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Showing posts from February, 2015

Texas Car Sticker Rules Change Tomorrow

Texas requirements for automobile stickers are changing tomorrow as the state will consolidate current registration and inspection stickers; beginning tomorrow, motorists will only be required to display the registration sticker.While most Texas motorists will only be concerned with compliance issues, legal scholars interested in the administrative side of the change may be interested in further resources: The statutory authority for the new policy may be found in the Texas Transportation Code.Provisions regarding tomorrows changes may be found at Tex. Transp. Code § 502.0023(j).These provisions were passed through an Act of June 14, 2013, 83rd Leg., R.S., Ch. 1291 (H.B. 2305). For non-lawyers interested in learning more about the upcoming changes, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles has posted a simplified guide and FAQ available here.Houston residents can find Harris County’s local guide here.

FCC Adopts Net Neutrality

In a 3-2 vote today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted net neutrality by reclassifying broadband access as a public utility.
This issue was last litigated in Comcast Corp. v. FCC, 600 F.3d 642 (2010) in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that a previous version of net neutrality exceeded the FCC’s authority under the Communications Act of 1934. This ruling did, however, state that the FCC would be in compliance with the Act if it were to reclassify broadband providers as public utilities.The language of the current rule was presumably written in response to this determination.
The official press release on the new rules is available here.  C-SPAN’s video of the vote is available here.

How Much Attorney Time Is Sufficient for Effective Representation of Criminal Defendants?

Pursuant to legislation passed during the 83rd Texas Legislative Session, the Texas Indigent Defense Commission (TIDC) was instructed to “conduct and publish a study for the purpose of determining guidelines for establishing a maximum allowable caseload for a criminal defense attorney that…allows the attorney to give each indigent defendant the time and effort necessary to ensure effective representation.” The TIDC conducted a weighted caseload study that sought to answer two key questions:      1.  How much time "is" currently being spent on the defense of court-appointed criminal cases?      2. How much time "should" be spent to achieve reasonably effective representation?
The caseload study resulted in a lengthy report, recently made available here.
Three types of studies were used in order to answer these questions. First, a Timekeeping Study tracked the time spent on criminal cases by 196 private and public defense attorneys over a period of twelve weeks. Re…

Texas Considering New Approaches to Combatting Designer Drug Sale and Abuse

In recent years, the prevalence and use of synthetic designer drugs has posed great problems for legislatures, particularly compounds commonly known as “Spice” and “Bath Salts.” Spice is a generic name for synthetic cannabinoids, which are compounds that are not the same as, but that mimic the effects of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), or the compound responsible for producing the psychological effects associated with smoking marijuana.  Bath salts are synthetic forms of Beta-ketone amphetamine compounds derived from cathinone, found naturally in the khat plant, native to East Africa and Southern Arabia. These chemicals are structurally similar to amphetamines and have similar effects on the brain and the body as amphetamines.
Despite the dangers associated with these drugs, including reports over 120 overdoses related to Spice in Texas over a period of five days, state legislatures have had difficulty regulating these drugs. Since 2011, all fifty states have enacted laws to ban Spice an…

Public Access to Federally Funded Research

The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) recently revealed details about its plan to make articles and data resulting from the research it funds available to the public for free.The plan is in response to a directive issued by the White House in 2013.The goal of the directive is to ensure that the “direct results of federally funded scientific research are made available to and useful for the public, industry, and the scientific community.”

The AHRQ is not the first agency to release its plan for public access, as the Department of Energy unveiled its plan in 2014.That plan establishes the DOE Public Access Gateway for Energy and Science (DOE PAGES), which is currently being beta tested. More public access plans are forthcoming, as the directive instructed all federal agencies with “over $100 million in annual conduct of research and development expenditures” to create such a plan.

The AHRQ plan explains that scholarly publications resulting from their funded researc…

New Federal Flood Standard Issued

Those of you who live in areas prone to flooding (like Houston) may be interested to know that last week President Obama issued an executive order to establish a new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard. The order is numbered EO 13690, and it can be found in Volume 80, No. 23 of the Federal Register, or on the Federal Register’s website. The Standard itself is published by FEMA, and is also available online. It requires that all federally funded construction or repair projects in floodplain areas meet certain criteria for elevation and flood resistance. Prior to implementing the Standard, FEMA is soliciting public comment, which can be submitted by email at FEMA-FFRMS@fema.dhs.gov. For more on this, visit the FEMA website.

New Website Monitors Warrant Canaries