Main

October 23, 2012

2012 Election Information

votebutton.jpg
Election day is two weeks away - do you have all the information you need to vote? The vote.utah.gov website provides a variety of resources to help you prepare to cast your ballot on November 6th.

  • Use the On My Ballot link to verify you're regsitered to vote, learn about candidates and propositions, and to generate a customized Voter Information Pamphlet.
  • Sign up for a reminder email or text message and find your polling place
  • Early voting begins in today. Find out where you can cast your ballot before election day.
Article VIII, Section 9 of the Utah Constitution provides that Utah judges must stand for retention election at the end of each term of office, as defined by Utah Code Section 20A-12-201. Visit the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission (JPEC) website to review the evaluations of the Utah judges on this year's ballot.


The Utah State Library for the Blind and Disabled provides the Voter Information Pamphlet in alternate formats, including .mp3 and braille.

September 17, 2012

U.S. Constitution Resources

liberty.jpgToday marks Constitution Day, which commemorates the signing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787. This year marks the 225th anniversary this historic event occurred.

To learn more about the U.S. Constitution, see the following links:

September 06, 2012

Grandparents Day

IMG_1186.JPGSunday, September 9th is Grandparents Day. 36 U.S.C. §125 states this commemorative day is designated the first Sunday after Labor Day. U.S. President Jimmy Carter declared the first National Grandparents Day in 1978 in a presidential proclamation.

Grandparents play an important role in their families' lives. According to information from the U.S. Census Bureau, 6.7 million grandparents had grandchildren under 18 living in their household in 2009. According to information from AARP, more than 18,000 grandparents in Utah are responsible for grandchildren living with them.

If you're a grandparent in Utah, you might be interested in the following resources:

May 18, 2012

Armed Forces Day

2012ArmedForcesDayThumb.jpgSaturday, May 19 is Armed Forces Day, a day commemorating members of any U.S. military branch and their service to our country. It was designated by a Presidential Proclamation by U.S. President Harry S. Truman on February 27, 1950.

Armed Forces Day is also a day designated by federal law (36 U.S.C. §902) for displaying the National League of POW/MIA Families flag at government buildings throughout the nation including the White House, VA medical centers, and at military installations.

Check your local Utah city or county government website or military base website for Armed Forces Day events near you.

March 08, 2012

Daylight Saving Time

DaylightSaving.JPGThis Sunday, March 11th, is Daylight Saving Time. Each spring most Americans turn their clocks forward one hour to observing daylight saving pursuant to 15 U.S. Code §260 et seq.

For more information about Daylight Saving Time, see the U.S. Naval Observatory's page on Daylight Time, which includes future Daylight Saving dates. In addition, the Daylight Saving Time online exhibit through WebExhibits, an interactive museum, has articles and links to full-text historic documents related to Daylight Savings, including a link to Benjamin Franklin's 1784 essay on Daylight Saving.

February 23, 2012

IRS2Go 2.0

IRS2Go.bmpThe IRS has released a new version of the IRS2Go app for smartphones and other mobile devices. In addition to getting tax updates and checking your refund status, the newest version of the app lets you:


You can download IRS2Go from the ITunes App Store or Android Market.

December 07, 2011

Medicare Open Enrollment

IMG_1186.JPGIf you're a Utah resident enrolled in Medicare, you may want to be aware of the early Open Enrollment deadline, which is midnight tonight, December 7th. You can check your current enrollment plan and compare Medicare plans using the Plan Finder.

If you have questions about Medicare coverage or would like to learn more about health insurance programs that may be available to you, contact one of the agencies who participate in the Utah Medicare Outreach Coalition or visit the health insurance programs page at the Utah Division of Aging and Adult Services' website.

November 15, 2011

National Family Caregivers Month

IMG_1186.JPGNovember is National Family Caregivers Month, and seeks to draw awareness to the needs and challenges of family caregivers who may be assisting adults and/or children with special needs. USA.Gov has a directory of federal resources for family caregivers, including home and community resources for veterans and hospice care locators.

The state of Utah has a variety of resources for caregivers, including:

The Utah State Courts website has information about guardianship and conservatorship in Utah. You can complete court forms for a minor guardianship using the Online Court Assistance Program. The courts' YouTube channel has videos about Guardianship of an Adult and Guardianship of a Minor available to watch at any time.

November 09, 2011

Nationwide Test of the Emergency Alert System

fema.JPGToday at noon MST, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will conduct a nationwide test of the emergency alert system. This means that television and radio broadcasts will be interrupted for about 30 seconds with an emergency alert similar to the local emergency alert tests you are used to seeing or hearing. This is the first time the emergency alert test has been conducted nationally and includes all 50 states and territories including American Samoa, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In a real emergency, the president has the power through Executive Order 13407 to use this emergency alert system and it can be used "in situations of war, terrorist attack, natural disaster, or other hazards to public safety and well-being..."

For more information about the emergency alert system test, visit the FAQ section of FEMA's website.

November 08, 2011

Cutting Christmas Trees in National Forests

Christmas Tree.jpg In order to cut down a Christmas tree on national forest land, you must first get a permit and follow the rules set by the Forest Service. You can apply for a permit at a number of Forest Service locations. Find information about applying for permits here. Note that each national forest has its own rules you must follow, from the number of trees you can cut per household, the type of tree you can cut down, and there may be special rules about the height of the tree you can cut.

Find a Utah Forest Service office by visiting the Forest Service's website.

November 04, 2011

Daylight Saving Time

DaylightSaving.JPGThis Sunday, November 6th is Daylight Saving Time. Each fall most Americans turn their clocks back one hour to observing daylight saving pursuant to 15 U.S. Code §260 et seq.

For more information about the history of Daylight Saving Time, see the U.S. Naval Observatory's page on Daylight Time, which includes future Daylight Saving dates. In addition, the Daylight Saving Time online exhibit through WebExhibits, an interactive museum, has articles and links to full-text historic documents related to Daylight Savings, including a link to Benjamin Franklin's 1784 essay on Daylight Saving.

September 22, 2011

Give Suggestions on Improving Government Websites

governmentwebsites.bmpHave you ever visited a government website and thought of ways it could be improved?

Until September 30, you can contribute your ideas online at the National Dialogue on Improving Federal Websites page. This website is part of the .gov Reform Initiative to help cut costs and improve services to the general public.

You can comment on any aspect of federal websites, including search features, navigation, privacy and security, or accessibility. In addition to submitting your own ideas, you can also vote to agree or disagree with other users' comments.

Anyone can comment on improving federal websites, but you have to sign up for an account before you can submit your ideas.

September 08, 2011

10th Anniversary of 9/11

september11.bmpWe are approaching the ten year anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Many federal agencies and educational institutions are observing this event with online memorials and resources, including the following:

To find out more about resources documenting and memorializing this important day in history, visit USA.Gov's page on 9/11 Commemorations and Information.

In Utah, volunteer organizations around the state are commemorating 9/11 with a Day of Service and Rememberance. You can find ideas for volunteering and see a list of organizations looking for project volunteers and donations.

July 21, 2011

Clothing care instructions: Love them or hate them?

clothing.jpgWhen you buy a new item of clothing, do you tear off the care instruction label, or do you follow its instructions carefully?

The Federa Trade Commission (FTC) is seeking public comments about its regulations on Care Labeling of Textile Wearing Apparel (16 CFR Part 423).

Current regulations detail when care label instructions need to be included, such as the criteria for including a water temperature or bleaching warning. The FTC wants public opinion on the benefits, costs, and necessity of these regulations, and welcomes suggestions for modifying these regulations.

The request for public comments appeared in the July 13, 2011 issue of the Federal Register. Comments will be accepted until September 6, and can be made by mail or using the FTC's online comment form.

July 07, 2011

Sunscreen Regulations

sunscreen.jpg Whether you're headed on vacation this summer or staying close to home, you should wear sunscreen when outdoors. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced changes that will be made to sunscreen labeling regulations, effective June 2012. Among the changes:

  • A sunscreen must protect against both UVA and UVB rays in order to call itself "broad spectrum"
  • A sunscreen can't claim it's waterproof. At best, it can claim to be water resistant. A sunscreen can state the number of minutes it is water resistant.
  • The FDA also proposed a rule limiting the maxiumum SPF claim to 50+.

Current sunscreen regulations can be found in Title 21, Part 352, of the Code of Federal Regulations.

June 28, 2011

New Cigarette Warning Labels

cigarette-1.jpgThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recently announced that by September, 2012, cigarette packages will have to carry new warning labels about the health risks of smoking. The new labels feature graphic images of the negative health effects of smoking, and will be placed prominently on packaging and in cigarette advertisements. This FDA regulation was a required provision in §201 of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009.

For a summary of information about legislative acts related to smoking and tobacco, see the U.S. Centers for Disease Prevention and Control's website on Smoking and Tobacco Legislation.

April 20, 2011

National Park Week

Grand_Canyon-hd-11.jpgApril 16-24 is National Park Week, an annual event promoting America's National Parks. As part of this promotion, national parks throughout the country are offering free admission.

Parks across the country are also holding special events during this week. Choose a state and date range to see what events are happening at national parks near you.

National Park Week isn't the only time when national parks are free to visit. Other fee-free days this year are June 21st (First Day of Summer), September 24 (Public Lands Day), and November 11-13 (Veterans Day weekend).

If you want to learn more about Utah's National Parks, check out resources available from Utah Government Publications Online.

March 22, 2011

Tax Season Resources

IRS.bmp

The tax filing deadline is fast approaching. This year, tax season is three days longer. Federal taxes are due by April 18th, 2011, because April 15th is Emancipation Day in Washington, D.C.

Here are a few resources we've blogged about in the past to help you file your taxes:

  • Utah residents who make less than $49,000 per year qualify for tax preparation assistance from Utah's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. Search for a site near you online or call 211 to schedule an appointment.
  • Those 60 and over can use AARP's Tax-Aide program, which is available at libraries and senior centers throughout the state.

The IRS has several online resources for individuals and businesses who are preparing their own taxes. One of these is an Interactive Tax Assistant tool, which features frequently asked questions about tax preparation topics like credits and deductions. When you choose a question, the program interviews you for a short time (5 to 15 minutes), and then provides an answer.

The IRS has a video portal featuring presentations on a variety of topics for individuals and businesses, such as home office deductions or earned income tax credits. Written transcripts are below the video presentations.

February 11, 2011

Deep Water Gulf Oil Disaster Report and Recommendations

deepwater.pngWe just received two books published by the federal government on the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Deep Water: The Gulf Oil Disaster and the Future of Offshore Drilling is an extensive study of the 2010 gulf oil disaster, and its separately-published recommendations, by the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.

These resources trace the history of offshore drilling exploration in the United States as well as its legislative history, starting with the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act of 1953. The books also introduce the science behind the Gulf Oil disaster and provide detailed documentation of the response to the disaster.

If you're interested in learning more, check out these resources:


February 04, 2011

State of Emergency Declarations

flooding.jpgSouthern Utah has taken a severe weather beating this winter, being subjected to floods and severe storms. Governor Gary Herbert recently declared this region a state of emergency by executive order, which he has the authority to do under Utah Code Title 63K, Chapter 4, the Disaster Response and Recovery Act. The Governor's executive orders are published in the Utah State Bulletin, with the state of emergency declaration to be published in the February 15th, 2011, issue.

The Governor recently announced he is requesting the White House officially declare southern Utah a major disaster area, enabling Utah to qualify for Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) funds to help the area recover.

The process for a state governor to ask that an area be considered a disaster area is governed by the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5121 et seq.). The request is made to a regional FEMA office. FEMA and state officials then usually conduct a Preliminary Damage Assessment. The criteria for evaluating a state's request can be found in 44 CFR §206.48. FEMA can make recommendations whether a state receives aid, but it is ultimately the President's decision whether a disaster is declared and whether federal funds will be distributed to the state.

To see where else FEMA has declared disaster areas (with historical declarations back to 1953), check out FEMA's Federal Disaster Declarations page.

January 05, 2011

112th Congressional Session Begins This Week

congress.jpgAmendment XX, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution requires Congress meet at least once per year, starting on January 3rd or another designated day. A new Congressional session begins every other year on odd-numbered years. This year, the 112th Congress convenes on Wednesday, January 5th.

The first day held by both the Senate and House of Representative are fairly routine. It includes the swearing-in of new members and the selection of officers and leaders. The Oath of Office used for swearing-in Congressional members appears at 5 U.S.C. §3331.

The Congressional Research Service has written excellent guides to first day proceedings of both the Senate and House of Representatives.

December 22, 2010

2010 U.S. Census & Utah

1930census.jpgOn December 21, 2010, early 2010 census data, including population figures, was released and Utah's population has grown enough since the last census to gain an additional seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, increasing that number to 4. The last time this happened was in 1980, when the number of representatives went from 2 to 3.

Now that Utah will have 4 members in the U.S. House of Representatives, it is up to the Utah State legislature to determine how Utah will be redistricted. A previous proposal for redistricting under a 4-person representative scheme is found on the legislatures' redistricting page.

Census data has been gathered every 10 years in the United States since 1790 under authority of the U.S. Congress. The 1790 Act authorized marshals and their assistants to take a census beginning the first Monday of August in 1790 and gave them 9 months to complete their task. The U.S. Census Bureau has information online about each decennial census taken since 1790 and 2010 census information is available here.

December 01, 2010

The End of Mailed Paper Tax Forms

taxforms.jpgThe IRS recently announced that it will no longer mail paper tax forms and instructions to individuals and businesses. This is being done because of the growth in electronic tax filing and to cut costs.

In the past we've told you about agencies that provide tax preparation assistance and where tax forms can be found online. If you do not have internet access at home, visit your local public library or visit us at the Utah State Law Library for help printing tax forms from the web.

Paper copies of tax forms will still be made available at some public libraries, IRS offices and post offices.

November 19, 2010

Proposed Rules to Avoid Wireless Phone "Bill Shock"

wirelessphone.jpgThe recent announcement from Verizon Wireless stating the company would be refunding millions of customers for erroneous data charges has been popular in the news. However, the Federal Communications Commission has been interested in creating consumer protection measures against extra wireless charges for some time.

This past April and May, the FCC conducted a survey which found that nearly 20% of Americans experienced a cell phone bill increasingly suddenly from one month to the next. 23% said their sudden increase was $100 or more. In May, the FCC sought public comments in the Federal Register regarding wireless phone usage alerts and whether companies are already using them.

This month the FCC is proposing rules designed to protect consumers from unexpected wireless charges, or "bill shock," which would amend Title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations. These rules include requiring a wireless company to send a voice or text alert to customers who are about to use more than their minute, text, or data plan allows or if they are about to be charged roaming fees.

For more information and tips on avoiding sudden additional charges to your wireless and data plans, check out the FTC's Tips for Avoiding Bill Shock.

November 16, 2010

New Database for Searching Federal Information

metaliblogo.bmpMetaLib is the U.S. Government Printing Office's newest database for searching information from more than fifty federal agency databases. The databases available cover a variety of topics including health, medicine, energy, transportation, and the military.

Metalib has a variety of search options, including:

  • a basic keyword search in general resources.
  • an advanced search by subject, title, author, or year.
  • an expert search where you can search multiple fields or narrow your search by database or federal agency.

From a search results screen, you can save records to a unique feature called My E-Shelf. From there you can email documents or save them.

Not finding a database you were looking for? Use the Suggest a Resource link to recommend a database you'd like to see added to MetaLib.

November 15, 2010

Plain Writing Act of 2010

Last month President Obama signed into law the Plain Writing Act of 2010.The stated purpose of the law is

"...to improve the effectiveness and accountability of Federal agencies to the public by promoting clear Government communication that the public can understand and use."

"Plain writing" is defined as

"...writing that the intended audience can readily understand and use because that writing is clear, concise, well-organized, and follows other best practices of plain writing."

The Act requires federal agencies to use plain writing in any document it produces which provides information about obtaining federal benefits or filing taxes, or if it explains how to comply with federal requirements.

PlainLanguage.gov provides several examples of government regulations, manuals, handbooks and reports that were re-written following plain language principles. For example, here is a change in a Medicare Fraud Letter:

Before
Investigators at the contractor will review the facts in your case and decide the most appropriate course of action. The first step taken with most Medicare health care providers is to reeducate them about Medicare regulations and policies. If the practice continues, the contractor may conduct special audits of the providers medical records. Often, the contractor recovers overpayments to health care providers this way. If there is sufficient evidence to show that the provider is consistently violating Medicare policies, the contractor will document the violations and ask the Office of the Inspector General to prosecute the case. This can lead to expulsion from the Medicare program, civil monetary penalties, and imprisonment.

After
We will take two steps to look at this matter: We will find out if it was an error or fraud.

We will let you know the result.

Find additional information about this new law on the Thomas website.

October 29, 2010

Credit Histories of Job Seekers

EEOC.pngThe Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently held a public meeting to discuss the use of credit histories for screening potential employees. A hearing is one of many first steps a federal agency can take in the process of creating federal regulations.

Currently, the Fair Credit Reporting Act allows for the disclosure of credit reports for employment purposes (see 15 U.S.C. §1681b). However, many organizations are speaking out against this practice.

At the EEOC's public meeting, representatives from civic organizations and the legal community presented their arguments against the use of credit histories when screening job applicants. Sarah Crawford from the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law stated "credit checks create an unnecessary obstacle for those seeking gainful employment."

The National Consumer Law Center is also concerned with the use of credit histories by employers. In addition to speaking at the EEOC public meeting, the NCLC has also testified before the U.S. Subcommittee on Financial institutions and Consumer Credit earlier this year in support of H.R. 3149: Equal Opportunity for All Act. This resolution, still pending in the U.S. House of Representatives, would amend 15 U.S.C. §1681 to prohibit the use of credit histories for employment purposes.

For more information on credit reports, check out these resources:

  • The National Consumer Law Center has several consumer publications online, including What You Should Know About Your Credit Report and Understanding Credit Scores.
  • The Federal Trade Commission has information on Employment Background Checks and Credit Reports. This explains what procedures an employer must follow if they are seeking a potential employee's credit report.


September 29, 2010

The U.S. Supreme Court Back in Session

supremecourt.jpgThe Supreme Court will be back in session on Monday, October 4th, 2010. 28 U.S.C. §2 requires the court to begin its term on the first Monday in October.

Earlier this year we blogged about the U.S. Supreme Court's new website. The website provides a preview of what will be heard in the new term. The Argument Calendars page already has the first three months' calendars online, so you can see the case names and issues that the court will considering. Another new feature starting this term, according to a recent Supreme Court press release, is weekly MP3 recordings of arguments.

The American Bar Association's Division for Public Education has a preview of the Supreme Court's new term, including the briefs filed in upcoming cases. You can also keep up with what cases are being heard or considered through SCOTUSblog. The blog features analysis of decisions and links to petitions pending before the Supreme Court.

September 24, 2010

Establishing the U.S. Federal Court System

supremecourt.jpgToday marks the 221st anniversary of the establishment of the U.S. federal court system.

On September 24, 1789, the Judiciary Act of 1789 was signed by President George Washington. This congressional act defined three levels of federal courts: the Supreme Court, which would have a Chief Justice and five Associate Justices; circuit courts, which heard civil cases and appeals from district courts; and district courts, which generally heard admiralty and maritime cases and cases involving monetary disputes up to $100. We still have the basic three-tier structure of federal courts today.

To learn more about the history of this law, check out the Library of Congress's Primary Documents in American History page devoted to the act. Here you'll find links to historic congressional debates over the bill. The Federal Judicial Center's Landmark Judicial Legislation page has historical articles on this act and many other laws that affected the judiciary, including the creation of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and Bankruptcy Courts.

September 16, 2010

Citizenship Day

statueofliberty2.jpgIn addition to being Constitution Day, September 17th is also Citizenship Day. Both days were designated by 36 U.S.C. §106.

Constitution Day and Citizenship Day first began in 1940 (54 Stat. 178). Called I am an American Day, the holiday was set on the third Sunday of each May as a "recognition of all who, by coming of age or naturalization, have attained the status of citizenship." In 1952, Public Law 261 (66 Stat. 9) repealed the 1940 resolution, renamed the commemoration Citizenship Day, and added the statement that the holiday also celebrates "the formation and signing, on September 17, 1787, of the Constitution of the United States." Constitution Day was added to the holiday's title with the passage of Public Law 108-447, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2005. See pages 536-537 of the nearly 700 page law.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website has many resources for those interested in becoming a U.S. citizen, including forms that can be submitted by mail and forms that can be filed electronically. There are also guides to and study materials for the Naturalization Test.

In Utah, citizenship education classes are often provided by cultural associations or school districts. The Asian Association of Utah, for instance, offers citizenship test preparation classes. United Way of Utah County offers citizenship test preparation in Provo. The Granite School District offers a citizenship class as part of its lifelong learning department.

September 09, 2010

75th Anniversary of the Social Security Act

socialsecurityact.jpgOn August 14, 1935, the Social Security Act was signed into law. The original Social Security Act set payroll taxes to begin in 1937 and for monthly benefits to begin in 1942. In 1939, Congress amended the law so that monthly benefits could begin in 1940. The 1939 amendments also expanded the benefits from retirements for individual workers to adding benefits for survivors and dependents of a worker. Disability benefits were added to the law in the 1950s and 1960s.

To help keep track of the earnings of all U.S. workers, the Social Security board decided that all workers would be assigned a Social Security Number and all employers would be issued an Employer Identification Number. About 35 million social security numbers were issued in the first two years of the act.

To celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Act, the Social Security Administration has put together a historical website, which includes rare and interesting historical speeches and documents by early social security advocates. In addition, the Social Security Administration is asking the general public to submit stories of how Social Security has made a difference in their lives or their families live. Submit your story today!

September 01, 2010

National Preparedness Month

http://www.ready.gov/america/makeaplan/index.htmlNational Preparedness Month - September 2010 (Register to become a Coalition Member) graphic
September is National Preparedness Month. The nation recently commemorated the 5th anniversary of Katrina, the hurricane that devastated Gulf Coast communities in 2005. How ready are you for a natural or human-caused disaster?

The Ready America website stresses three points:

  • Get a kit
  • Make a plan
  • Be informed

    The Be Informed page provides specific disaster information for each state. Utah, for example, is at risk for wildfires, flooding, tornadoes, drought and landslides.

    The Publications page includes a Family Emergency Plan template you can use to record vital emergency information, an emergency supply list and an extensive "Are You Ready?" Manual. There are also publications written specifically for kids.

    Utah has its own Be Ready Utah website, which provides tips for readying your family, you business, your community and your school.

  • August 27, 2010

    Anniversary of the U.S. Constitution's 19th Amendment

    National_Women's_Suffrage_Association.jpgThis month marks the 90th anniversary of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted women the right to vote. This amendment was won after decades of protest and activism by women's suffrage organizations.

    In Utah the story of women's voting rights was unique because the right to vote for women was granted fifty years prior to the ratification of the 19th amendment. On February 12, 1870, the Territory of Utah's legislative assembly passed a law granting women 21 and over the right to vote. However, seven years later, the U.S. Congress passed the Edmunds-Tucker Act in reaction to the practice of polygamy. Section 20 of that Act repealed Utah's law on women's right to vote. When Utah became a state in 1896, Article IV of the Utah Constitution granted equal voting rights to both men and women.

    Many records and photographs exist from this movement and are available online. The Library of Congress has a digital collection of books and pamphlets published by women's suffragist organizations, selected from the library's National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection. The documents are from the 1850s to the 1910s. The Library of Congress also has an online exhibit of photographs of suffragists and their activities. The National Archives has an online lesson plan for educators featuring other rare suffrage documents.


    July 30, 2010

    New Restaurant Nutrition Label Regulations

    restaurantplateoffood.jpgIf you love to go out to eat, whether in a sit-down restaurant or grabbing a quick meal through your favorite fast food drive-through lane, you should be aware that there are changes planned to the information presented on restaurant menus.

    The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, signed into law on March 23, 2010, includes a section that requires most restaurants and vending machine operators (those with at least twenty establishment locations) to disclose nutrition information such as calorie content on restaurant menus and menu boards, including drive-through menu screens. This new section amends the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration enforces the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. The agency has recently published a Federal Register notice and request for public comments regarding ways to implement the new regulations, which must be carried out no later than March 23, 2011. The FDA has a page describing the different ways public comments can be submitted, including submitting petitions directly to the FDA or submitting online through Regulations.gov. You can submit your comments until September 7th, 2010.

    July 27, 2010

    ADA Turns 20

    IMG_1186.JPGYesterday marked the 20th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The purpose of the Act is:

    (1) to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities;
    (2) to provide clear, strong, consistent, enforceable standards addressing discrimination against individuals with disabilities;
    (3) to ensure that the Federal Government plays a central role in enforcing the standards established in this chapter on behalf of individuals with disabilities; and
    (4) to invoke the sweep of congressional authority, including the power to enforce the fourteenth amendment and to regulate commerce, in order to address the major areas of discrimination faced day-to-day by people with disabilities.

    42 U.S. Code §12101(b)


    The ADA guarantees equal opportunity for people with disabilities in public accommodations, commercial facilities, employment, transportation, state and local government services and telecommunications. Some of the things we take for granted today like curb cuts, automatic door openers and lifts on public transportation are all the result of the ADA.

    Utah Resources

  • Access Utah Network
  • Deseret News article
  • Utah Disability Law Center
  • Utah Division of Services for People with Disabilities
  • Utah State Library for the Blind and Disabled

    Federal Resources

  • www.ada.gov, the U.S. Department of Justice's ADA Home Page.
  • Disability.gov, which includes stories from people about how the ADA has impacted their lives.

  • July 26, 2010

    New Look for the Federal Register

    NewFR.bmp

    On July 26th, the U.S. Government Printing Office and the National Archives' Office of the Federal Register launched its new Federal Register website, which is designed to be easier to use:

    • Notices are divided by popular sections such as Money, Science and Technology, and Business and Industry.
    • Notices in each of the sections are displayed as blog posts.
    • Each notice is displayed as a web page with clearly labeled headings and a sharing toolbar at the start of each paragraph, so you can share Federal Register notices via Twitter, Facebook, or Digg.
    • There is also a comment submission button which lets you submit your views through regulations.gov, a federal regulations website we blogged about earlier this year.
    • Other new features include a What's Hot section and the ability to follow notices via RSS feeds.
    The new Federal Register website is similar to regulations.gov. Like regulations.gov, you can search by keyword or browse notices by agency name or topic. The new Federal Register page also has presidential documents such as executive orders and proclamations.

    The website is in its beta testing phase, so it's not yet considered the official Federal Register source. You can still access the official version of the Federal Register online through FDSys or in print at your local Federal Depository Library.

    July 13, 2010

    New Indoor Tanning Tax

    tanningbedorange.jpegThe Internal Revenue Service's regulations placing a 10% tax increase on indoor tanning services went into effect July 1st. The tax does not apply to phototherapy services performed by licensed medical professionals.

    The tax is due at time of payment for the services; if the customer does not pay the tax, the provider becomes liable for it. The taxes must be reported quarterly on IRS Form 720, Quarterly Federal Excise Tax Return.

    The new tax on indoor tanning is one of many provisions included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act which was enacted as Public Law 111-148 on March 23, 2010.

    Have questions about the new tanning tax? Check out the IRS's FAQs on the tax.

    Do you regularly get indoor tans? Be sure the tanning salon follows the Utah Department of Health's Indoor Tanning Bed Sanitation Regulations.

    June 18, 2010

    100th Anniversary of Father's Day

    father_with_child.jpgThis Sunday families across the nation will be celebrating Father's Day. Did you know 2010 is the 100th year this holiday will be celebrated? The U.S. Census Bureau has put together some interesting facts about fathers in the U.S. to commemorate the holiday's Centennial.

    In 1909, Sonora Dodd, a Spokane, Washington resident, wanted a holiday to honor her father, who raised six children by himself. The mayor of Spokane chose June of 1910 to hold the holiday. June was the birth month of Ms. Dodd's father. Father's Day officially became an American holiday, to be celebrated the third Sunday in June, in 1972. The law was codified at 36 U.S.C. §109.

    For some suggestions on how to celebrate Father's Day, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Family Assistance has several lists of activities fathers and families can do.

    June 10, 2010

    Flag Day

    flag.jpegMonday June 14th is Flag Day, a holiday commemorating the anniversary of the Continental Congress adopting the Stars and Stripes as the official U.S. Flag on June 14, 1777.

    If you own a flag and plan to display it, you should follow the guidelines for flag display established at 4 U.S.C. Chapter 1. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has published guidelines on their website. For instance, if you display your flag after sunset, make sure it's illuminated.

    To learn more about Flag Day and the history of the United States flag, check out these resources:

    May 27, 2010

    PACER Website Redesigned

    PACERimage.JPG We recently blogged about changes to the fees for PACER, the federal court system's online records database. Now PACER's website has just been redesigned.

    Frequently used links such as registering for a new account are accessible at multiple points on the home page. Answers to frequently asked questions and important news updates are now more prominently displayed. There are also helpful resources for PACER users, such as a guide to case type codes and a user manual.

    One new feature announced recently by PACER is the availability of digital audio recordings online. These digital recordings are a fraction of the cost of obtaining a CD at a court clerk's office.

    PACER is a subscription service, but you can use it for free at the Federal Clerk's Office of the U.S. District Court for the State of Utah at 350 South Main Street in Salt Lake City.

    May 20, 2010

    A New Supreme Court Nomination

    supremecourt.jpgLast year we blogged about the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice John Paul Stevens has announced his retirement and President Obama has nominated Solicitor General Elena Kagan to replace him.

    The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, which conducts the nomination hearing before the Senate confirmation, will be posting all nomination materials online.

    Since the Senate Judiciary Committee also conducts hearings for Executive Branch nominations, you can also read all the nomination materials related to her 2009 confirmation as solicitor general. These include transcripts of speeches, interviews, and letters from various individuals and organizations supporting her solicitor general nomination.

    Want to learn more about Elena Kagan? The Law Library of Congress has recently created a legal resource guide about Ms. Kagan, including links to law review articles she authored, transcripts of solicitor general arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court, and links to C-SPAN videos.

    May 19, 2010

    United State Courts' Website Redesigned

    fedct.jpgThe Federal Courts' website was recently redesigned to be more user friendly and to make it easier to find information about the courts. For example, now it's much easier to find out which states are included in what districts using the interactive court locator map. While the older version of the site hosted some video, now all multimedia is grouped together so you can easily locate photos, podcasts and video in one place.

    New enhancements include easier ways to stay up-to-date with Federal Court information through RSS feeds and customizable email delivery service. The new website also includes links to easily research court rules and amendments.

    What do you think of the new Federal Courts' site?

    May 13, 2010

    National Bike to Work Week

    bike_month540x59.gif

    Do you own a bike? Have you ever thought about biking to work or to run errands near your home?

    May 17-21 is National Bike to Work Week, designated to raise awareness of the benefits of biking for daily routines such as commuting to work.

    Events are going to be held throughout the state, including Park City, Salt Lake City, Orem, and Provo.

    Interested in learning more about biking? Visit Utah Government Publications Online to find hundreds of government and state agency resources about biking in Utah, including:

    April 19, 2010

    National Park Week

    arches.jpegApril 17-25, 2010 is National Park Week. To help celebrate and promote America's National Parks, entrance fees to all national parks will be waived.

    The National Park Service was created in 1916 as a division within the Department of the Interior to "conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations" (16 U.S.C. §1). Utah has five national parks, and seven national monuments.

    To read more about the history of the National Park Service, check out its History page with links to stories, essays, and park histories.

    April 09, 2010

    Tax Time

    taxes.jpegThe April 15th tax filing deadline is quickly approaching. The IRS has many resources to help you file your federal tax returns. Its Forms and Publications page lets you download printable version of tax forms. You can also file your taxes online. If you're completing your federal taxes on your own, check out Your Federal Income Tax for Individuals, an IRS publication that helps you decide what deductions may be available for you.

    The Utah State Tax Commission also features a printable forms and tax guides page and a new e-filing program called Taxpayer Access Point (TAP). The Tax Commission has developed online tutorials on how to use the new program.

    If you're interested in finding free help to fill out your taxes, there are many options. If you make $42,000 per year or less, you can go to a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance clinic. If you are over 60, find an AARP Tax-Aide site near you (AARP membership is not required). Military members and their families can obtain tax assistance on base--check with your local Armed Forces Legal Assistance office.

    If you are hiring someone to help you prepare your taxes, be sure to read the IRS's Tips for Choosing a Tax Preparer to help you avoid scams.

    April 07, 2010

    Proposed Mail Delivery Change

    USPSmailbox.jpeg You may have heard in the news that the U.S. Postal Service is proposing to reduce mail delivery from six days to five days per week. This is in response to budget shortfalls and a decline in the amount of mail processed through the U.S. Postal Service. The U.S. Congress has required six-day delivery service as part of appropriations acts for several decades (see 39 U.S.C. §403 note [2006] [Continuation of Mail Delivery Services]).

    The first step in requesting the change in service is requesting an opinion from the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), as described in 39 U.S.C. §3661. You can read all documents submitted as part of this request, including motions, orders, and interrogatories.

    There are two ways the general public can submit comments to the PRC regarding the proposed changes:

    1. Use the online comment form through the PRC website; or
    2. File a notice of intervention online in compliance with the Commission's Rules of Practice.

    April 02, 2010

    Avoid Census Scams

    census.gifYesterday, April 1st, was officially declared Census Day to help remind everyone to mail back their census forms. If you don't mail back your census form, a census taker will visit you up to three times to collect census information.

    The FTC has recently announced an alert to protect citizens from census scams, whether in person or online. Official census takers must show ID, and they will never ask to enter your home. Census takers are only allowed to ask questions that appear on the printed census forms. The U.S. Census provides some tips on what to do when a densus taker visits you.

    All U.S. Census correspondence is sent by mail and only has ten questions. None of these questions ask for credit card information, bank account numbers, passwords, or social security numbers. The census form will also be sent with an pre-paid postage return envelope.

    If you receive an email with attachments or links to websites claiming to be from the Census Bureau, be sure not to open the email, its attachments, or click on a link. You are encouraged to report suspicious emails or websites to the FTC or to the Census Bureau.

    March 25, 2010

    New U.S. Supreme Court Website

    supreme court.JPGThe U.S. Supreme Court website has a new design. Some of the new features include links to recent court decisions and an interactive calendar right from the home page. Also, you can also read court orders, the annual Journal of the Supreme Court of the United States, and oral argument transcripts from the past ten years.

    It's also easier to spot resources for filing Supreme Court cases right from the home page, such as bar admission forms and instructions, court rules, and case handling guides.

    The official press release announcing the new website (posted online by the SCOTUS blog team) stated the court would update and add new features over time. Keep watching the new Supreme Court website for changes.

    March 17, 2010

    Sunshine Week 2010

    sunshineweek.jpg We've blogged in the past about several resources that encourage open government and civic participation, such as Regulations.Gov or announcing federal agencies on Twitter and Facebook. This week marks Sunshine Week, an annual event sponsored by libraries, universities, schools, and news and nonprofit organizations to promote discussion of the importance of open government and the freedom of information.

    Sunshine Week first began in 2005 by the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Several states were already hosting day-long events for several years, mostly in response to state legislation on public records laws. It is held every year in March around National Freedom of Information Day.

    Events are being held nationwide. If you're in Salt Lake City, the City Library will be screening a free movie, Iron Jawed Angels, about the women's suffrage movement on March 18th from 6:00-9:00 pm. The screening is cosponsored by the League of Women Voters of Utah and the Utah Foundation for Open Government.

    Check your local newspaper or with your library for events in your area. If there isn't a Sunshine Week event near you, you can always attend OpentheGovernment.org's nationwide webcast on building transparency this Friday, March 19th, 12:00-2:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time.

    March 12, 2010

    Daylight Saving Time

    clock.jpegDaylight Saving Time has arrived again starting this Sunday, March 14, at 2 am when clocks move forward one hour. In a previous post, we discussed the laws that first enacted Daylight Saving.

    Why is Daylight Saving Time so early in the year? The Energy Policy Act of 2005 changed Daylight Saving dates in 15 U.S.C. §260a(a) to the second Sunday in March and the first Sunday in November starting in 2007. Previously, Daylight Saving Times were scheduled the first Sunday in April and the last Sunday in October. This law also gave Congress the authority to reverse its decision to change Daylight Saving dates.

    The U.S. Department of Energy studied the effects of these changes and published a report. Among its findings:

    • Changes in gasoline consumption were small.
    • Electricity usage decreased .03% in 2007.
    • Electricity savings were slightly larger during the March Daylight Saving date than the November date. Northern sections of the United States experienced more electricity savings than southern sections.

    February 23, 2010

    Keeping Track of Federal Regulations

    regulations.JPG
    Did you know that you can read and comment on proposed federal regulations?

    The Federal Register, which provides announcements about proposed regulations, is available on the Office of the Federal Register website and the Government Printing Office's new FDSys database. Look for the link that invites you to submit your comments.

    The Federal Register is published each week day, with notices, proposed and final regulations grouped together by agency. You can sign up to receive the Federal Register table of contents by email each day.

    You can also search Regulations.Gov (also on Twitter) for proposed or final rules, submit comments, and even search public comments by keyword. Last year over 400,000 public comments were submitted through the website. The site even provides an instructional video to help you learn more.

    Regulations.Gov accepts user suggestions. Create an account to comment on how to improve the website.

    January 27, 2010

    State of...

    Two important Utah "State of..." addresses have already been delivered during this first week of the legislative session. Tonight, President Obama delivers the State of the Union address to the nation.

    If you missed either Utah "State of..." speeches, you can read them in their entirety online. On Tuesday night, Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert delivered the State of the State address to the Utah legislature. Read the text of his speech here. Governor Herbert is required by the Utah Constitution to make an annual report to the legislature about the condition of the state.

    justice durham.JPGOn Monday, during the opening day of the legislature, Chief Justice Durham presented the State of the Judiciary address, which is also now available online. The State of the Judiciary address has been presented to the legislature since 1976, the first speech given by Chief Justice Swan. Court rule gives the duty of presenting the State of the Judicary address to the presiding officer of the Judicial Council, who is the Chief Justice, unless she is unable to perform her duties.

    Tonight, you can live stream President Obama's State of the Union address or read the full-text version online after the speech. The President is required by the U.S. Constitution to give a report to Congress about the State of the Union - the fact that it happens every year is tradition and not mandated by law. Check out this New York Time's article for a brief history of the State of the Union.

    January 26, 2010

    National Archives Prohibits Public Photography

    nophotography.PNGSome of the most popular tourist attractions in Washington D.C. are the original documents that led to the creation of the United States, including the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, located at the National Archives. The National Archives and Records Administration will ban personal photography and filming in exhibit areas of the National Archives beginning February 24, 2010. This new rule was announced in the January 25, 2010 edition of the Federal Register.

    NARA wants to protect these rare documents from the effects of photographic flash. It is also prohibiting personal filming in response to written visitor logs that demanded it be eliminated. This is in contrast to only three opposing comments from citizens received during the 60 day comment period after the initial announcement of the proposed rule.

    In case you can't visit the National Archives before February 24th with your camera, you can always avoid the crowds and view founding documents online at the National Archive's website and learn more about them through their online exhibits.

    January 13, 2010

    The 2010 Census

    census.gifThe new year is a time for many people to make New Years' resolutions. Make it one of your resolutions to get counted in the 2010 Census.

    The decennial, or every ten year, census is the official count of all U.S. residents. It is mandated by Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution. The first census was conducted in 1790. Information collected by the census helps determine how federal funding is distributed for infrastructure and services. Census participation is required under Title 13, Section 221 of the United States Code.

    Census questionnaires will be sent to all residences by March 2010, and should be mailed back by April 1st. You can preview the form here.

    Census information isn't just important for counting today's population. It can be useful to anyone conducting family history research. Some historic Census records can be found at the Utah State Archives and the Utah State History Research Center. Also, the Utah State Library's Pioneer databases offers Utah library cardholders and residents access to Heritage Quest Online, a database where you can search federal census records from 1790 to 1930.

    November 23, 2009

    New Proposed Rules for Gift Cards

    giftcardblog.jpg Planning to buy gift cards for friends or family members this holiday season? The Federal Reserve Board has recently proposed rule changes to the Federal Reserve System's Electronic Funds Transfer regulation (12 CFR Part 205) that would limit the service and inactivity fees that can be placed on gift cards unless cards have been inactive for more than a year, there is no more than one fee per month, or if fees are fully disclosed to the consumer. The rules would also require expiration dates of cards be no less than five years from the date issued or date funds were last added.

    You can read the full text of the proposed rules in the November 20th, 2009, issue of the Federal Register.

    Want to comment on these proposed rules? Submit your views and read other people's comments through the Federal Reserve's Rulemaking Proposals page. Comments can also be submitted online through Regulations.Gov. You must submit your comments by December 21, 2009.


    October 30, 2009

    Daylight Saving Time

    DaylightSaving.JPG Daylight Saving Time ends this Sunday - November 1st - at 2:00 am. For many of us that means turning clocks back one hour. Why do we do this?

    Daylight saving originated with the Standard Time Act of 1918, P.L. 65-106. This law was repealed the next year, but was made law again with the Uniform Time Act of 1966. The law was codified as 15 U.S. Code §260 et seq.

    To see how this law has changed over time, visit the law library and we'll show you how to use HeinOnline, or our print versions of the U.S. Code and U.S. Statutes at Large.

    Want to learn more about the history of daylight saving? Check out these resources:

    October 02, 2009

    The First Monday in October

    supctstamp.jpg

    Monday October 5th (the first Monday in October) is the start of the new term of the U.S. Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court website provides information about the history of the court, its members, oral argument calendar and slip opinions.

    Last week the U.S. Postal Service issued a series of commemorative stamps honoring four U.S. Supreme Court Justices: Joseph Story, Louis D. Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter and William J. Brennan Jr.

    The U.S. Postal Service press release provides the following information about the honored justices:

    Joseph Story (1779-1845)
    Joseph Story ranks as one of the nation’s most influential jurists. The author of dozens of volumes of legal commentary, Story, who viewed law as a science, gave shape to American jurisprudence while also making the law more accessible to practicing attorneys. His devotion to the uniform enforcement of federal regulations by all the states helped establish the preeminence of the Supreme Court.

    Louis D. Brandeis (1856-1941)
    Louis Brandeis was the associate justice most responsible for helping the Supreme Court shape the tools it needed to interpret the Constitution in light of the sociological and economic conditions of the 20th century. “If we would guide by the light of reason,” he once exhorted his colleagues, “we must let our minds be bold.” A progressive and champion of reform, Brandeis devoted his life to social justice.

    Felix Frankfurter (1882-1965)
    Felix Frankfurter was arguably one of the most enigmatic and controversial figures ever to sit on the Supreme Court. As the Court’s strongest proponent of judicial restraint, Frankfurter, who served 23 years as an associate justice, believed that judges should disregard their own social views when making decisions. “History teaches,” he wrote, “that the independence of the judiciary is jeopardized when courts become embroiled in the passions of the day.”

    William J. Brennan Jr. (1906-1997)
    William J. Brennan Jr. was the author of numerous landmark decisions and the inspiration behind many others. He believed that law is an essential force for social and political change. The Court’s most determined opponent of the death penalty, he championed equal rights for all citizens and steadfastly regarded the Constitution as a living document that should be interpreted to fit modern life.

    September 24, 2009

    Social Networking with Federal Agencies

    twitter_logo.png
    Federal Computer Week recently listed the top 10 federal agencies with the most Facebook fans as well as well as the top 10 federal agencies with the most followers on Twitter.

    Agencies with the most Facebook fans include:
    White House
    Marine Corps
    Army

    Agencies with the most followers on Twitter include:
    White House
    CDC Emergency
    NASA

    You don't have to have a Facebook or Twitter account to view updates on either service. However, if you would like to make a comment on a Facebook page or send a message to a Twitter account, you'll need to sign up. And if you're signing up for Facebook, become a fan of the Utah State Law Library as well!

    September 17, 2009

    Could you pass the naturalization test?

    Yesterday's post on Constitution Day listed four questions that may appear on the naturalization test immigrants must take in order to become U.S. citizens.

    Did you get them correct?

    Q: If the president and vice president can no longer serve, who becomes president?
    A: The Speaker of the House.

    Q: The House of Representatives has how many voting members?
    A: 435.

    Q:We elect a U.S. Senator for how many years?
    A: Six years.

    Q: What is one right or freedom from the First Amendment?
    A: Speech, religion, assembly, press, and petition the government.

    September 16, 2009

    Constitution Day

    liberty.jpg
    On September 17, 1787 - 222 years ago - the delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the U.S. Constitution. Five years ago Congress designated Thursday, September 17th as Constitution Day, a day to recognize the importance of this enduring document.

    To become a United States citizen, immigrants must pass a test that includes questions about the Constitution, U.S. history and the structure of our government. The testing officer asks up to 10 out of 100 questions that are available for immigrants to study prior to the test.

    Take a sample naturalization test online or check out these sample questions:

    1) If the president and vice president can no longer serve, who becomes president?
    2) The House of Representatives has how many voting members?
    3) We elect a U.S. Senator for how many years?
    4) What is one right or freedom from the First Amendment?

    Check back tomorrow for answers.


    September 15, 2009

    Monitor House, Senate & Committee Action via RSS

    The Law Library of Congress provides RSS feeds that allow you to monitor the most recent bills and resolutions considered on the floor of both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. The library also provides a feed that provides information about chamber action, committee meetings, and joint meetings of Congress.

    Check out all the feeds available through the Library of Congress, or narrow your feed topic to legal issues.

    If you're new to RSS feeds and want to read about how feed readers can keep you up to date with information, check out the Library of Congress' explanation about RSS feeds.