Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Texting banned for commercial bus and truck drivers

Tuesday, the U.S. Dept. of Transportation banned texting by commercial drivers. The regulatory guidance is published in the January 26 Federal Register and relates to 49 CFR 390.17.
Federal employees are banned from texting by an executive order dated October 1, 2009. The DOT also has a web site called and a blog called The Fast Lane which have other research on these issues.
Massachusetts has yet to ban texting or cell phone use for all drivers. The Federal ban would apply to all commercial vehicles.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Supreme Court rules corporations can participate in elections

The Supreme Court today overturned some elements of the campaign finance laws in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission. You might recall this issue arose in 2008 with a film about Hillary Clinton. The 183 page opinion includes four addition opinions concurring and dissenting. The ruling concerns 2 UCS 441(b), contributions by banks, corporations and unions. The decision removes limits on independent expenditures that are not coordinated with candidates' campaigns. It leaves in place a prohibition on direct contributions to candidates from corporations and unions. Disclaimer and disclosure requirements were held to be valid restrictions. For an brief history and analysis from Nina Totenberg, listen here.

Don't forget our Elections page for more elections law.
This could mean our own statute, chapter 55 section 8 is unenforceable.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

New "sale" regulations in effect for retailers

The Attorney General's office regulates retail advertising as part of it's consumer protection responsibilities. Some of them include the need to disclose terms in an audible manner and at a speed equal to the other speech in the advertisement. Print ads can't contain important language that is too small, or hard to read due to lack of contrast. They have recently softened the requirements for marking items on sale. Now the stores can mark an item on sale even though the item has been at the reduced price for most of the year. In the past, it had to have been at full price for the majority of the time. The new regulations are here. The regulations also cover "buy one get one free", "if purchases separately" and gifts. The Globe has an overview of the regulations here. For more information check our page on Shopping and Returns, and Consumer Protection.

Monday, January 04, 2010

School Committee emails violate Open Meeting Law

On December 31, 2009, the SJC released their opinion in District Attorney for the Northern District vs. School Committee of Wayland, opining that the School Committee had indeed violated the state's Open Meeting Law by emailing amongst themselves comments on the performance of their superintendent of schools. The Court went on to say that in order to cure this violation, the school committee must release the written comments of the individual school board members. (See Footnote 9 of above-mentioned case.)

See our Massachusetts Law About Open Meeting Law for more information on this subject.