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New Mexico & Utah Analysis of the Sprint/T-Mobile Merger

The T-Mobile/Sprint merger discussion continues to percolate as the Department of Justice and Federal Communications Commission review the issue. Recently, the D.O.J. stated that they believe three carriers are enough to provide a competitive marketplace. Our analysis led to the same conclusion, in this case, we see pro-competitive benefits as the cell phone industry moves forward with next generation 5G technology. In addition, we think the merger will provide better connectivity to the rural areas of our state, which will increase economic opportunity and quality of life.  

Here is an analysis from the attorneys general of Utah and New Mexico.

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Merger will enhance the marketplace and help rural America

By New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas and Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes

With a recent increase in media and telecommunications mergers, we have kept a close watch over the proposed combination of T-Mobile and Sprint. Regardless of party affiliation, as state attorneys general, we have a duty to protect citizens in our states. We have whole teams in our office dedicated to protecting consumers from anticompetitive business practices. In that sense, we are guardians of economic as well as legal justice.  We take these matters very seriously.  As Western state Attorneys General, we are particularly focused on improving the public safety, quality of life, and access to technology for our millions of citizens living in rural communities.  

We are not alone in our consideration of this transaction. The United States Department of Justice is reviewing the matter, as is the Federal Communications Commission. Other Attorneys General across the country are analyzing the impact on their states as well. And recently, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights held a hearing on the merger.

Generally speaking, possible efficiencies, optimization, and growth from a merger may result in improved products or services and the lowering of prices, all to the benefit of customers. On the other hand, a merger may tip marketplace balance too far in the favor of the newly combined companies, giving them monopoly power to raise prices and stifle competition, ultimately harming consumers and driving remaining industry competitors out of the market altogether.

Opponents of the merger are quick to point out that transactions shrinking the number of dominant players from four to three are often disfavored by policies promoting fair competition. While this premise may be true, this particular case has some unique qualities that make this an exception to the rule. Rather than creating a mega-player that will dwarf remaining competitors, a T-Mobile/Sprint merger will take the third and fourth largest domestic players and, combined, create an entity that remains third behind Verizon and AT&T in market share.

Based on our review of the proposed T-Mobile/Sprint transaction, we believe it will benefit consumers in our states—and the country at large—in critical ways. In particular, the combination will create a robust, nationwide 5G network that will greatly improve the lives of underserved Americans in rural areas, stimulate economic growth through investment and job creation, and increase competition in the converging internet market for mobile internet.

For millions of Americans, access to reliable and fast broadband service like 5G is a necessity for everyday tasks such as completing schoolwork, speaking with relatives, paying bills, and applying for jobs. What’s more, when it comes to more advanced applications that are needed most in rural areas that lack resources—telemedicine, remote education, and online shopping for necessary goods not available in remote areas, and accessing government services—these “luxuries” are far outside the technological reach of those rural Americans who are left without adequate broadband connectivity.

Recently, the companies filed their Public Interest Statement with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in which they describe in detail, and with economic support, the benefits the merger will bring to all Americans.

Delivering robust broadband service to citizens living in rural communities and small towns across America improving their coverage, quality, speed, in-home service, and customer support is a stated priority for the New T-Mobile. And as attorneys general, we will hold them to that promise. The New T-Mobile has also revealed plans to add 600 or more new stores serving rural and small-town America and building up to 5 call centers, which will result in thousands of new jobs. This is extremely significant, in our minds, and we will do everything within our power to make sure the New T-Mobile lives up to these laudable commitments.

In this day and age, it’s rare for elected officials from our two parties to agree on anything, so it is reassuring when we find common ground on something that has the potential to serve our constituents, protect the marketplace and benefit our nation.  For Utahans, New Mexicans, and all Americans, in rural and urban communities and everywhere in between, we are hopeful that this merger will promote more competition in a converging wireless market and bring benefits to consumers through new technology and economic growth. For all of these reasons, we encourage policymakers and regulators to approve the T-Mobile/Sprint merger.

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Note: New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas and Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes presented an expanded version of this joint analysis to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee‘s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer RightsHere’s a PDF of their letter.


AG Reyes Urges SafeUT App Use & Announces New Features

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 16, 2018

 

UTAH ATTORNEY GENERAL SEAN REYES ENCOURAGES SAFEUT USE IN SCHOOLS,
INTRODUCES NEW FEATURES
SafeUT team averages 1,178 students chats per month

SALT LAKE CITY – Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes announced two new features of the SafeUT app and encouraged schools to enroll and participate in a proven resource that helps keep students and schools safe. The new features, just in time for the new academic school year, include a parent/educator button and access to services for higher education institutions.

“The statewide adoption and response to the SafeUT app has been incredibly successful and effective. But there are still some schools that haven’t integrated this lifesaving tool. If your school is not using this, please ask your school leaders to start. Your voice could save a life,” stated Attorney General Reyes. “Students facing all sorts of crises are reaching out for themselves or others and the app is working.”

“To ensure success, we must provide services that are current, relevant, and meeting the needs of the community,” AG Reyes continued. “By expanding SafeUT’s reach to institutions of higher learning, to parents, and to educators in both English and Spanish, we further empower those impacted by mental and behavioral health challenges. Our mission is to save Utahns, particularly youth, before it’s too late. We connect them to people who are available 24-7, who care for them, will fight for them, and lift them through their current struggles toward a healthier future.”

The SafeUT app, launched in 2016, was geared toward elementary, junior high, and high school students struggling with suicide, relationship difficulties, and a variety of other mental and behavioral health issues. Every public school district in Utah is enrolled, but not every school has taken advantage of the SafeUT app and its services. Eleven new schools enrolled in the SafeUT program for the upcoming school year, which means that 77% percent of K-12 schools in Utah are now utilizing the app.

School involvement is a critical step for schools to ensure real-time communication between crisis responders and school administration for quick action. The addition of the parent/educator button provides the opportunity for educators and parents to ask questions, find resources, and submit relevant information to help protect students and schools.

Adding higher education addresses two needs: 1) immediate support for college students who wrestle with similar mental and behavioral health issues, and 2) greater ability for college authorities to respond quickly to potential threats. These new features combined with current services, which now include Spanish capabilities, expand the program’s reach and effectiveness.

During the 2017-2018 school year, crisis counselors at the University Neuropsychiatric Institute fielded over 15,000 texts and over 7,000 tips. The most common topics of conversation were bullying, suicide, depression, cutting, and drugs. Below are last year’s numbers.

  • Chats/Texts
    • 15,313 chats
    • 1,178 average chats per month
    • 316,840 threads (back and forth interaction between a student and counselor)
    • 21 average threads per chat
  • Tips
    • 7,476 tips
    • 575 average tips per month
    • 23,023 threads per chat
    • 3 average threads per chat

The SafeUT program was developed with funding from the Utah State Legislature in collaboration with the Utah Office of the Attorney General, the University Neuropsychiatric Institute (UNI), the Utah State Office of Education, and the Utah Anti-Bullying Coalition.

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NOTES:

  1. You can find out more about the SafeUT program here: https://healthcare.utah.edu/uni/programs/safe-ut-smartphone-app/#what. 
  2. The members of the SafeUT Commission include: Ric Cantrell, Utah Attorney General Chief of Staff; Lillian Tsosie-Jensen, Utah Public Education System; Spencer Jenkins, Utah System of Higher Education; Teresa Brechlin, Department of Health; Rep. Steven Eliason, Utah State House of Representatives; Sen. Daniel Thatcher, Utah State Senate; Barry Rose, University Neuropsychiatric Institute; Ammon Mauga, Law Enforcement and Emergency Response; Ruth Wilson, Utah Department of Human Services; Barbara Stallone, Community Member; Pam Hayes, Community Member; and Katherine Rhodes, Utah Attorney General Executive Assistant.

Utah Joins California on Federalism Issue

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 7, 2018

UTAH JOINS CALIFORNIA ON FEDERALISM ISSUE
Eighteen states urge U.S. Supreme Court to follow 1985 precedent

SALT LAKE CITY – Today, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes announced Utah has joined California and sixteen other states asking the Supreme Court of the United States to uphold a Third Circuit Court of Appeals decision stating land use regulation and state property law cases should be heard in state courts before moving into the federal court system.

“From time to time, Utah and California interpret the constitution differently,” said AG Reyes. “In this case, however, we agree that questions about state property laws and land use regulations should be heard in a state court first. Local self-governance, especially on land use issues, is an American principle of federalism we need to preserve.”

The bipartisan coalition hopes the U.S. Supreme Court will affirm the appeals court ruling and the 1985 high court precedent prohibiting landowners from litigating takings claims in federal court until they have exhausted all avenues at the state level. The coalition of states contend that state courts are best situated to resolve complex, local conflicts – especially when individual rights and the needs of the community may be in tension.

The case involves Rose Mary Knick, owner of 90 acres of rural land in eastern Pennsylvania, and the Township of Scott, Pennsylvania. Knick alleged the violation of her Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights and appealed the Third Circuit Court of Appeals before exhausting state-law remedies. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments of Knick v. Township of Scott in their next session.

Utah joined the California-led brief along with attorneys general from Delaware, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia.

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NOTES:

1. You can review the amicus brief here: https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/17-647-Knick-v.-Township-of-Scott-Amicus-Brief.pdf.

2. For more information on the details of Knick v. Township of Scott, see 
SCOTUSblog: http://www.scotusblog.com/2018/03/justices-grant-review-two-new-cases & Oyez: https://www.oyez.org/cases/2018/17-647.

3. The AG’s office published a blog explaining its stance. You can read that here: https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/statebeforefed/.


State Courts Before Federal Courts

At times, Utah and California are on opposite sides of critical legal issues, but today we stand together on the solid principles of federalism.  

Utah has joined our west-coast neighbor and 16 other states to ask SCOTUS to affirm a court of appeals decision that says state property law and land use regulation should be heard in state court before it goes to federal court.

You can read the brief here: 17-647 Knick v. Township of Scott Amicus Brief

We believe landowners should pursue compensation remedies that are available in state court before bringing takings claims in federal court.

Why?

Local courts are best situated to resolve complex, local conflicts – especially when individual rights and the needs of the community may be in tension. Federal courts tend to be removed from the day-to-day workings of state government and have different priorities; they are naturally designed to serve federal goals not state policy initiatives. Hearing land disputes in state court first also preserves each state’s ability to prevent regulatory overreaching by its own agents or subdivisions, thereby facilitating state efforts to ensure effective, efficient, and fiscally responsible regulation.

Of course, federal courts will always have the ability to provide guidance for the protection of federal constitutional rights.

We hope SCOTUS will see this issue the same way as Utah and California and affirm the Third Circuit Court of Appeals decision of dismissal based on a similar decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1985.


Utah Joins Fight to Protect Veterans Memorial

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 6, 2018

 

UTAH JOINS FIGHT TO PROTECT VETERANS MEMORIAL
U.S. Supreme Court asked to weigh in on constitutionality of World War I memorial

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes joined a bipartisan group of 28 states last week fighting to protect a historic cross in Maryland honoring World War I veterans as part of a case with much broader implications for the First Amendment.

The 28-state coalition urges the U.S. Supreme Court to consider and ultimately protect veterans memorials that include religious symbolism. The coalition’s friend of the court brief seeks to overturn a lower court’s ruling that a Maryland memorial violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits making any law “respecting the establishment of religion.”

“This case focuses on a war memorial in Maryland honoring 49 soldiers who gave their lives in WWI, but it is much bigger than that,” said Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes. “This Supreme Court decision will impact all of us in the manner in which we remember our history and honor our dead.  Utah understands that the U.S. Constitution should never force Americans to jettison faith, the First Amendment, or our sacred military history.”

The case at hand involves a nearly century-old memorial cross in Bladensburg, Maryland, built by community members and mothers, whose sons died in World War I, and the American Legion. The lawsuit brought by the American Humanist Association seeks to force the state to tear down and replace the historic cross.

If the Supreme Court were to review the case, its ultimate decision could impact hundreds of memorials across the nation, including those at Arlington National Cemetery.
 
Utah joined the West Virginia brief with attorneys general from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.
 

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NOTES:

  1. You can read the brief here:  https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Amicus-Brief-Veteran-Memorial.pdf
  2. Find more information about the Bladensburg Memorial here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peace_Cross.

Op-ed: Three-digit suicide lifeline is a huge victory for Utah

In an op-ed published in the Deseret News on July 27th, Attorney General Sean Reyes shares the history of the three-digit number for mental and behavioral crises. A journey which started with a few in Utah – and led to the creation of the SafeUT app – reached a milestone as the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelming voted in favor for the creation of a National Suicide Hotline.


By Sean Reyes
Utah Attorney General

With the American public focused on myriad issues in the media, Congress quietly passed a bill this week that is a game-changer in preventing death by suicide and supporting those contemplating it.

Suicide is the leading cause of death for teens in Utah. It has increased exponentially over the past 20 years. And across all age demographics, Utah has some of the highest per capita suicide losses in the nation.

There are many theories about why this is. No one knows exactly all the reasons. We do know there are hyper-vulnerable populations like veterans, LGBTQ youths, and victims of abuse. We know that depression is one of the largest drivers. Bullying, isolation, traumatic incidents, or addiction can also be major contributors.

We also know there is too much stigma, shame, and judgment when it comes to those grappling with mental and behavioral challenges. When someone gets cancer, the neighbors pull together to support them; when someone is diagnosed with mental illness, the neighbors gossip. The person in pain is often assumed weak or somehow deserving of his or her circumstances. Families are sometimes embarrassed.

Some fear that talking about suicide will encourage it (studies show this is not the case). Many lack an understanding of how to even address the unthinkable. Avoiding the topic, though, has done nothing to help those in crisis, those who are hurting and feel alone, those who are silently suffering.

Long before I came into office, I supported friends and families dealing with suicide ideation, suicide attempts and, in the most tragic cases, death. As an ecclesiastical leader, I felt a great responsibility to help but realized my own ignorance and at times, insensitivity. It seemed there were few resources for those trying to support and particularly for those suffering.

When I became attorney general in 2013, I knew we had to do more as a state. Too many youths were turning to suicide to escape pain, loneliness, addiction and mental illness. Even one life lost to suicide is too many. In those days the biggest advocate I could find for suicide awareness was state Sen. Daniel Thatcher. He was informed, full of compassion, and relentless. Many discouraged him and me from prioritizing suicide resources and emergency intervention. Their “friendly” advice was that it was too dark to discuss and would hurt us politically.

Undeterred, Sen. Thatcher and I enlisted the help of state Rep. Steve Eliason in the 2014 legislative session to find ways to help those in crisis. My incredible chief of staff at the time, Missy Larsen, led our office’s initiative and testified with Sen. Thatcher in support of a three-digit number for mental and behavioral crises, similar to 911 for physical emergencies. Political opposition defeated our efforts, so we turned toward a smartphone app that could be a lifeline.

In 2015, with the help of the University of Utah Neuropsychiatric Institute, we created the SafeUT app. Today, trained mental health professionals chat, text, and counsel thousands of Utah teens through SafeUT. The program is credited with saving many lives across the state and has become a national model other states are seeking to emulate.

And yet, even then, we knew it wasn’t enough. The suicide rate remained too high. In 2016, conversations with Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rep. Chris Stewart gave new hope to create a three-digit line — not just in Utah but nationally. Sen. Hatch and his team were amazing. He sponsored legislation creating a national suicide hotline, passing the Senate in the fall of 2017 with the support of Sen. Mike Lee. Since that time, as the lead House sponsor, Rep. Chris Stewart and his dedicated staff have pushed the bill with House leadership, getting it passed this week with a vote of 379 to 1.

Creation of the three-digit National Suicide Hotline is a huge victory for Utah and our country. I thank Sen. Hatch and Rep. Stewart for successful passage of this landmark legislation. This further cements Sen. Hatch’s legacy as one of the greatest protectors of children and families in our nation’s history. I offer my gratitude to the many people around our state who have advocated for this bill, including Chief Missy Larsen, Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton, members of the state’s suicide task force who have helped advocate for this measure, and especially state Sen. Thatcher and state Rep. Eliason. Soon, anyone can call a three-digit number and connect with a trained mental health professional who will listen, help, and connect them to resources that save lives.

At the root of all our efforts to prevent suicide is the need to connect, to feel valued, and to feel like we belong. Working together, we can make those around us feel valued and let them know that they matter. We can each do more to end or alleviate the causes of depression, loneliness, victimization, and mental illness. And while we try to diminish isolation and disconnectedness, we now have another tool to stop suicide and help those in crisis know there is hope.

Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash


Stop Veteran Charity Scams

In an effort to reduce the number of donations given to fraudulent charities, Francine Giani, Executive Director of the Utah Department of Commerce, announced last week that the state of Utah would participate in a new national donor education campaign, “Operation Donate with Honor.”

Every year, Americans give back to those who gave and risked so much for our freedom. Most charities dedicated to serving veterans and servicemen live up to their promises, but there are some who do not deliver on what they say they provide. Before giving, take a moment to walk through the following steps provided by the Utah Division of Consumer Protection to protect your donation: 

  1. Don’t rely on a sympathetic sounding name to make a donation.
  2. Ask for the charity’s name, website, and physical location.
  3. Ask how much of a donation will go to the charitable program you want to support.
  4. Check with the Utah Division of Consumer Protection to see if they are registered at https://dcp.utah.gov/consumerinfo/veterans_charities.html
  5. Search the charity’s name online with the word “scam” or “complaint” to see what other people say about it.
  6. Check out the charity’s ratings at the Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Watch, or Charity Navigator.
  7. Never pay with cash, a gift card, or by wiring money.
  8. Consider paying by credit card, which is the safest option for security and tax purposes.
  9.  If you wish to file a complaint, go to this link with the Utah Division of Consumer Protection: https://dcp.utah.gov/complaints/manual.html

The education campaign is intended to help potential donors recognize fraudulent and deceptive solicitations to ensure their contributions will, in fact, benefit veterans and service members. The campaign was developed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the National Association of State Charity Officials, which is the association of state offices charged with oversight of charitable organizations and solicitations in the United States. 

Along with the Utah Department of Commerce, the campaign includes the Utah Department of Veterans and Military Affairs, the FTC, law enforcement officials and charity regulators from every state, as well as the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, and Puerto Rico.   

You can find the press statement released by the Department of Commerce as well as additional information and resources here: https://commerce.utah.gov/releases/2018-07-19_dcp-donate-w-honor.pdf.


Happy Pioneer Day from the AG

Happy Pioneer Day from Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes and all of us with the AG’s Office.

To all Utah Pioneers past & present. 
To all who build communities with vision, faith, and tenacity. 
To those who work to make a better path for all who follow. 
Thank you. 


Fall Internships

Is it time for you or someone you know to explore a career path related to the practice of law?

We’re glad you found us. 

The Utah Attorney General’s Office is proud to provide opportunities for students interested in the world of law, legislation, and victim advocacy through internships. 

We are now accepting fall internship applications for undergraduate students. Part-time and full-time internships are available. Students will be assigned to a division of the office that focuses on their area of interest. Options include criminal or civil appeals, education, white collar & commercial enforcement, justice, child protection, health, environment, tax, and more. 

The application deadline is Aug 1st, 2018 at 11:59 p.m.

Find more information and the application at attorneygeneral.utah.gov/careers/internships.

 


Lands within the Uncompahgre

In June, Attorney General Reyes and Assistant AG Allison Garner sat with the Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands to discuss several issues, including the recent Uncompahgre Reservation litigation and what that means for Utah.  You can listen in to the entire conversation, embedded at the bottom of this post.  The discussion on the Uncompahgre starts at about 13:34.

Earlier this year, the Ute Tribe filed four cases stating the United States Federal Government violated several statutes by giving, selling and leasing land on the Uncompahgre Reservation to nontribal members. The 28 claims include alleged breached contracts, natural resource revenues, and a violation of the Fifth Amendment by taking property without paying for it.

The Office of the Utah Attorney General has been carefully monitoring the progress of this case.

Why?

One of many reasons is there are sections of land scattered throughout the Uncompahgre, held in trust since statehood, on which millions of dollars in potential oil and gas revenue could be generated for Utah schools. The Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration oversees those trust sections. While the case doesn’t mention SITLA specifically, the impact on SITLA could be extensive, and a major source of funding for Utah schools might be in jeopardy. 

The tribe is asking that the control of lands be taken from the Bureau of Land Management and restored to the tribal authority. And the Ute Tribe needs to do what is best for the Tribe.  

The Office of the Attorney General, in turn, needs to do what’s best for Utah. 

Although we haven’t decided to weigh in yet, we continue to watch with interest. 

Learn more at the links and audio embed, below.  

Salt Lake Tribune: Ute Tribe takes U.S. government to court over ‘theft’ of land and water in historic Uncompahgre

Salt Lake Tribune: Fearing Utah could lose millions in school revenue, attorney general wants state to step in on Ute Tribe’s land lawsuits

Holland & Hart: Ute Indian Tribe Asserts Ownership of All Federal Lands in the Uncompahgre Reservation

 


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