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Friday, January 31, 2014

New BridgehouseLaw Office in Istanbul!

We are happy to announce that our BridehouseLaw family is growing big and expanding its horizon with a new office location in one of the largest cities of the Middle East – Istanbul. BridgehouseLaw is building bridges between business, law and taxation. We know that foreign language skills, cultural understanding and access to expansive networks can make all the difference. That is why we have our local offices in different regions of the world to provide global solutions from local professional networks in these regions, and we are pleased to provide our clients with the connections needed to advance their own business interests.
Germany and Turkey enjoy exceptionally close and wide-ranging relations stretching back over the decades. A growing number of people with Turkish roots in Germany are making a lasting mark on German society through their engagement in the country’s cultural, economic and political life. The 1999 German Nationality Act opened up new prospects to many Turks living in Germany in legal terms. The nearly three million people of Turkish origin living in Germany – somewhat more than half of them with German citizenship – are an important factor in bilateral relations. Another factor is Turkey’s attractiveness as a travel and tourist destination (about five million Germans visited the country in 2012).
In August 2013, the two countries economics ministries agreed to set up a Joint Economic and Trade Commission (JETCO). The first meeting is scheduled for 2014.
The German Rectors’ Conference’s Higher Education Compass currently lists 966 cooperation agreements – including nearly 800 ERASMUS programs – between German and Turkish universities (as of October 2013), and this number is trending upwards. The Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir branches of the Goethe Institute offer a wide range of cultural programs, thus making a contribution to intercultural exchange in all areas and also showing an increasing presence across the country.
Significant waves of Turkish immigration to the United States began during the period between 1820 and 1920, when American immigration policies were quite liberal. Since the 1980s, the flow of Turkish immigrants to the United States has included an increasing number of students and professionals as well as migrants who provide unskilled and semi-skilled labor. Turkish Americans live in all fifty states, although the largest concentrations are found in New York City, namely Rochester, NJ, namely Patterson and Clifton – also known as “Little Istanbul”, CA, Washington, D.C., and Detroit, Michigan. Current estimates of the total Turkish population in America are around 300,000. Turkish-Americans are organized under 300 social, professional and cultural associations across the US (e. g. ATAA Assembly of Turkish American Association in DC; AFTA American Turkish Friendship Association in DC; FTAA Florida Turkish American Association in Miami, Istanbul Center in Atlanta, etc.)
American Turkish Council is located in Washington DC; ATCOM American Turkish Chamber of Commerce – in Cherry Hill, NJ; TACC Turkish American Chamber of Commerce and Industry in NY, Atlanta and Chicago.

The most successful and well-known companies owned by Turkish investors: Bankasi, Koc Group, Akbank, Garanti Bankasi, Sabanci Group, Turkcell, Turk Telekom, Halk Bankasi, Vakiflar Bankasi, Enka, Erdemir, Dogan Holding, Anadolu Efes, Godiva, Mavi Jeans, Gilan, Sarkar, LTB Jeans.

We say Merhaba to our new BridgehouseLaw Member in Istanbul!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

First German - Turkish Business Forum of BridgehouseLaw

Wir laden Sie herzlich zu dem Seminar am Mittwoch, den 19.02.2014 um 10 Uhr, zum Thema "Die wachsende Bedeutung der deutsch-türkischen Geschäftsbeziehungen" in Geschäftsräumen des Bridgehouselaw Cologne, Habsburgerring 2, WESTGATE, 50674 Köln ein.
Mit Anstieg des Bruttoinlandsprodukts von 3,7 % im ersten Halbjahr des letzten Jahres gehört die Türkei zu einem der schnellst wachsenden Volkswirtschaften und einem der wichtigsten Wirtschaftspartnern Deutschlands.

Rechtliche Fragestellungen kommen bei bilateralen Wirtschaftsbeziehungen naturgemäß auf, insbesondere ist bei der Vertragsgestaltung ist der Schutz sowohl des türkischen als auch deutschen Partners zu beachten.

Bei der Informationsveranstaltung, welche mit Hilfe der Industrie- und Handelskammer zu Köln ausgerichtet wird, erhalten Sie neben einigen rechtlichen Tipps zur Absicherung und Durchführung von bilateralen Verträgen, einen Einblick in das türkische Recht und die Vertragsgestaltung wie auch einen Überblick deutscher Investoren bzw. Unternehmen in der Türkei.

Anmeldungen bitte per Fax bis zum 10. Februar 2014! Das Anmeldeformular finden Sie hier

Interstate Migration

Recent studies have shown that the economic downturn in the USA from 2007 is still limiting American's moving patterns, which is considered one of the key aspects of today's lifestyle. Almost 5 years after the "Great Recession", according to the Census Bureau the number of "across state line" movers stayed under 455,000, whereas before 2007 about 882,000 Americans moved into other states. But even with this decreasing number of over all movings, North Carolina has gained about 37,240 new residents in this time period. Proving that North Carolina is an attractive state to live in.

The clear winner is Texas with a growth of almost 114,000 movers - the biggest loser is New York with a loss of almost 1.5 million people.

Demographers feel that it might still take a while until one of the key facets of modern life change back to normal.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Mecklenburg Partnership celebrated 20th Anniversary!

On January 19, 2014 the partnership between Germany and the Queen City, Charlotte, celebrated their 20th anniversary at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. Upon this celebration of an excellent working partnership Catherine Hansen, the chief of protocol for the city of Charlotte, said; “They believed in us and we believed in them and, mutually, we made it happen".

Mecklenburg County was originally named after the Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, the wife of King George the III of England.

In the early 1990s, Mecklenburg County formed a cultural and educational exchange program with the German federal state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. During these 20 years of partnership, both government institutions helped each other out. The County was able to contribute to the restoration and renovation of the famous Mirow Castle, where Queen Charlotte was born in the 18th century.
"There's an American footprint over there and this demonstrates the affiliation between the two government institutions" said Klaus Becker, the honorary consul of Germany.

Main thing in this partnership, furthermore, preserves the important link to the history of Mecklenburg County and has to be upheld, stated Parks Helms, a former chairman of the Mecklenburg County Commissioners.

For right now, there are more than 150 German companies operating in the Charlotte area, which is clearly a benefit of the ongoing international partnership.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Google Glass Ticket Dismissed

Watch this video
As you may remember, in October we posted about Southern California resident Cecilia Abadie, who was pulled over by the California Highway patrol for speeding and being cited for wearing Google Glass while driving.

Google Glass is Google's early version of a head-mounted computer display. A small square monitor sits above the right eye, just out of the normal line of vision. To view information on the display like a map or text message, the wearer must look up. Google Glass defenders claim Glass is safer to use while driving than a smartphone since it can be voice controlled and you only have to glance up to view the Glass display. 

Ms. Abadie was sited under California vehicle code 27602, which prohibits operating a video-display in front of the driver’s head rest where it can distract the driver. Ms. Abadie appeared in San Diego traffic court on January 17th for speeding and wearing the face-mounted technology while driving. It is only illegal to wear the device while driving if it is operational. The charges were threw out, as there wasn’t enough evidence to prove that Google Glass was turned on. Concidine and his partner, Gabriel Moore, are the traffic ticket attorneys who defended Abadie in court. "While the ruling was a big win for Abadie, it doesn't necessarily answer the question everybody wanted: Is it legal to drive down the road wearing Google Glass while it's operating?" said William Concidine.

"There is no law that specifically says Google Glass is illegal. Each officer has to take each case on a case-by-case basis," said CHP Public Affairs Officer Jake Sanchez. Google Glass wearers in California can still be pulled over and cited for wearing the head-mounted displays while driving. Whether they get a warning or a ticket will be up to the individual officer. Getting a charges dismissed will then be up to individual traffic court judges. Three states have already drafted laws that specifically ban Google Glass while driving: Delaware, West Virginia and New Jersey.

On Google's Glass FAQ page, the company warns: "Most states have passed laws limiting the use of mobile devices while driving any motor vehicle, and most states post those rules on their department of motor vehicles websites. Read up and follow the law!"

Border Search Exception - Supreme Court decision

DHS Document Details Why It Thinks It Can Search Electronics at Border Without a Warrant
The border search exception is a criminal law doctrine in the U.S. that allows searches and seizures at international borders and functional equivalents, such as airports etc., without a warrant or a probate cause to prevent smuggling and entry of prohibited activities. It is considered an exception to the 4th Amendment. Actually, it is an exception to the requirement of a warrant rather to the Amendment itself.

The searches at international borders are overall regarded as reasonable, as they secure the governmental interest of thwarting illegal activities. However, if the search is more invasive as the routine, it violates the privacy rights of the person and therefore not legal anymore.

Recently, due to the fact that one carries so many digital devices, like laptops and smart phones, the searches have expanded and increased also in this aspect. Challenging the border search exception the U.S. inspectors can use their skills to search individuals coming to the U.S. "byte by byte of the digital records", known as a forensic search. With this forensic search the inspectors can even look at unallocated spaces in the computer for documents or materials that have already been deleted by the owner.

In the last couple of years, thousands of electronic devices have been confiscated and searched at the border. In some cases they did not return the devices for several days or even weeks. This clearly subverted against Amendment constitutional protections in respect of unreasonable searches and seizures. The border search exception was allowed by courts as a tool to battle drugs, terrorism and child pornography.

On January 13th, 2014 the U.S. Supreme Court had to decide about the limitations on these inspections based on the appeal to the US vs. Cottermann case. The Supreme Court upheld the ruling of the appellate court that searches of electronic devices on borders are covered by the border search exception. However, as an exception to the border search exception for forensic searches of a device reasonable suspicion of criminal activities is required.

Please note, even though the Supreme Court has repeatedly confirmed that the border search exception only applies to international borders, federal laws allowed some federal agents to undertake these suspicionless searches or seizures within a 100 mile range to the border line.

Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) - UPDATE

As mentioned on our blog various times before, FATCA is an intergovernmental agreement, as a part of the "Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act“ (HIRE Act 2010) between Germany -and others- and the United States. It requires individuals to report their financial accounts held outside of the U.S. and foreign financial institutions to report to the IRS about American clients.

Due to the fact that Germany's lower house (Bundestag) founded a "Grand Coalition" between the two leading parties (CDU/ CSU and SPD), they formed a coalition agreement, which states that they want to develop and adjust the currently existing modern and competitive tax law. The key aspect on this part of the agreement are the tax simplification and enforcement, containment of tax evasion and avoidance. The coalition also considered other additional tax issues.

In November 2013, the German upper house (Bundesrat) approved the draft of the Bundestag on the AIFM Taxation Adjustment Act (AIFM Steueranpassungsgesetz). This Act in particular introduces the statutory provisions to support the implementation of the FATCA Agreement as well as future similar bilateral agreements with other countries based on the exchange of tax information. The AIFM Taxation Adjustment Act was passed in December 2013 and entered into force on December 24th, 2013.  

The Act on implementation of FATCA was already promulgated in the Federal Law Gazette, namely the "German Tax Monthly", on October 15th, 2013. The FATCA Agreement will be based on the authorization of §117c AO. To enforce this Act, however, Germany has to clarify its internal procedures and completely integrate this agreement into their national law. The U.S. is therefore, awaiting the written notification about these transposition.

The reports in respect of the years 2013 and 2014 are required by the IRS by the end of September 2015.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Top Legislative Issues to Watch in 2014

Here are big legislative issues states will look to tackle in 2014:

In many statehouses in 2014, expansion will be discussed alongside revisions in how Medicaid is delivered and accessed. There could also be proposals to cover more low-income populations without expanding Medicaid, as Oklahoma and Indiana have done. But the idea of fitting Medicaid to needs and political dynamics within individual states is as old as Medicaid itself.

Income Tax Revision
Ten governors last year floated income tax cuts, most with the rationale that these would help their states remain economically competitive. North Carolina Republicans successfully shifted to a lower, flat income tax. The North Carolina actions were watched by GOP legislators across the country, so look for more efforts along similar lines this legislative year.

Minimum Wage Laws
President Obama’s effort to raise the federal minimum wage to $9 per hour is going nowhere, but this could increase the pressure on states and localities to take action. Spurred by federal stalemate, economic trends and public sentiment, several states will consider increases in 2014.

Public Pensions
Courts and voters will play key roles in answering the next big question facing public pensions: Are current retirees immune to cuts? Mayors of five California cities facing large pension costs are seeking to get an initiative on the 2014 ballot that would give government’s authority to negotiate changes to existing employee pensions. Retiree health benefits would be affected as well.

In 2013, the U.S. Senate passed a comprehensive bill that linked enhanced border security with a pathway to citizenship for the country’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants. So far the proposal has languished in the House. But whether or not a new immigration law is enacted by Congress this year, the issue will remain a top priority in state capitals.

States’ experiments with immigration legislation largely involve bills to increase access to higher education. Lawmakers are also warming to the idea that states should issue driver’s licenses to noncitizens in the interest of public safety. Last year at least 10 states and the District of Columbia decided to grant driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, with the eligibility criteria varying by state. The move was largely a response to a new legal status proffered on some immigrants by President Obama’s 2012 executive order known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The federal order protects young undocumented immigrants from deportation, so long as they meet certain qualifications related to age, education, noncriminal status and military service. Since DACA went into effect, at least 25 states have considered proposals to extend driver’s licenses to this population.

Safety Net
State and local governments are grappling with how to care for their neediest residents amid diminished federal aid. The overall unemployment rate has fallen significantly over the past two years, but the economic recovery is leaving behind those at the bottom. The sequester that went into effect last March included a cut of $854 million to the Section 8 voucher program that helps low-income families pay their rent. If the sequester cuts are not reversed this year, the center estimated, the number of affected families could ballon to 185,000 by the end of 2014.

Higher Education
A preliminary survey by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) found 37 states increased fiscal 2014 operating support for public four-year universities.
Given still-tight budgets, states may further examine ways to increase efficiency and help students graduate sooner, such as pushing universities to accept more transfer credits from community colleges. With rising student debt, financial aid changes should also loom large this year. In particular, talks could focus on finding a balance between merit and need-based student aid.

Employee Compensation
States that enacted extended pay freezes and benefit cuts in recent years might soon have an opportunity to reduce the pinch on state workers as revenues rebound. One of the more prominent issues is finding the right mix of pay and benefits. Although most states still offer competitive benefits, their cash compensation often lags so far behind the private sector that it’s difficult to attract and retain talent.

Transportation Funding
For all the talk about the importance of investment in infrastructure, the feds have kept transportation funding at stagnant levels. This fall, MAP-21—the federal legislation that decides how much the country will spend on transportation and where the money will come from—is set to expire.

As it stands, the use of drones is allowed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on a case-by-case basis, largely for public and research use by law enforcement agencies and universities. 2014 could see a great deal of drone legislation, as states try to draw up new laws to balance the security opportunities and privacy concerns that come with heightened drone use.

Source: issues-to-watch

Senate Race 2014: Insides for North Carolina

Elections for the United States Senate will be held on November 4, 2014, with 33 of the 100 seats in the United States Senate being contested in regular elections whose winners will serve six-year terms from January 3, 2015 to January 3, 2021.

The 2014 United States Senate election in North Carolina will also be held on this date. These elections mark 100 years of direct elections of U.S. Senators.

Republicans will have the opportunity to gain control of the Senate in 2014. Assuming midterm trends hold true, they should also retain the House. Republicans need to take six seats in 2014 and luckily there are six prime Democratic targets: Begich in Alaska, Franken in Minnesota, Shaheen in New Hampshire, Hagan in North Carolina, Johnson in South Dakota and now Rockefeller in West Virginia.

North Carolina is considered a key swing state that leans red. In 2008, Kay Hagan defeated Elizabeth Dole with 53% of the vote in a Democratic wave year. Kay Hagan intends to seek re-election to a second term. Hagan will be running as a Democrat in a red-leaning purple state without the benefit of presidential-year voter turnout. President Barack Obama lost the state, the GOP flipped the governor’s mansion, and at least three seats currently held by Democrats will be occupied by Republicans come January. All that makes Hagan one of the most vulnerable Democratic senators. But the Tar Heel State’s evolving demographics favor her, and she has a good operation, strong campaign skills and time to stockpile money and goodwill as Republicans battle for the chance to take her on.

Top-tier potential challenger candidates in North Carolina are state speaker Thom Tillis, lawyer and former Ambassador to Denmark Jim Cain and four-term Rep. Patrick T. McHenry.

Other names being floated among GOP insiders are Rep. Renee Ellmers, Rep.-elect George E.B. Holding, Raleigh lawyer Kieran Shanahan and state Sen. Philip Berger. As an aside, the Republican National Committee is scheduled to hold its winter meeting in Charlotte, N.C.