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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

GREEN CITY


The opportunity to do our part for environmental sustainability as well as serve as a positive example for the country and the world has never been greater than it is now. New Orleans and the state of Louisiana are poised to serve as a model for green living. Recognizing this reality, citizens and government have begun to focus attention on environmentally responsible methods of redesign and reconstruction after the destruction of hurricane Katrina. These new methods of building aim to reduce the negative effects of buildings on the environment and to preserve natural resources for future generations. The stage is set for a better and greener Louisiana.

Over the next three years Louisiana is expected to receive approximately $122.3 million in federal economic recovery funds for the improvement of energy efficient homes, government buildings, and public transportation. New Orleans Times Picayune, March 17, 2009. President Obama has designated New Orleans as the United States Blueprint for green construction and environmental protection. The Washington Times, March 9, 2009.

Armed with the knowledge that buildings and structures in the United States account for approximately 39 percent of total energy used and 68 percent to electrical consumption, new statutes and initiatives enacted by federal and state lawmakers have served to encourage and support efforts to build “green”. Green building practices aim to reduce the environmental impact of buildings. The federal government established green building guidelines in 1998 through the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) and enacted tax incentives for green building in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Several states, including Louisiana, have passed legislation to promote green building by offering tax incentives to builders who follow green building methods.

With laws comes litigation...

It is inevitable that with the enactment of more new laws governing green building and setting legal standards, requirements and responsibilities there with be increased legal action.

Green building has spawned a new cottage industry of “green lawyers”, or lawyers who possess special expertise in the area of construction law as it pertains to sustainable building and construction or experts in “green law”. Most litigation to date arises from legal issues surrounding, design or construction compliance. As new laws are enacted to address

environmental concerns there will be legal disputes related to green building issues such as design, construction and maintenance failures in the areas of environmental building standards and requirements.

This country’s shift toward creating a sustainable environment through the preservation of natural resources will face many challenges. Primary among them will be the regulation and monitoring of activities governed by new legislation and resolution of disputes between effected parties.

The most effective tools against litigation is information...

The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) created a voluntary national standard for sustainable buildings. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification was introduced in 2000. The intent of LEED was to develop a national guide of measurable standards to encourage and promote green building practices which maximize the efficient use of resources and reduce negative impacts on the environment. The LEED system focuses on energy efficiency, environmentally conscience construction and indoor air quality. The LEED rating is based on a point system ranging from 26 to 52. The more points a building receives the more environmentally friendly it is considered to be. Recognized nationally, LEED is the yardstick for green building.

Established in 2006, the Louisiana chapter of the USGBC was formed to encourage, facilitate and support sustainable green building practices with our state. The Louisiana Chapter of the USGBC conducts regular workshops and provides written materials in order to enhance and improve general knowledge about how to build the most safe and environmentally friendly construction. USGBC Louisiana chapter also provides information for individuals to complete testing for certification as a LEEP-AP or Accredited Professional.

Below are 5 helpful tips to consider when deciding to build green:

1. INFORMATION IS POWER 

Gather all information possible. When seeking out professionals and communicating your desires, it is best to be well studied and prepared to discuss as much as possible about your desires, concerns and expectations. Prior preparation leads to the ability to ask educated and relevant questions.


2. LET THE PROFESSIONALS DO THE HEAVY LIFTING 
Identify (or become) a LEED-AP. This accreditation allows for the reasonable expectation that all standards and practices will be applied for successful LEED certification. 

3. COVER YOUR BUTT 

Secure all adequate insurance coverage, including professional liability insurance 
for design professionals that takes into consideration green building. 


4. GET IT IN WRITING
Have all initial terms and agreements reduced to writing. This will avoid future 
conflict as well as provide a framework for any legal disputes. 


5. KEEP TALKING 

Maintain and create open line of communication with and between designers, contractors and builders. There are a myriad of issues that arise during a green building project which must be addressed. Future disputes can be discussed and resolved amicably when are parties are in communication. 

Following this advice will not guarantee a smooth, painless or conflict free green building process, but with the right information you may avoid the litigation and find your way to you own slice of “green” heaven.

Resources:

Green Construction, Initiatives and Legal Issues Surrounding the Trend ABA Journal, Vol. 17 No. 2 December 2007.

Being Green and the Law, Joel Zand, Findlaw.com 

New Orleans Times Picayune, March 17, 2009

The Washington Times, March 9, 2009

The content and foregoing material, written and digitally provided is strictly for informational purposes only. The author has used best efforts/practices in preparing this information and makes no warranties. If you wish to apply the information and ideas contained herein, always seek advice of a competent professional in your area (business, legal, tax. Accounting, etc).

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Krewe of Femme Fatale -- Mardi Gras 2014

Mystic Krewe of Femme Fatale 2014 Gala. The ladies are arriving. Gentlemen in tow. The sporting set. 






Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Tips On Community Engagement

Get Out and Do Something - Helping In Your Community Helps You Too
Community involvement encompasses all manners of donating your time, skills or talents for the betterment of your community.  Volunteerism has a significant impact on the long-term sustainability and vitality of communities.  Since 2012 over 64 million Americans have volunteered in their communities either through social, religious or school groups. Becoming actively involved in your community not only benefits the recipients of your service, but also benefits the volunteer both personally and professionally.  Volunteerism fosters a sense of security and confidence in your surroundings.
All of us have met someone who will confess that their reluctance or hesitancy in getting involved in their community quickly gave way to feelings of personal satisfaction, accomplishment and purpose once they took the steps to become involved.  Many parents will admit that there is no greater example to set for children than one of service and giving back to the community.
It is a misconception to believe that volunteering or community engagement requires a significant time commitment.  If you are able to volunteer once a year, once a month or once a week, there is an opportunity for you to get involved.  Many causes, organizations or groups would greatly appreciate and benefit from any time you are able to donate.  One can be assured that your contribution of time and effort will make a difference.  You will gain a tremendous appreciation from the experience and it is likely that your first experience will not be your last.
Each of us has the power and capacity to change our world for the best.  This can start with our community and its most basic needs.  A volunteer serves as a role model for their families, friends and our community.  Beginning the process of becoming a volunteer is easier than we tend to imagine. 
In considering volunteering, begin with these active steps to begin your impact on the world through volunteerism and community service.
1. Evaluate your motivation
Ask yourself why you want to get involved, how you can get involved and what peaks your interest, concern or desire to assist.
For example, if you like to read, have interest in education and like young children, you may consider volunteering in a school or community center reading to young people or teaching them to read.
2. I like it and I’m good at it
Examine your talents and interest.  Note where your talents and interest intersect.  You may be able to offer your natural abilities to benefit your community.
What do I care about?
Find a subject or issue in which you have a specific or even general interest, such as education, sports or music.  Find a local group or organization that matches your interest.  Become active in a group that shares your interest.
3. Time Management
We all have time to do what we want to do or think is important.   Once you decide to get involved understand that this will require some time commitment.  It is best to realistically asses the amount of time you can regularly and consistently donate.
4. Take Action!
This is the most crucial step in getting involved with your community. After the examination, consideration, procrastination and maybe reluctance the time will come to take some active step in the process.  If you don’t know where to start, speak to family and friends to inquire about volunteering in your church, children’s school, a food bank or animal shelter.  The first step may be the most difficult, but may also be the most beneficial.

Adoption Tax Credit: An Overview

On January 2, 2013 a significant event in the benefit to the adoption process occurred when the United States Congress signed the bill which averted the “fiscal cliff”.  This bill included the American Taxpayer Relief Act, which provided for the permanent extension of the adoption tax credit, as it was issued in 2001.  The bill extends to taxable years after December 2012.  It allows taxpayers who adopt children to receive a tax credit for qualified adoption expenses, making adoption a more viable option for many individuals and couples who might not otherwise have believed adoption to be affordable.  The bill also includes provisions for exclusion from taxable income, adoption expenses paid by an employer.
The American Taxpayer Relief Act assists many adoptive parents and families to offset included expenses of adoption.  It is important to note however, that the tax credit provided in the American Taxpayer Relief Act does not apply to stepparent adoptions. And did not make the adoption credit refundable.  The adoption credit benefits adoptive parents who have federal income tax liability.  Congress however is still able to make changes to the credit in future legislation.
The maximum allowable credit and exclusion is currently set at $12,970 per child.  There is no limit to the number of children families may adopt.  The credit is adjusted and begins to phase out when individuals and couples have a gross income exceeding $194,580.00 and is eliminated for families with a gross income in the range of $234,000.
The adoption tax credit applies to expenses such as adoption fees, including court costs, attorney fees and travel expenses.  Excluded expenses include amounts reimbursed or paid by an employer, adoption assistance organization or any other person.  Also excluded are expensed which violate federal of state law or funds that are received in association with federal, state of local adoption programs.
Despite the limitations and restrictions the American Taxpayer Relief Act represents a considerable benefit to families who adopt children in the United States.  Its existence serves to incentivize the adoption of children in need of stable, loving and supportive families.  By  correctly following the provisions of the Taxpayer Relief Act, families are able to reconsider the affordability of adoption when starting or increasing the size of their family.
In order to claim the credit, taxpayers must file IRS Form 8839.  The IRS regulations state that FORM 8839 may not be filed until the end of the month of February.  Families may claim the credit before the finalization of an adoption, but must wait one year after incurring expenses.  Taxpayers have six years to utilize the tax credit.  This includes the year an expense is first incurred and the subsequent five years.
Advocates of adoption continue to work to seek and advance laws that support and encourage adoption.  The permanency to the adoption tax credit represents a huge step in the right direction.  Adoption is an admirable and fulfilling life decision.   We hope to continue to keep you informed and empowered as more progress is made in the area of creating families through adoption.
Disclaimer
The information provided here should not be use as legal advice and does not substitute or replace the advice of legal counsel of tax professionals.  Please consult an attorney and tax advisor before taking any action to discuss your specific and individual circumstance, on how the Adoption Tax Credit may be used when filing your taxes.
Online Resources:

Adoption In Louisiana

Life’s journey to parenthood is not always traditional.  We may find the path to our heart’s desires through unexpected means.   Many adoptive parents come to realize that biological birth is not the only way to build a loving family and make an impact on the world.  Adoption of a child is selfless act that positively impacts the adoptive parents, the child and the family.  
In the United States, nearly every person has been impacted by adoption in some way.   Most of us know someone who has benefited from adoption, either within our own families, our friends or neighbors.  While the benefits are widespread, they are as unique to each of us as the child that is chosen.
As in most circumstances, the most important step is to make the decision to begin the adoption process.  This begins by making your family, friends and colleagues aware of your decision.  The next step is to gather as much information as possible.  As in all of life’s endeavors, preparation and information is crucial.  It is important to gather as much information as possible about the adoption process – the personal, social and legal ramifications of this life changing decision will have a direct impact on the nature and success of the process of adoption.
Adoption, while personal and emotional, is a legal proceeding conducted in a court of competent jurisdiction.  The court is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that available children are placed into safe and suitable homes.  A final decree of adoption creates a new family.  The best interest of the child is a primary consideration.  A judge must be confident that the child will be entrusted to a safe and secure situation.  From the point of the final decree, an adopted child is deemed the legitimate child of the adoptive parents.
Regardless of type, adoption records are confidential and the information contained therein may not be disclosed absent authorization of law or court order.  Louisiana law provides for three types of adoption – Agency, Private, and Intra Family.
Any single person, married or single who has reached the age of eighteen may petition the court to adopt a child that is available for adoption.  Louisianan law is well settled that it is in the best interest of a child for the adoptive process to proceed expeditiously and without unreasonable delay.
Louisiana courts are authorized to issue a final decree of adoption in a single hearing once all legal requirements are met, and the court is satisfied that the child’s physical and emotional needs will be met and a successful parent-child relationship is clear.  
When a qualified individual or couple has embarked upon the adoption process and prepared themselves properly, with the help of competent legal counsel they will find the process both organized and unproblematic.  Once complete families are formed and people are free to begin a journey that brings new meaning to their lives accompanied by feelings of satisfaction.  Adopted children are moved into a safe and secure life that is filled with previously unimagined opportunities.  When families open their homes and lives to newly adopted children, this act should be celebrated.  
For more information please consult an attorney who is experienced in the areas of  juvenile law and adoptions.  You may wish to visit the websites listed below to gain valuable information while you consider embarking upon the process of adoption for your family.
Online Resources
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