Looking Ahead to 2020: Stories to Watch in the New Year

Binoculars with blue sky lens on a gray background

We are at the end of a decade!

Last week, we looked back at some of our biggest stories from 2019, according to our readers. This article highlights some of the issues you can expect the New Year to bring, and we're starting locally with the North Carolina State Budget impasse.

NCGA 2019 Wrap-Up: A Tale of a Legislative Impasse

It's a wrap for the 2019 North Carolina General Assembly, at least for now. Lawmakers have adjourned for the year, ending one of the longest legislative sessions in recent years that was riddled with contentious standoffs, heated debates, and controversial legislative-maneuvering. This article looks back at events surrounding one of the biggest issues left unresolved: the budget.

September 11, 2019, began as a routine and uneventful morning session for the North Carolina House of Representatives:  Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, and administrative announcements. Read More

2020 will also be the year of at least two landmark decisions handed down by the United States Supreme Court that could affect businesses and employees.

Dot-Com Hits the Supreme Court

The United States Supreme Court recently announced that it has granted certiorari in United States Patent and Trademark Office v. Booking.com B.V., a case about whether the addition of ".com" (a top-level domain name or "TLD") affects consumer perception of an otherwise generic term.

Booking.com B.V. ("Booking.com") is before the Supreme Court after lower federal courts reversed the decisions of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO") and Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ("Appeal Board") to refuse Booking.com's applications to register its trademarks.  The refusal to register was based on the federal law governs trademarks, the Lanham Act.  

Booking.com filed several applications to register the name of their online hotel booking website, BOOKING.COM, as a trademark.  The USPTO refused to register the trademarks, and the Appeal Board upheld the refusals.  The company, dissatisfied with the refusal, took their case to federal court. Read More

Can an Employee be Fired for Being Gay or Transgender?

HR Professionals will soon know the answer to this question. 

The United States Supreme Court is preparing to settle a contentious debate on employee protections under federal employment discrimination laws.  On October 7th, the Court returned from its summer break to start the new term.  The Court did not have to wait long before it tackled a complex case because on October 8th, the Court heard two major oral arguments with potentially far-reaching implications for both employers and employees.  Both cases focus on the prohibitions in employment discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act ("Title VII").  Under Title VII, Congress made it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees on the basis of "race, color, religion, sex, and national origin."  The question that the Court will address is whether employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is prohibited employment discrimination "because of sex." Read More

If you have interests in real estate development, agriculture, or manufacturing, you should take a look at our next article concerning "waters of the United States," and the new rules that could go into effect in 2020.

The Longest Dance – The WOTUS Two-Step

We are on the eve of a new regulatory definition of "waters of the United States" for the Clean Water Act. The United States Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") and Army Corps of Engineers ("Corps") completed step one of the two-step "repeal and replace" process ordered by President Trump in 2017 by finalizing a new rule on September 12, 2019, to repeal the 2015 Clean Water Rule (the "Clean Water Rule").

Since 1972 the Clean Water Act ("Act") has prohibited the unpermitted discharge of pollutants and dredged and fill materials into navigable waters. "Navigable waters" is defined in the Act as "waters of the United States, including the territorial seas," but Congress has never defined "waters of the United States" ("WOTUS").  For the last 40 years, the EPA, the Corps, the courts, and the regulated public have grappled with exactly what waters are subject to federal jurisdiction. Read More

 Here's news we can all be happy about as we try to save for retirement.

Retirement Plan Contribution Limits Will Increase in 2020

The Internal Revenue Service announced on Wednesday, November 6, that several contribution limits in qualified retirement plans will increase next year. The IRS announced the increases as part of an annual adjustment for cost-of-living increases as provided in the Internal Revenue Code.  According to IRS Notice 2019-59, employees participating in 401(k) plans may contribute up to $19,500 in 2020, up from $19,000 for this year.  This increase also applies to 403(b) plans, most 457 plans, and the federal government's Thrift Savings Plan.  In addition, the catch-up contribution limit available to employees aged 50 or older will increase from $6,000 to $6,500 in 2020. Read More

And of course, hemp will remain a prominent story in 2020 as federal and state governments continue rolling out new rules and regulations as well as issuing warnings for violations. Another thing we know for sure: class action lawsuits concerning hemp-derived CBD were on the rise in 2019, and will likely continue in the New Year.

Class is in Session: CBD Class Action Lawsuits are Trending Up

Products containing hemp-derived cannabidiol ("CBD") have become incredibly popular in the United States, with new product brands entering the market seemingly every day. Consumer demand and public interest in those products have been equally significant. But, the market has quickly outpaced the development of new laws and regulatory programs and, today, the industry lacks clearly defined regulations for the production, labeling, and sale of CBD products.  Read More

You can stay up-to-date on these stories and much more in 2020 by following us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn


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