zenana Spa are developing successful businesses within a specific niche market. By delivering innovative ideas to an untapped market, and supplementing their products with strong connections to the community, these women have developed lasting entrepreneurial models.

Recycle Your Mat: socially responsible yoga mat recycling, upcycling and reuse services

Stephanie Stano revealed her business opportunity to the yoga industry –an arena which is growing rapidly – and now offers recycling, upcycling and reuse services for yoga practitioners and yoga centers.  Recycle Your Mat strives to modify consumer behavior, and alter individual’s thoughts on what they can do with their mat.

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Senate Health Care Bill Explained

November 21, 2009 --

Barran Liebman LLP
Oregon Law Firm,

On Wednesday, November 18, 2009, the Senate released its take on health care reform through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. While in some ways similar to the recent House bill, the Senate bill reflects some key differences of significance to employers. A summary of important issues for employers follows:

Employer Contributions
Unlike the House bill, the Senate bill does not contain a mandate requiring employers of a certain size to maintain health coverage. It does, however, impose a penalty on those that do not. Specifically, employers with an average of at least 50 full-time employees (“large employers”) would pay a monthly penalty amounting to $750 per year for each employee who receives a federal subsidy to buy insurance. Large employers covering less than 60 percent of employees’ health insurance costs may also be subject to a penalty. Small businesses, on the other hand, could be eligible for a credit to help offset health insurance costs.

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