Crowell attorneys attended the Democratic Attorneys General Association (DAGA) 2024 Policy Conference in Austin, Texas on May 22 and 23. As usual, the conference included receptions and other networking events allowing the Crowell attorneys in attendance to engage with the approximately dozen attorneys general in attendance, as well as a host of their respective staff.

The Austin Policy Conference included sessions titled Bad Policies are Bad for Business (Bad Policies) and Options for State Action in Response to EPA Emissions Regulations (EPA Regulations). Attorney General Rosenblum, Oregon, moderated the Bad Polices panel of three speakers: Attorney General Mayes, Arizona, Attorney General Platkin, New Jersey, and Daniel Suvor, Partner at O’Melveny. Attorney General Raoul, Illinois, moderated the EPA Regulations panel of three speakers: Attorney General Ellison, Minnesota, Emily Fisher, General Counsel at Edison Electric Institute, and Michael Webber, Professor at University of Texas at Austin. Below please find some key takeaways:

  • Bad Policies are Bad for Business:
    • The panel discussed the impact of “bad” policies on businesses’ bottom lines. The panel specifically focused on restrictive policies that may undermine democracy, undermine individual rights, limit diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, or limit environmental protection and sustainability efforts, both within and outside of the business community. Such restrictive policies may relate to reproductive rights, diversity, equity, and inclusion, climate protection, access to education, history, or literature, voting rights, gender affirming care, or expressive and association rights. 
    • Businesses are more profitable in a stable business environment and states with robust protections against restrictive policies provide that stability. Negative business ramifications are the expected downstream ripple effect that occurs from restrictive state policies. 
    • For example, the panel noted that in a recent study, 45% of young people indicated they would reject a job offer in a state that restricts access to abortion. Similarly, states with abortion restrictions have seen a 10% decrease in medical students requesting residency matches. The panel indicated that such statistics, among others, demonstrate that younger generations will not tolerate restrictive policies from states or businesses. Specifically, abortion access and reproductive care policies should be of concern to businesses if they want to attract and retain a sufficient and qualified workforce.
    • In another example, the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) banned holding championship events in North Carolina in 2017 in light of North Carolina’s House Bill 2, known as the Bathroom Bill. Decisions and considerations similar to this persist to the current day, and these bans can cost a state’s business community millions of dollars.
    • Attorney General Platkin stated that the tax code is no longer the sole, relevant method to assess business policy and law. In 2024, businesses should be concerned with other legislation and policy initiatives such as diversity, climate, and human rights issues.
    • The panel discussed DEI programs as important for employee satisfaction, retention, and hiring, company growth and innovation, and positive consumer perception. The panel cited to the July 19, 2023 public letter authored by a group of Democratic attorneys general issued in response to the July 13, 2023 letter sent by Republican attorneys general to Fortune 100 companies regarding corporate DEI efforts. The attorneys general on the panel indicated they would be willing to act as or alongside defendants in related litigation.
    • Attorneys general are not staying silent on these types of issues. Attorney General Platkin litigated and won cases regarding LGBTQ+ “forced outing” school policies.  Similarly, Attorney General Bonta litigated against of a school district challenging a “forced outing” school policy. Businesses should expect Democratic attorneys general to stay active on litigating restrictive policy issues.
  • Options for State Action in Response to EPA Emissions Regulations
    • The panel discussed the impact of the EPA’s new emissions regulations, which establish greenhouse gas emissions standards for fossil fuel-fired power plants. The regulations were announced as a suite of final rules on April 25.   
    • The panel recognized that climate policy is not welcome news for all consumers and constituents, emphasizing that many individuals work in careers that will be affected by the energy transition. Therefore, proper stakeholder engagement is key for the energy transition. Although such engagement may slow the energy transition, the panel sought to avoid litigation resulting from lack of stakeholder engagement.
    • Attorney General Ellison discussed how businesses will be required to focus on both environmental justice and individuals’ needs throughout the energy transition. This will require businesses to review whether the energy transition is displacing jobs and leaving some without the ability work, as well as involving organized labor in the process. These issues will offer or potentially require state action by attorneys general.

Crowell continues to attend various attorneys general-based conferences to remain abreast of the top priorities of state enforcers. Crowell reports on those conferences, as well as through weekly attorney general updates, on its State Attorney General Blog.