Legal Updates

McDonald Hopkins Government Strategies Advisory: This Week in Washington — January 23, 2015

The question of climate change has been a contentious one – at least among politicians – which is why it is surprising whenever you can get a vote on the issue to garner the support of 98 of the Senate’s 100 members. This week, however, during the debate on the Keystone XL pipeline, that’s exactly what happened.

In the first floor vote on the facts of climate science in years, an amendment from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) that stated that climate change is real and not a hoax passed with an astounding 98-1 tally. Even more shocking was that Jim Inhofe (R-OK), the Environment and Public Works Committee chair who relishes challenging climate scientists at every turn, signed on as a cosponsor. 

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Lovforslag om forenkling og modernisering af lejelovgivningen

Kort før jul (den 17. december 2014) fremsatte regeringen lovforslag om forenkling og modernisering af lejelovgivningen.Forslaget indeholder 11 elementer, der skal fremme og modernisere lejelovgivningen uden samlet at forrykke balancen mellem lejer og udlejers interesser.

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Fast Food that Will Not Derail Your Diet – b.good and Feel Good

To understand b.good, the healthy sandwich and salad shop that has taken the northeast by storm, we’re going to need to hop into the DeLorean, and go back to 1987 – when the founders met. b.good’s co-founders, Jon Olinto and Anthony Ackil, met in the sixth grade, and formed a fast friendship. After countless shared burgers – and years later – the duo teamed up to create something that they felt was missing from the marketplace.  They set out to create a line of restaurants where the food was made by real people, not factories.  In fact, burgers share the menu with kale and quinoa bowls and seasonal salads, and are all made with ingredients sourced from local farmers who use sustainable farming practices.

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Current Visa Caps Hold for 2015 but Bills Introduced to Loosen Restrictions on High-Skilled Guest-Workers

By Patrick Lucignani

Executives from companies with technology components and interests often ask if, and when, meaningful changes will be made to the U.S. immigration laws that apply to high-skilled foreign workers, and in particular, to the much discussed H-1B visa program.  While the enactment of such reform is uncertain at the present time, recent developments in the new year suggest that change may be on the way.

Legislators have renewed efforts in this new session of Congress to significantly expand laws for guest-workers in the technology industry against the backdrop of the continued and spirited debate over such immigration issues.  Bipartisan bills just introduced in the United States Senate would, among other things, increase the number of visas and green cards available to high-skilled workers and create an “entrepreneur’s visa” to allow individuals who want to start companies to stay in the country.   Though versions of these bills have been proposed in previous sessions, only to later languish, observers are more optimistic that the legislation, in some form, can now pass both houses.

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A Telehealth Tutorial: The Promise of Telehealth

As telehealth grows and becomes more mainstream, all kinds of questions often arise.  They range from administrative to operational to legal issues. In conjunction with the American Hospital Association, my colleague Amy Lerman and I have co-written two white papers for the American Hospital Association Trendwatch series focusing on telehealth issues. Among other things, the white papers discuss telehealth, operational, legal, regulatory, and policy issues.  The first white paper entitled “The Promise of Telehealth for Hospitals, Health Systems and Their Communities,” focuses on the following:

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Two Takeaways from the Supreme Court’s Whistleblower Decision in Dep’t of Homeland Security v. MacLean

By Stuart Gerson

Yesterday, the Supreme Court decided Department of Homeland Security v. MacLean. MacLean was a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employee who, without authorization, disclosed to a reporter the otherwise unpublicized termination of  missions related to hijack prevention. He claimed he was disclosing a matter related to public safety. He was fired pursuant to regulations promulgated under the Homeland Security Act, 116 Stat. 2135. That Act provides that the  TSA “shall prescribe regulations prohibiting the disclosure of information . . . if the Under Secretary decides that disclosur[e] would . . . be detrimental to the security of transportation.” 49 U. S. C. §114(r)(1)(C). Around the same time, the TSA promulgated regulations prohibiting the unauthorized disclosure of “sensitive security information.” MacLean was fired pursuant to that regulation.  However, the Supreme Court held that the regulation at issue did not have the force of law.

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Five Employment Law Pitfalls Start-Ups Should Avoid

The common denominator for all start-ups – whether your start-up has $50 or $500 million in its coffers – is its people.  As they grow beyond founders, each start-up and emerging technology company will welcome new faces into the organization to deliver on its business plan.  Whether they are new partners, employees, freelancers, consultants or otherwise – it is the human capital engine that often dictates the success or failure of an otherwise brilliant idea.

While welcoming like-minded, passionate people into one’s organization can be source of immense pride for founders, it also presents employment law challenges and pitfalls that often go overlooked, much to the detriment of the bottom-line.  Our experience in this space informs the top five most overlooked (and potentially most damaging) employment law pitfalls your start-up should avoid:

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IHT planning for business owners: business finance

As a general rule, Inheritance Tax (IHT) is payable on the net value of assets.  In other words, debts are generally deductible when calculating what a person is worth for IHT purposes on death.  However, the Finance Act 2013 introduced limitations on the deductibility of certain debts.  Judging from a few cases that have come to my attention recently, business owners still remain blissfully unaware of the impact of these changes on them.  Time for a quick reminder, then. 
Thanks to a new section 162B IHTA 1984, inserted by the Finance Act 2013, taking out a new loan to finance, either directly or indirectly, the purchase of assets that qualify for IHT business property relief, agricultural property relief or woodland relief is no longer such an attractive IHT planning technique.  Loans to maintain or enhance previously acquired relievable assets are also caught.
Prior to 6 April 2013, such loans were a rather smart IHT saving trick.  The assets purchased by the loan would attract IHT relief in full or part, depending upon their nature, after the two year minimum ownership period was satisfied.  As long as the loan was not secured on the relievable assets, the loan could offset the IHT taxable value of non relievable assets, such as the business owner’s home. 
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Court Orders a Letter to be Effective as the Last Will of the Deceased

WESA, the new estate legislation, contains a “dispensing power”, which allows a Court to order that a writing that does not meet the formal requirements of a Will is still effective as a Will.  This morning, Gordon Behan and I applied to Court for an order that a letter written by the deceased on the day of his death be declared effective as his Will.  The British Columbia Supreme Court granted that order.

This is noteworthy because the dispensing power (section 58 of WESA) is new to British Columbia.  Our August 2014 issue of Your Estate Matters addressed section 58 generally.  Despite being in effect since March 31, 2014, there are no published cases in British Columbia that address how and when the Court should exercise its dispensing power.  As a result, we looked to other provinces with similar legislation.  In particular, George v. Daily is a comprehensive Manitoba Court of Appeal decision that has been followed both in Nova Scotia and in New Brunswick.

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Multistate Tax Update – January 22, 2015

The Tax Foundation defines a “jock tax” as the state and local tax burden that authorities levy against visiting professional athletes and other traveling business professionals. Some states include visiting musicians, lawyers, and even touring skateboarders in that category. Generally, a jock tax requires the visitor to pay income taxes in every state in which he or she earned income.

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