Voter suppression is growing rapidly in America today.Over half of states now have voter ID requirements more stringent than that required for first time voters in federal elections.Several states are clamping down on voter registration drives or are considering proof of citizenship requirements.
Showing the frustration over abusive lending practices by even many right-leaning legislators, the Ohio legislature has taken a huge step to protect its citizens against predatory lenders by passing HB 545.
The bill slashes the payday-lending interest rate from a sky-high 391
annual percentage rate to 28 percent. In real terms, instead of having
to pay $15 interest for every $100 loaned, borrowers will now pay no
more than $1.08 per $100 borrowed. The bill also limits borrowers to
four loans per year, requires that loan terms be at least 31 days
(instead of the current average of 14 days), and bans internet payday
lending. HB 545 is now before Governor Strickland, who is expected to
sign the bill into law.
The Iowa Senate on Tuesday approved SF 2416,
a bill to sharply increase fines on employers violating Iowa state wage
laws, crack down on the practice of misclassifying employees as
"independent contractors" to evade those laws, and protect workers
reporting violations from retaliation.
The Kansas State Supreme Court temporarily blocked
a grand jury investigating an abortion provider from collecting more
than 2,000 patient records, including patients who didn't end up having
an abortion. The provider, Dr. Tiller, and his attorneys objected to
the subpoena of patient records as a violation of women's constitutional rights. The Center for Reproductive Rights also filed a petition
on behalf of patients to stop the subpoena's. The Court, at least for
now, agreed the subpoenas raised "significant issues" about patients'
privacy. A final decision will be made by February 25th.
The statistics are shocking. The current mortgage crisis is expected to result in the foreclosure of 3 million homes. In Stockton, CA, one in every 27 homes has been hit by the foreclosure crisis. And, Countryside, the largest U.S. mortgage lender, just released
figures showing that foreclosures and late payments rose in December to
the highest on record. Calls to helplines by homeowners facing
foreclosure have skyrocketed. As a corollary, local animal shelters are seeing a sharp increase in intake due to owners having to surrender family pets when they lose their homes.
Not surprisingly, the Bush Administration's proposal for fixing the subprime lending crisis is an industry-led deal that involves completely voluntary actions to fix the current crisis and will ultimately help only a few of the millions of people who have either lost or are in danger of losing their homes. With absolute failure at the federal level, it is again up to states to step in. In two recent editorialpieces, the executive directors of the Progressive States Network and the Drum Major Institute called on New York Governor Spitzer to impose a six-month moratorium on foreclosures to stop the rapidly increasing rate of home loss, a policy all governors should enact. A moratorium would give lenders incentive to restructure loans on fair terms and fight back against the Wall-street backed predatory lenders.
A new ballot measure in California
change the way that California's 55 presidential electoral votes would be
allocated; not to make sure that every vote counted, but to make sure that any
right-wing candidate for President could lop off a significant number of that
state's electoral votes.
little fanfare, the New York General Assembly and Governor
Eliot Spitzer enacted a budget in early April that includes
care for essentially all children. The budget increased SCHIP
eligibility for children in families with incomes up to 400% of poverty
($80,000 for a family of four) and allows families above 400% without
other options to purchase the SCHIP coverage at full-cost, which is still
cheaper and likely more comprehensive than private options. Premiums for
families below 400% of poverty will be set at $20, $30 and $40 per child
depending on income.