In a prior post we highlighted a recent podcast that McNees real estate attorney Kandice Hull recorded on eminent domain. Interested to know more about this topic? You can find her additional thoughts, including on the Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo v. City of New London, below.

Did you miss part 1 in this series? You can get caught up here. And, be sure to subscribe to our blog – as part 3 is in the works!

What almost every individual, business, and municipality have in common is that they have some sort of insurance coverage, and sooner or later they need to use it.  But if the insurance company won’t hold up its end of the bargain, how does an insured prove that an insurer acted in bad faith?

Although the issue has been well settled since the Superior Court decided Terletsky v. Prudential Property & Casualty Insurance Co. in 1994, there has been much confusion as to whether or not ill motive or ill will is required.  The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, however, recently weighed in, newly confirming the old standard. Continue Reading Rancosky: The (Clarified) Insurance Bad Faith Standard

A recent Commonwealth Court decision affirmed that municipalities within Pennsylvania are not immune from claims of adverse possession.  In City of Philadelphia v. Galdo, 181 A3d. 1289 (Pa. Commw. 2018), the Commonwealth Court held that the City of Philadelphia had lost title to a property that it had previously condemned to an adjacent property owner who adversely possessed the property. Continue Reading Municipalities Can Lose Property Through Adverse Possession

We’ve previously discussed on this blog the importance of continuing disclosure in the municipal bond industry, and the steps municipal issuers should take to ensure they remain in compliance with their obligations in this area. I recently recorded a video podcast on this topic. You can watch it below – or at the following link: https://www.mcneeslaw.com/continuing-disclosure-video/.

Have questions about continuing disclosure? Feel free to contact me or the Firm’s continuing disclosure specialist, Penny Pollick.

Last week the Supreme Court issued its long-awaited opinion in Janus v. AFCSME.  It held that requiring public sector employees to pay fair share fees to unions violates the First Amendment.  A fair share fee (sometimes called an agency fee) is a fee that non-union members must pay to the union to cover the expenses incurred by the union while representing an employee in collective bargaining and related matters.  Fair share fees were often required under state law, despite the employee opting not to join the union, because unions have a legal obligation to represent all employees within the bargaining unit, regardless of whether the employee is a member of the union.  These laws became common after the Supreme Court issued its 1977 opinion Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which held that fair share fees were constitutional and maintained labor peace by preventing “free riders.”

In recent years, there have been increasing challenges to the constitutionality of fair share fees and the validity of AboodBack in 2014, we discussed the Supreme Court’s ruling in Harris v. Quinn.  The Court in Harris began to question the validity of Abood and its supporting rationale.  As we noted, the Court came close to overruling Abood but ultimately decided Harris on its specific facts.  It held that collection of the fair share fees in the specific context (personal assistants in Illinois) violated the First Amendment.  In 2016, another challenge of fair share fees made it to the Court, only for Justice Scalia to die after oral argument, leaving a 4-4 split decision.

With Justice Gorsuch now on the bench, as was foreshadowed in Harris, the Court ruled that fair share fees violate public sector employees’ right to free speech.  As a basic premise, the Court recognized that the right to free speech includes the right to refrain from speaking at all.  Thus, “[c]ompelling individuals to mouth support for views they find objectionable violates the cardinal constitutional command, and in most contexts, any such effort would be universally condemned.”  Accordingly, forcing employees to pay fair share fees (i.e., compelling employees to speak when they may otherwise remain silent) violates the First Amendment.  Finally, the Court overruled Abood, dissecting and dismantling its labor peace and free rider justifications.

The end result of the Court’s holding is clear: “States and public-sector unions may no longer extract agency fees from nonconsenting employees.  . . . Neither an agency fee nor any other payment to the union may be deducted from a non-member’s wages, nor may any other attempt be made to collect such payment, unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay.”  The Court recognized that the loss of these payments would cause unions to “experience unpleasant transition costs in the short term,” but it did think that such a challenge justified continued constitutional violations.  Rather, it pointed out that such a disadvantage must be weighed against the considerable windfall that unions received in fair share fees in the 41 years after Abood.

Surely there will be questions that follow.  Will unions continue to participate in public sector workforces?  Is there a process for employees who now want to opt out of union membership?  Do public sector employers now negotiate separately with non-union members?  All of these questions may take time to resolve and consultation with legal counsel.

A version of this post previously ran on the McNees Pennsylvania Labor and Employment Blog.

In an eagerly-awaited decision, the United States Supreme Court struck down today the “physical presence” standard in Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, 504 U.S. 298 (1992). Quill had long hamstrung states’ efforts to collect sales and use taxes on purchases by in-state residents of products sold by internet-only retailers. With Quill now history, states are free to impose sales and use tax collection responsibilities on out-of-state retailers who sell predominantly through the internet.

The decision is a major victory for state and local governments, who have argued for years that the growth of the internet marketplace since Quill was decided has cost them billions of dollars in unpaid sales and uses taxes.

Our colleagues in the State and Local Tax practice group discuss the Court’s decision at length in their blog, Adding Value (which you should subscribe to!). You can read their analysis here.

 

On May 23, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives approved Senate Bill 234, which creates the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Program. SB 234, which was approved by the Senate in January of this year, would help owners of agricultural, commercial and industrial properties obtain low-cost, long-term financing for energy efficiency, water conservation and renewable energy projects. The program would not include multifamily housing or other residential property. Continue Reading Pennsylvania Legislature Approves New Municipal Alternative Energy Program

It appears that a number of labor unions are planning for the potential negative impact of a big decision regarding fair share fees.  We have heard from several public sector clients who have been contacted directly, or who have had employees contacted, by labor unions about the potential impact of Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, which is currently pending before the United States Supreme Court.  The case, which could ultimately declare fair share fees unlawful, is expected to be released before the end of June of 2018. Continue Reading Some Unions Planning for Impact of Big Decision on Fair Share Fees

On Monday, May 14, the United States Supreme Court announced its eagerly awaited decision in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association and, as many expected, struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (“PASPA”), a federal law that prohibits states from authorizing and regulating sports wagering. Continue Reading Supreme Court Opens Door to Sports Betting in all Fifty States