Company stirs debate over 'Taco Tuesday'
CHEYENNE — "Taco Tuesday" may be a well-known term for a themed dinner night out or at home, but as restaurants across the U.S. have learned, it's also trademarked.
Cheyenne-based Taco John's — which has nearly 400 locations in 23 states — put its legal stamp on "Taco Tuesday" 30 years ago and has since zinged cease-and-desist letters at offenders far and wide.
Taco John's last month sent a warning to Freedom's Edge Brewing Co., five blocks from its national headquarters, for using the term to advertise a taco truck that parks outside once a week.
Freedom's Edge took the matter to Facebook, and the comments poured in.
Some people rallied to the chain's defense, pointing out that Taco John's itself started as a humble food trailer 50 years ago and legitimately secured the trademark, while others said it's time for Taco John's to lighten up.
A legal expert doubts Taco John's has much of a case.
Like "raisin bran," ''escalator," ''nylon" and other formerly trademarked products, "Taco Tuesday" has suffered from "genericide" — it has become too well-known to continue to be identified with a particular company, said Seattle-based attorney Michael Atkins. The term even made a fairly significant appearance in "The Lego Movie," a 2014 film based on the popular plastic toys.
The company trademarked "Taco Tuesday" in 1989, claiming a Minnesota franchisee began using "Taco Twosday" to advertise two tacos for 99 cents in the early 1980s. The trademark applies in every state but New Jersey, where another restaurant already had secured the right to "Taco Tuesday."
Freedom's Edge Brewery co-owner Tim Moore said he had no idea "Taco Tuesday" was trademarked but got a laugh out of the situation. He said he didn't intend to push back.
Governor says EPA fails to protect public health
ALBUQUERQUE — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is failing to protect public health and the environment by not helping with a legal battle against the U.S. Air Force over contamination at two military installations in her state.
The governor took aim at the federal agency in a letter sent Aug. 2 to EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler. She referred to a commitment he made during a congressional hearing earlier this year to provide legal and technical assistance.
The agency in a letter sent to state officials in July said it wasn't permitted to take legal action against another federal department or agency.
The state in July had asked for the agency to pursue enforcement against the U.S. Defense Department for contamination at Cannon and Holloman air bases.
The state sued in April, saying the federal government has a responsibility to clean up toxic chemicals left behind by past military firefighting activities. The contamination is linked to chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.
The Air Force has argued its response to the contamination in New Mexico and elsewhere has been aggressive. Officials have said they've been working with regulators to identify and implement long-term solutions to prevent exposure.
State imposes toughest online tax collections in US
TOPEKA — Kansas plans to impose what some tax experts say would be the nation's most aggressive policy for collecting state and local taxes on online sales, possibly inviting a legal battle.
The state Department of Revenue issued a notice in early August saying any "remote seller" doing business with Kansas residents must register with the department, collect state and local sales taxes and forward the revenues to the state, starting Oct. 1. It cites a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year allowing states to collect sales taxes on Internet sales.
Most states now have policies to collect such taxes, but almost all set minimum annual sales or transaction thresholds to exempt small businesses, according to groups tracking tax laws. Kansas is the first to attempt to collect the taxes without exempting any businesses, they said.
The Department of Revenue is imposing its new policy under an existing tax law that applied to out-of-state businesses but wasn't being enforced because past court decisions prevented it.
Kansas Revenue Secretary Mark Burghart, a veteran tax attorney, said that the department is obligated to enforce existing tax laws consistently. He said it's not fair to Kansas businesses to require them to collect sales taxes from consumers and not require out-of-state businesses to do the same after the U.S. Supreme Court decision last year.
The high court overturned a previous ruling that states could not collect their sales taxes unless a business had a physical presence within their borders, allowing tax collections if businesses had an economic presence. It upheld a South Dakota law requiring businesses to collect its taxes if they had $100,000 in sales or 200 transactions in the state within a year.
The decision suggests states still must exempt some businesses to avoid putting an undue burden on interstate commerce in violation of the U.S. Constitution, said George Isaacson, a Lewiston, Maine, attorney representing the businesses challenging the South Dakota law. He said Kansas' policy represents a "blatant disregard" of that.
University to offer online cannabis courses
CRETE — A private university in Nebraska, a state which bars recreational and medicinal marijuana, plans to offer an online program this fall that will cover the science, cultivation, processing and regulation of marijuana and hemp.
Doane University will offer the three-course program, which will be taught in part by chemistry professor Andrea Holmes. She told the Omaha World-Herald that the industry is growing rapidly, citing jobs across the country for cultivators, technicians, scientists, geneticists, administrators, salespeople, marketers and advertisers.
Nebraska lawmakers cleared the way this past spring for a limited number of farmers to grow hemp, a low-THC version of the cannabis plant. THC is the compound that gives marijuana its high.
A co-founder of Precision Plant Molecules, a Denver business that removes the oil from hemp, Holmes said she will be responsible for certifying those who complete the program.
State Sen. Mike Groene, chairman of the Nebraska Legislature's Education Committee, said it sounds like Doane is offering a useful program. He described Colorado, where marijuana is legal medically and recreationally, as "the wild west." Professionals are needed there and elsewhere to test the products so customers know what they're getting, he said.
Organizers have been conducting a petition drive to put a medical marijuana measure on a Nebraska ballot next year.
Navajo Nation eyes renaming highway fot late senator
FARMINGTON — Some Navajo Nation officials are seeking to ask New Mexico to rename a U.S. highway after one of the longest-serving Native American lawmakers in U.S. history.
The Farmington Daily Times reports a Navajo legislative committee is requesting New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham name U.S. Highway 491 in honor of the late state Sen. John Pinto.
Pinto, who died in May at the age of 94, had long sought to turn the deadly U.S. 666 into a four-lane highway and to change its name to U.S. 491.
U.S. Highway 491 stretches around 194 miles from Gallup, New Mexico, through Colorado to Monticello, Utah.
Pinto was a World War II Navajo code talker and served over four decades in the New Mexico Legislature.