North America

BC’s Green Energy Advisory Task Force

Following up on the BC Government’s August 2009 throne speech and the Premier’s announcement on November 2, 2009, today, the BC Government announced the members of, and the terms of reference for, BC’s Green Energy Advisory Task Force.

Here is the weblink for public submissions, which can be made on any of the four task force topics until December 31.
I am very pleased to have been appointed to be a part of a team that will advance BC’s long-term vision for green energy.
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Update: BC’s Clean Power Call – BC Hydro Narrows the Field

BC Hydro announced today that it has narrowed the field of proponents for its 2008 Clean Power Call and intends to award EPA’s in December.

According to BC Hydro’s press release, of the 68 proposals submitted in the response to the Call:

  • 21 were eliminated either through proponent withdrawal, they did not meet the CPC requirements or were considered too high a risk;
  • 13 were identified as the most cost-effective and are now moving forward with direct post-proposal discussions with BC Hydro with the goal of signing electricity purchase agreements (EPA’s); and
  • 34 still remain possible, provided the proposals are made more cost-effective.
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Sponsoring Events that Enlighten and Empower Women

During my career, I have encountered many worthwhile non-profit organizations that promote the interests of women. It’s vital that for-profit firms and companies become involved with women’s organizations—especially as event sponsors. Sponsorships not only provide the women’s organization with critical financial assistance, but also help in marketing the event.

I am very pleased that my firm, EpsteinBeckerGreen, has been involved with numerous women’s organizations, such as the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL) and Corporate Counsel Women of Color (CCWC). NAWL is the leading national voluntary organization devoted to the interests of women lawyers and women’s rights. The CCWC promotes the career advancement and success of women attorneys of color, as well as global diversity in the legal profession and workplace. 

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Public Health Insurance Option Still Alive in the Senate

With the rejection in the Senate Finance Committee of two separate proposals to create a substantial public health insurance option and, instead, the approval of the relatively weak co-op proposal (which the CBO estimates to be unlikely to establish a meaningful presence and will result in only half the budget amount of $6 billion will be spent) it seemed as though the public option had breathed its last breath.  However, new developments indicate that the public option, in various forms, is still alive.

Senator Schumer (D-NY), having failed to pass his “level playing field” public health insurance option proposal in the Finance Committee, is pushing a new public health insurance option that would allow states to “opt out” of the public plan.  The opt-out proposal is gaining fans in the Democratic Caucus, even amongst conservative Democrats who are worried the effects a public plan could have on their state.   

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Using A Returnship Program to Relaunch Your Career

I just found an interesting article on theglasshammer.com called “Goldman Sachs Returnship (SM) Program Helps Top Women On-Ramp Into Finance.” In it, we learn about Goldman Sachs’ “returnship” program, which lasts eight weeks and begins on October 19, 2009. The program will offer training and guidance to help highly skilled women return to the financial workforce after having taken voluntary breaks that may have lasted anywhere from a few years to a couple of decades. While participants are not guaranteed jobs at Goldman Sachs at the end of the program, Goldman Sachs has hired more than half of the participants from last year’s returnship program.

What are “returnships”? They are similar to internships, except that returnships are targeted toward experienced workers who want to return to the workforce full time. The returnship program may or may not pay the participants, and it may last weeks or months.

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Health Care Delivery System Reform Provisions in the Baucus Bill

In addition to the many hotly contested insurance and access-related provisions in the America’s Healthy Future Act of 2009, the Chairman’s Mark from Senator Baucus on behalf of the Senate Committee on Finance, released Wednesday, there is in the bill a section that addresses in a substantive way reform of the health care delivery system with a focus on quality.  Much of the underlying thinking in Title III of the bill, entitled “Improving the Quality and Efficiency of Health Care,” draws from the Institute of Medicine’s seminal publication in 2001 of Crossing the Quality Chasm.  Especially in Subtitle A, “Transforming the Health Care Delivery System” (pages 75 to 110), one can see the impact of the IOM’s definition of quality as six aims: care that is safe, effective, efficient, patient-centered, equitable and timely. As a current member of the IOM’s Board on Health Care Services, I am gratified to see these ideas captured in important proposed legislation.

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Is Telemedicine Missing from Health Reform?

Perhaps in recognition of its benefits to areas affected by shortfalls in specialists and primary care physicians or the need for remote monitoring, telemedicine received significant funding in the ARRA. For instance, the Rural Utilities Service was allocated $2.5 billion to fund “shovel-ready” distance learning, telemedicine, and broadband program; the Indian Health Services received $85 million to fund telemedicine; and a portion of the $2 billion allocated to the Office of the National Coordinator is to be used to support the “infrastructure and tools for the promotion of telemedicine.” However, in contrast to the ARRA, the current reform proposals publicly available are missing language facilitating telemedicine which otherwise could be a key component to one of the goals of health reform, bending the cost curve.

 

The only attention telemedicine receives in the House Tri-Committee Bill – the America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 – is in the creation of the Telehealth Advisory Committee. This Committee will advise and make recommendations to the HHS Secretary regarding policies for payment of telemedicine services. However, the Senate HELP’s Bill – the Affordable Choices Act – does not even mention telemedicine. 

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Ninth Circuit: Managers Can Be Liable For Unpaid Wages Upon Bankruptcy

On July 27, 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that a corporation’s managers can be held personally liable under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) for wages that the corporation failed to pay to employees prior to the employer’s filing for bankruptcy. This opinion serves as a cautionary reminder of the risks managers potentially face when a corporation files for bankruptcy and has failed to pay its employees for all wages earned prior to the filing.

In Boucher v. Shaw, —- F. 3d —-, 2009 WL 2217517 (9th Cir. 2009), former employees of the Castaways Hotel, Casino and Bowling Center sued three senior managers for unpaid wages under Nevada state law as well as federal law. The managers moved to dismiss the claims based on, among other grounds, the fact that the hotel had filed for bankruptcy protection. The Ninth Circuit asked the Nevada Supreme Court to address the issue of whether, under state law, the managers could be personally liable as “employers” for the unpaid wages. The Nevada Supreme Court ruled that individual managers are not “employers” under state law. However, the Ninth Circuit ruled against the managers on the federal FLSA claims and allowed the employees’ claims to proceed.

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Discussing What Women Lawyers Want

Recently, the Ark Group’s WOMENLEGAL 2009 forum brought together gender-diversity thought-leaders in New York for an important conference on women in the legal profession. The forum focused on the key career issues facing women lawyers today, and practical solutions for both women lawyers and law firms regarding retaining and advancing women in the legal profession.

Carol Frohlinger’s excellent article, “What Women Want,” thoroughly covers the forum in the June-August issue of WOMENLEGAL Magazine.

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The Scope of Payment Reform Challenges Congress, Providers and Investors

As the “Three Tenors” (Chairmen Waxman, Miller and Rangel) struggle to finance the access enhancements that are central to the President’s health reform aspirations, the need for meaningful payment reform continues to challenge. This week House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged the Chairmen to sharpen their pencils in this regard. Moreover, in a letter to the Speaker and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, the fiscally-conservative “Blue Dog” coalition of House Democrats has now said that the current drafts fail to include sufficient structural reforms likely to succeed in lowering costs and incenting “value” (in purchasing).

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