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The city of Napa will commence the next step in a nine-month process to design and implement pot sale regulations.

The community is invited to provide input on the development of a medical marijuana dispensary ordinance Dec. 9 at 6 p.m. in the Senior Activity Center.  The meeting will be the first of several public discussions on the contentious rules that officials hope to finalize by mid-2010.

The council voted Aug. 18 to move forward with the process meant to regulate the sale of cannabis within city limits. The plant was legalized in California for medicinal purposes in 1996 with the passage of the Compassionate Use Act.

The opening or operation of a distribution clinic was temporarily banned in Napa, effective Oct. 15 through July. In October, the city filed an injunction against “Going Green” on Eighth Street in Napa, asking that the business be closed.

The case Qualified Patients Association v. City of Anaheim is currently debating whether a city can legally ban dispensaries. In September, a California appeal court upheld a lower court decision in City of Claremont v. Kruse that found the city could prevent the license of dispensaries.

For inquiries about the hearing, call 707-257-9311 or e-mail dbrun@cityofnapa.org.

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Three federal bills proposed in late October and early November could extend employer-fronted COBRA subsidies past the end of the year.

The 65 percent discount to the federal stop-gap health coverage went into effect Feb. 17 with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and offers employees that involuntarily lost their jobs after Sept. 30, 2008 up to nine months of coverage.

The bill is set to expire on Dec. 31, but the three bills known as HR 3930, HR 3966 and SB 2730 would extend program eligibility to halfway through 2010. Depending on if and which bill passes, the discount could be increased to 75 percent and be provided for up to 15 months.

Currently, employers pay the entire COBRA premium and bill the ex-employee for the 35 percent. The business re-coops the 65 percent through a payroll tax refund or by underpaying the tax in the amount of the subsidy.

The employee can only receive the discount as long as they are not eligible for Medicare or other group coverage.

Another employer-related bill making the rounds would prevent workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009, numbered SB 1584, was heard in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions earlier this month and, if passed, would provide clear federal protection against bias based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Currently, 29 states allow employers to fire or refuse to hire someone based on sexual preference, and 37 states permit discrimination based on gender identity.

California passed two resolutions last September encouraging Congress to pass the act already implemented at the state level.

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On Dec. 3, Vantreo Insurance Brokerage in Santa Rosa will offer a workshop on how recent legislation could protect employers against frivolous disability charges.

SB 1608 sponsored by Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, was signed into law last year, and among other stipulations, provides businesses the ability to hire a certified access specialist and receive documentation that the building is up to disability code. The bill also includes provisions for faster and less costly resolution of disability claims.

The bill specifies that claims can only be filed where the plaintiff personally encountered a violation or was deterred from gaining access to a building. Also, the person can only pursue damages once per distinct facility.

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Early last month, the governor signed a piece of legislation meant to streamline efforts to prosecute certain mortgage brokers.

SB 239 signed into law Oct. 11 increases regulators’ ability to seize financial documents of mortgage brokers and lenders suspected of fraud, while at the same time elevating the offense to as high as felony status. Under new rules, inspectors need only obtain a court order to recover the documents.

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The Federal Trade Commission again delayed implementation of identity theft protections known as the “Red Flags Rule.”

The postponement announced earlier this month is the fourth time the agency has prolonged implementation of the regulations that were mandated as part of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act. The rules were meant to begin Nov. 1, 2008, but were pushed back most recently from a start date of Nov. 1 this year to June 2010.

The rule requires banks and creditors to implement written prevention programs that identify, detect and respond to specific activities that indicate an identity theft has occurred.

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Submit items for this column to D. Ashley Furness at afurness@busjrnl.com, 707-521-4257 or fax 707-521-5292.