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Federal Government Will Reconsider Overreaching ‘Critical Habitat’ Rules in Light of Arkansas-led Lawsuit

Federal Government Will Reconsider Overreaching ‘Critical Habitat’ Rules in Light of Arkansas-led Lawsuit

Thu, Mar 15, 2018

Says, ‘must be changed to recognize the rights of land owners and the States’

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced that, in light of a lawsuit filed by Arkansas and 19 other states, the federal government has agreed to reconsider rules that restrict property owners’ use of their own land under the guise of a “critical habitat.”

“I am pleased that the Trump Administration has agreed to reconsider the federal government’s ‘critical habitat’ rules, which have threatened the rights of property owners for far too long solely based on theoretical chance,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Our wildlife must be protected for future generations, but it is completely unreasonable to give the federal government broad authority to restrict land usage just because bureaucrats in D.C. think an animal might, possibly, one day inhabit that land – even if that land does not have features necessary for its survival. These rules are a clear example of an Obama-era overreach that must be changed to protect the rights of land owners and the States.”

In 2016, federal agencies adopted two new rules that allowed the federal government to designate land as a “critical habitat” for an endangered and threatened species, even if that species did not currently live on that land and if the land failed to possess the biological features necessary for the survival of the species. The “critical habitat” rules even allowed the federal government to prevent activities that could, theoretically, harm habitat features that don’t even currently exist. This is despite stricter standards set forth by Congress, which only allow for unoccupied land to be classified as critical habitat if the currently inhabited land is not adequate to the species’ survival and the unoccupied land is essential to species preservation.

The twenty state lawsuit was filed in November of that year in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama against the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Secretary of Commerce and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service challenging the two rules as unlawful federal overreach.

Today’s settlement requires the federal agencies to submit revised rules for public review within 60 days and also retains the states’ ability to file another lawsuit should the new rules perpetuate federal overreach.

Rutledge led this effort with Alabama. They were joined by Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming in the settlement.

Rutledge Applauds Court of Appeals Decision on Sanctuary Cities

Rutledge Applauds Court of Appeals Decision on Sanctuary Cities

Wed, Mar 14, 2018

Says, ‘Sanctuary jurisdictions violate the rule of law’

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge applauds this week’s announcement from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which allows Texas to take real action to prohibit sanctuary cities within its borders. Attorney General Rutledge joined seven other states last September in filing an amicus brief in support of Texas.

“This ruling reaffirms a state’s authority to prohibit dangerous sanctuary cities and will help protect law enforcement officers and local communities across the country,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Sanctuary jurisdictions violate the rule of law and put all law-abiding citizens in danger by creating hotbeds of crime that seep into other, non-sanctuary communities. American patriots have not laid down their lives on foreign soil only to have family and friends be harmed by policies of public officials more interested in putting political agenda over public safety.”

Texas law prevents local entities and officials from interfering with federal immigration enforcement. It also places certain duties and liabilities on certain persons in the criminal justice system, provides civil penalties and creates a criminal offense for violating those provisions.

The attorneys general who filed the amicus brief in this case believe that prohibiting sanctuary cities helps uphold immigration laws and provides federal, state and local law enforcement with additional and necessary tools to identify drug offenders who unlawfully enter the country while at the same time reducing the danger these cites pose to neighboring states, even those that have no sanctuary jurisdictions.

Rutledge: U.S. Business Services Deceived Arkansas Businesses

Rutledge: U.S. Business Services Deceived Arkansas Businesses

Tue, Mar 13, 2018

$100,000 to go to Consumer Education and Enforcement Fund

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced that Circuit Judge Chris Piazza has ordered Florida-based U.S. Business Services LLC to pay restitution to Arkansans and court costs and civil penalties to the State of Arkansas for violations of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

“U.S. Business Services intentionally deceived and harmed Arkansas businesses with its deceptive practices,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “By using documents that only appeared to be official government tax notices or notifications, this company tricked unsuspecting Arkansas business owners then offered to help those businesses – for a fee. The Court’s order not only requires the company to provide restitution to those businesses that fell victim to the deceit but also suspends the company’s business license in the State of Arkansas and will prevent further harm from these bad actors.”

U.S. Business Services solicited Arkansas businesses via direct mailings and offered to prepare and provide, for a $150 fee, corporate consent records in lieu of meeting minutes that purported to fulfill the requirements of Arkansas law. However, U.S. Business Services selectively quoted portions of Arkansas law to convey only those portions that would legitimize the solicitation, and the mailed documents were specifically designed to appear official in nature and required by a government entity.

The office received 34 complaints about the business practices of U.S. Business Services, and many others contacted the office by phone in order to report the scam. At least seven businesses paid $150 to the company as the form instructed, with four receiving restitution through mediation. After speaking with the Secretary of State’s office, Rutledge learned that it had also received numerous reports, inquiries and complaints regarding U.S. Business Services’ harmful practices. The Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act protects the legitimate business community as well as consumers.

The other three businesses that paid the fee will be paid restitution by U.S. Businesses Services. The company will also pay the State $5,500 in attorney fees and $100,000 in civil penalties to the Consumer Education and Enforcement Fund.

Rutledge Announces Arrest of Lonoke County Man for Crimes Involving Children

Rutledge Announces Arrest of Lonoke County Man for Crimes Involving Children

Fri, Mar 9, 2018

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced the arrest of James Bynum of Cabot on 30 counts of distributing, possessing or viewing of matter depicting sexually explicit conduct involving a child, a Class C felony.

Bynum, 46, was arrested by the Attorney General’s office Cyber Crimes Unit. He was released from the Lonoke County Detention Center on $10,000 bond.

Special agents in the Attorney General’s office seized two computers, one laptop, multiple external storage devices, a phone, tablet and several optical discs. The case is being turned over to Twenty Third Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Chuck Graham.

Rutledge Statement on EPA Regional Haze Stay

Rutledge Statement on EPA Regional Haze Stay

Wed, Mar 7, 2018

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge released a statement following the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to grant a stay of a costly portion of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Federal Implementation Plan (FIP) for regional haze.

“The Federal Implementation Plan would have cost Arkansans greatly,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “This decision by the court has protected residents from a one-size-fits-all approach that would have passed massive costs onto consumers. During the Obama Administration, the EPA ignored the visibility improvements already made by the State of Arkansas – today’s stay is a big win for Arkansas’s job creators and consumers.”

In January, an Arkansas State Implementation Plan partially replaced the FIP. Under the stay just issued by the Eighth Circuit, remaining portions of the FIP regulations have been frozen, giving the EPA an opportunity to fully review and approve additional regional haze standards submitted to the federal regulators by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.

Rutledge filed litigation in November 2016 against the EPA’s federal plan. Instead of working with the State, the EPA published its proposed FIP for Arkansas in April 2015 and solicited feedback. Attorney General Rutledge, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality and a number of industries, institutions and facilities impacted by the proposed plan provided comments during this time. Despite the comments urging the EPA to withdraw the plan, the final plan was signed in August 2016. Approval of the new State Implementation Plan replaces the overreaching 2016 FIP.

Rutledge: Fifth Circuit Should Validate Law Banning Inhumane Treatment of the Unborn

Rutledge: Fifth Circuit Should Validate Law Banning Inhumane Treatment of the Unborn

Tue, Mar 6, 2018

Says, ‘I will always advocate for the lives of unborn children’

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has joined 25 state attorneys general and governors to file an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit supporting Texas’ right to ban an outrageous abortion procedure that rips unborn babies limb from limb.

“Arkansas is taking a strong stance to protect the unborn from inhumane treatment,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “No defenseless baby should ever face the unimaginable and horrifying fate of death by dismemberment. As Arkansas’s chief legal officer, I will always advocate for the lives of unborn children and defend our State’s legal right to protect the unborn.”

Arkansas saw similar legislation in 2017, when the General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a bill banning the dismemberment form of abortion that Governor Asa Hutchinson subsequently signed into law. That law was enjoined by federal district court Judge Kristine Baker, but Attorney General Rutledge is seeking to overturn the injunction in an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit.

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that states have an interest in protecting and fostering respect for human life, including the unborn, and such legal challenges ignore this precedent. Abortion by dismemberment erodes respect for life, as outlined in the brief.

The states make clear in the brief that they oppose abortion generally, but are particularly horrified at this form of abortion. The brief explains that the states “regret being placed in a position of advocating for fetal death as a humane alternative to a procedure that should have no place in a civilized society—a situation that only highlights how absurdly far judicial decisions regarding unborn human life have departed from authorities barring inhumane treatment of animals and criminals facing the death penalty.”

Led by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, Rutledge is joined on the brief by Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin, along with Governors from Kentucky, Maine and Mississippi.

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