University of Louisville Law Faculty Blog

2014 Kentucky Legislative Update

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Last night, I attended the Greater Louisville Sierra Club's annual legislative update, presented by Tom Fitzgerald, Director of the Kentucky Resources Council (KRC) and an adjunct professor at the law school.

The Kentucky legislature convened for its regular session on January 7 and will adjourn on March 31. Tom provided a list of legislation that the KRC is monitoring. Many pertain to power providers, coal mining, ethics, and eminent domain. The one Fitzgerald's watching closest is SB 99 relating to telecommunications, aka "The AT&T Bill". The latest version would end the obligation to offer basic local exchange phone service for exchanges with over 15,000 or more housing units in rural Kentucky, thereby increasing the digital divide.

Tom said the state's budget shortfall has been especially difficult for conservation programs because they aren't governed by federal mandates. He also mentioned that each agency's expenses have increased since the pension reform that was passed last year.

The following may be of particular interest to environmentalists and social justice advocates:

HB 28: relating to the Code of Legislative Ethics, to amend KRS 6.611 to implement the "no cup of coffee" rule for legislators.

HB 31/SB 14 & HB 60/SB 21: each relating to eminent domain. 

HB 36: relating to tax credits for noise abatement, to establish a tax credit for noise insulation installed in a residential structure that is located within a designated airport noise contour.

HB 63: relating to utilities, to create a new section of KRS Chapter 278 to require retail electric suppliers to maintain a 30-day supply of fuel for electricity generation. Opposed by the Sierra Club (watch recap at KET).

HB 195: relating to energy, to create new sections of KRS Chapters 278 and 96 to require retail electric suppliers to use increasing amounts of renewable energy.

HB 203 & HB 394: both relating to outdoor advertising devices. Tom referred to HB 203 as the perennial "trees v. billboards" bill that has yet to leave a committee. House Speaker Greg Stumbo, quoted the late Representative Paul Mason, D-Whitesburg, who also opposed the bill, “Laws are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.”

HB 241: relating to the disposal of coal combustion wastes. 

HB 288: relating to surface mining, to prohibit disposal of overburden in streams. Written by Tom Fitzgerald.

HB 376: relating to tax credits promoting land conservation.

HB 381: relating to the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority, to remove for-profit water company representative from Kentucky Infrastructure Authority Board.

HB 387: relating to natural gas liquids pipelines.

HCR 17/SCR 95: to urge Congress to propose an amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America authorizing legislation to establish reasonable limits on contributions and expenditures in political campaigns and to prohibit noncitizen contributions and expenditures. One of the Sierra Club members in the audience who authored the orginal version of the bill, referred the group to Bill Moyer's collection of reports on campaign finance reform

HCR 93: to direct the LRC to establish a Timber Theft and Trespass Reduction Task Force to study issues regarding timber theft and trespass and to develop consensus recommendations to address those issues.

HR 126: a simple resolution to urge the Transportation Cabinet to withdraw recently filed administrative regulations covering outdoor advertising devices and work with the Interim Joint Committee on Transportation and Economic Development and Tourism to craft regulations with public input prior to the drafting of regulations.

SB 10: relating to voter identification. If passed, Kentucky would become a "strict" voting law state.

SB 31: relating to the prohibition against implementing the United Nations Agenda 21, the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development.

SB 35: relating to the Public Service Commission. Tom said this was a reaction to serial rate increases by power providers.

SCR 131: to establish a task force to study the costs of administering the death penalty in Kentucky.

The list of proposed legislation is quite exhaustive and runs the gamut from alcoholic beverages & casino gaming (HB 52), to dog ownership (SB 78), medical cannabis (SB43) and even a few related to attorneys and the bar association. HB 1, a proposal to raise the state's minimum wage, has received a lot of press. One that hasn't received enough in my opinion is SB 5, which relates to controlled substances and would increase treatment options for heroin and other opiate addiction.

Those that interest me most pertain to civil rights. HB 70 seeks to restore voting rights for felons. Oddly, an amendment to HB 8 that would allow dating partners to obtain domestic violence orders also calls for strict changes to Kentucky's abortion laws.

Since I'm concerned about the future of my family's farm, I'm also monitoring some agricultural bills, especially those related to eminent domain that Tom mentioned and hemp production. As a librarian, I'm also intersted in legislation relating to education. HB 341 would provide funds for the "Books for Brains" project, SB 20 seeks to increase anti-bullying awareness, and SB 16 would allow computer programming language courses to meet foreign language requirements in the public schools. 

At last year's meeting, Tom Fitzgerald implored the crowd to action by stating, "It's never been easier to get involved." This year, he reiterated that the Commonwealth is one of the more favorable states with regards to welcoming citizen input. He provided the following tips for contacting your legislators and mentioned that phone calls and personalized correspondance are much more effective than online petitions and pre-packaged messages. Since we're already half way through the current session, it's best to call or email rather than send snail mail.

How to Take Action

Writing a Research Paper for Writing Requirement Credit--Spring 2014

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Today, Wednesday January 15, I once again had an enjoyable opportunity to present for the 2L & 3L Academic Success Program. The program was on "Writing a Research Paper for Writing Requirement Credit." If you attended and want to see a copy of the presentation slides and handouts, skip to the bottom. If you couldn't make you are also welcome to look at the handouts. 

IThe one-hour session began by discussing the student handbook section that sets out the writing requirement, noting its importance as a core requirement of a professional degree.  Then I provided general advice on picking a topic, with some emphasis on library resources like subject-specific legal newsletters, ProfBlogs, and general legal news sources that may helpful in generating topics. Researching the policy aspects of legal issues that come up in seminar papers was briefly discussed, leading next to a treatment of issues involved in writing of a research paper.  Issues discussed incuded creating outlines, constructing a thesis, resolving common style and grammar issues, proofreading, and avoiding plagiarism by the proper use of quotation and citation.  Given the limited time to discuss these matters, liberal mention was given to resources like Eugene Volokh’s Academic Legal Writing: Law Review Articles, Student Notes, and Seminar Papers, and the collection of other legal writing books on reserve in the law library, as well is in the Academic Success Office's library.

The handouts are here:

If you have any questions are want follow up assistance don't hesitate to come by the law library or to email me any questions to kurt.metzmeier@louisville.edu.

Consumer Surveys in Trademark Cases

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Here are a couple of blog posts (here and here) about Judge Posner's criticism of consumer surveys trademark cases. The case at issue is Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC v. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc., 2013 WL 6017396 (7th Cir. Nov.  14, 2013).

 I thought the postings, and the Kraft case itself, were interesting. Judge Posner's main concern is that such surveys are prone to bias because they are designed by experts hired by the parties, and many surveys are conducted in a way that is very different from how consumers encounter marks in the market place. He recommends perhaps relying on more objective, scientifically valid statistical analyses, or experts in the industry. Perhaps this case will push the develpment of more consistent standards of what consititutes a valid consumer survey. I think courts need the help. 

Some days Starbucks gets the bear, some days the bear gets Starbucks

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Nice explanation by Prof. Rebecca Tushnet on her blog about the Starbucks v. Wolfe’s Borough Coffee case. Starbucks lost a dilution case based on the use of the mark CHARBUCKS. 

Writing a Research Paper for Writing Requirement Credit

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On Tuesday, I had an enjoyable opportunity to present for the 2L & 3L Academic Success Program. The program was on "Writing a Research Paper for Writing Requirement Credit."

 The one-hour session began by discussing the student handbook section that sets out the writing requirement, noting its importance as a core requirement of a professional degree.  Then I provided general advice on picking a topic, with some emphasis on library resources like subject-specific legal newsletters, ProfBlogs, and general legal news sources that may helpful in generating topics. Researching the policy aspects of legal issues that come up in seminar papers was briefly discussed, leading next to a treatment of issues involved in writing of a research paper.  Issues discussed incuded creating outlines, constructing a thesis, resolving common style and grammar issues, proofreading, and avoiding plagiarism by the proper use of quotation and citation.  Given the limited time to discuss these matters, liberal mention was given to resources like Eugene Volokh’s Academic Legal Writing: Law Review Articles, Student Notes, and Seminar Papers, and the collection of other legal writing books on reserve in the law library, as well is in the Academic Success Office's library.

 

The program will be given again the spring, but I'm attaching the outline and some of the handouts:

 

Adapation and Resilient Cities (Biophilic Cities Guest Blog on Adaptive Law and Resilient Cities, Part 4)

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This month the Biophilic Cities Project has been posting a series of guest blog entries by me on how principles of adaptive law developed by Lance Gunderson and me might apply to cities and their resiliency.  This is Part 4 of the series, about adaptation (including adaptive management, adaptive planning, and adaptive governance) and resilient cities:  http://biophiliccities.org/resilient-cities-and-adaptive-law-pt-4-adaptation-resilient-cities/

Private Property Rights and Resilient Cities (Biophilic Cities Blog on Adaptive Law and Resilient Cities, Part 3)

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This month the Biophilic Cities Project has been posting a series of guest blog entries by me on how principles of adaptive law developed by Lance Gunderson and me might apply to cities and their resiliency.  This is Part 3 of the series, about private property rights and resilient cities:  http://biophiliccities.org/resilient-cities-adaptive-law-pt-3-private-property-rights-resilient-cities/

Biophilic Cities Guest Blog on Adaptive Law and Resilient Cities (Part 2)

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This month the Biophilic Cities Project has been posting a series of guest blog entries by me on how principles of adaptive law developed by Lance Gunderson and me might apply to cities and their resiliency.  This is Part 2 of the series, about local governance and resilient cities:  http://biophiliccities.org/resilient-cities-adaptive-law-pt-2-local-governance-resilient-cities/

 

Great explanation of why downloading music doesn't seem as bad as stealing a car.

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A student in my IP Survey class sent me a link to a youtube clip by Mindy Kaling (who played Kelly from The Office) giving a great explanation of why downloading music without paying doesn't seem as bad as stealing a car. She gets why comparing downloading music to theft of physical goods doesn't really work. Enjoy.

Biophilic Cities Guest Blog on Resilient Cities and Adaptive Law (Part 1)

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I am guest blogging on resilient cities and adaptive law over on the Biophilic Cities blog. 
This is the first of four parts based on recent work on adaptive law concepts by environmental scientist Lance Gunderson and me, and how these concepts might apply to the social-ecological resilience of cities.  The link is here:

http://biophiliccities.org/resilient-cities-and-adaptive-law-pt-1-resilience-science-the-legal-system/