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US Public Interest Research Group (PIRG)

Mission: U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), stands up to powerful special interests on behalf of the American public, working to win concrete results for our health and our well-being. With a strong network of researchers, advocates, organizers and students in state capitols across the country, we take on the special interests on issues, such as product safety,political corruption, prescription drugs and voting rights,where these interests stand in the way of reform and progress.

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Take Action with US Public Interest Research Group (PIRG)

Campaign Priority Bills and Proposals POPVOX Sentiment Take Action
H.R. 2804
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(Letter provided to POPVOX by Congressional office.)

February 25, 2014 ...

view the full position statement

Join US Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) in opposing H.R. 2804

88% 12%

474 total users

Oppose
H.R. 899
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(Letter provided to POPVOX by Congressional office.)

February 25, 2014 ...

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Join US Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) in opposing H.R. 899

91% 9%

457 total users

Oppose
S. 1704

29% 71%

326 total users

Support
H.R. 532

81% 18%

567 total users

Support
H.R. 624
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March 11, 2013

Dear Representative:

We the undersigned organizations write ...

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Join US Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) in opposing H.R. 624

3% 97%

2004 total users

Oppose
H.R. 645
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January 31, 2013

Dear Representative:

On behalf of The Leadership ...

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Join US Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) in endorsing H.R. 645

75% 25%

105 total users

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Detailed Legislative Agenda

H.R. 2804: Achieving Less Excess in Regulation and Requiring Transparency Act of 2014

(Letter provided to POPVOX by Congressional office.)

February 25, 2014

Dear Representative,

Our undersigned groups strongly oppose a package of legislative measures that will be on the House floor this week. These proposals would undermine our nation’s ability to set health, safety and environmental standards as well as new financial protections. Given that we have experienced multiple health and safety disasters in communities and workplaces across the country in recent years, it is the wrong time to thwart the progress of necessary public protections.

We need stronger public protections, not a weaker system of safeguards. We need better enforcement of sensible rules and public safeguards, not more needless delays.

The votes being planned to allegedly “#StopGovtAbuse,” would stop the progress made over the past several decades in cleaning up our air and water, ensuring our food, drugs, and toys are safe and halting Wall Street abuses of the public. The mini-omnibus bill of four flawed regulatory proposals (packaged into H.R. 2804) and H.R. 899, the Unfunded Mandates Transparency and Information Act, are largely retreads of old ideas that the House has already considered in previous Congresses. They will not create one new job, launch one entrepreneur or open a single new manufacturing plant. Instead they will weaken future crucial protections for American families and workers, the environment, and our financial stability; and enlarge the power of wealthy corporations to block any regulation that might affect their bottom line.

Taken together, this set of proposed laws would curtail the ability Congress has given to federal agencies to protect public health and well-being; undermine popular public protections with procedural delays; gives more power to those already working to protect the profits of oil and gas and drug industries; and emphasize the primacy of cost-benefit analysis, thereby asserting that immediate business profits are more important than long-term public health impacts. These proposals are designed, for instance, to make it more difficult for federal agencies to use scientific research about the risks from exposure to environmental pollutants and toxic materials in developing essential protections for public health and the environment. This package is extreme, with just one of the provisions (RAA, H.R. 2122) fundamentally altering 60 years of administrative laws and procedures.

It already takes an average of 4 to 8 years for an agency to establish a new rule, rules that implement existing laws. The proposed anti-regulatory legislation in these packages create a procedural gauntlet intended to stop, weaken, or at a minimum extensively delay needed public protections. These bills also would extend their onerous requirements to independent agencies, compromising the ability of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to protect the public.

We strongly oppose the following five bad bills (four now incorporated in H.R. 2804, and H.R. 899):

 The All Economic Regulations are Transparent (“ALERT”) Act (H.R. 2804), would add a six-month delay to most rules essential to protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the American public.

 The Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA) (H.R. 2122) would add dozens of new analytical requirements to the Administrative Procedure Act and undermine agency physicians, and scientists by requiring them to conduct nonsensical estimates of all the “indirect” costs and benefits of a proposed rule. It would allow special interests to challenge and block crucial protections by questioning whether agencies had analyzed every option for every rule, and picked the rule that is least costly to industry – even if more lives would be saved by a different option. By ensuring agencies “race to the bottom” to find the least costly rule, the RAA will lead to more “self-regulation” and voluntary rather than mandatory compliance with new rules. As has become obvious in deregulatory disaster after deregulatory disaster, the least costly rule to industry ends up being the most costly rule to public health and safety.

 The Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act (RFIA) (H.R. 2542) would mandate wasteful new analyses that could be applied to virtually any action an agency attempts to undertake, no matter how tenuous the connection to small business interests. The RFIA forces agencies to hold up actions until new analyses are completed. In the meantime, lives could be lost and people could be needlessly injured.

 The Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act (H.R. 1493) targets citizen suits aimed at spurring agencies to move forward with overdue and congressionally mandated protections. While consent decrees and settlement agreements provide citizens and the courts with a means of ensuring agency accountability, this bill would force them to run a gauntlet of burdensome, time-consuming, and redundant procedures—furthering slowing agency action. This bill would weaken the power of citizens to prod agencies to follow the law—and waste government resources in the process.

 The Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act (H.R. 899) is premised on the notion that regulations are unnecessary. It would allow business interests to get advance notice of proposed regulations, as local governments do, and give them the opportunity to comment, but would continue to exclude voters and taxpayers from such deliberations. It also undermines the independence of important agencies that are working to put new Wall Street reforms and product safety standards in place. Finally, it forces agencies to pick the least costly rule to industry, rather than the rule that is most effective at keeping the public safe.

These flawed bills would further serve industry interests at the expense of American families. We strongly urge you to vote against them all.

* The organization’s position on this bill was entered by POPVOX. Direct link to this position: https://www.popvox.com/orgs/uspirg#uspirg-hr-2804-oppose
H.R. 899: The Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act

(Letter provided to POPVOX by Congressional office.)

February 25, 2014

Dear Representative,

Our undersigned groups strongly oppose a package of legislative measures that will be on the House floor this week. These proposals would undermine our nation’s ability to set health, safety and environmental standards as well as new financial protections. Given that we have experienced multiple health and safety disasters in communities and workplaces across the country in recent years, it is the wrong time to thwart the progress of necessary public protections.

We need stronger public protections, not a weaker system of safeguards. We need better enforcement of sensible rules and public safeguards, not more needless delays.

The votes being planned to allegedly “#StopGovtAbuse,” would stop the progress made over the past several decades in cleaning up our air and water, ensuring our food, drugs, and toys are safe and halting Wall Street abuses of the public. The mini-omnibus bill of four flawed regulatory proposals (packaged into H.R. 2804) and H.R. 899, the Unfunded Mandates Transparency and Information Act, are largely retreads of old ideas that the House has already considered in previous Congresses. They will not create one new job, launch one entrepreneur or open a single new manufacturing plant. Instead they will weaken future crucial protections for American families and workers, the environment, and our financial stability; and enlarge the power of wealthy corporations to block any regulation that might affect their bottom line.

Taken together, this set of proposed laws would curtail the ability Congress has given to federal agencies to protect public health and well-being; undermine popular public protections with procedural delays; gives more power to those already working to protect the profits of oil and gas and drug industries; and emphasize the primacy of cost-benefit analysis, thereby asserting that immediate business profits are more important than long-term public health impacts. These proposals are designed, for instance, to make it more difficult for federal agencies to use scientific research about the risks from exposure to environmental pollutants and toxic materials in developing essential protections for public health and the environment. This package is extreme, with just one of the provisions (RAA, H.R. 2122) fundamentally altering 60 years of administrative laws and procedures.

It already takes an average of 4 to 8 years for an agency to establish a new rule, rules that implement existing laws. The proposed anti-regulatory legislation in these packages create a procedural gauntlet intended to stop, weaken, or at a minimum extensively delay needed public protections. These bills also would extend their onerous requirements to independent agencies, compromising the ability of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to protect the public.

We strongly oppose the following five bad bills (four now incorporated in H.R. 2804, and H.R. 899):

 The All Economic Regulations are Transparent (“ALERT”) Act (H.R. 2804), would add a six-month delay to most rules essential to protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the American public.

 The Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA) (H.R. 2122) would add dozens of new analytical requirements to the Administrative Procedure Act and undermine agency physicians, and scientists by requiring them to conduct nonsensical estimates of all the “indirect” costs and benefits of a proposed rule. It would allow special interests to challenge and block crucial protections by questioning whether agencies had analyzed every option for every rule, and picked the rule that is least costly to industry – even if more lives would be saved by a different option. By ensuring agencies “race to the bottom” to find the least costly rule, the RAA will lead to more “self-regulation” and voluntary rather than mandatory compliance with new rules. As has become obvious in deregulatory disaster after deregulatory disaster, the least costly rule to industry ends up being the most costly rule to public health and safety.

 The Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act (RFIA) (H.R. 2542) would mandate wasteful new analyses that could be applied to virtually any action an agency attempts to undertake, no matter how tenuous the connection to small business interests. The RFIA forces agencies to hold up actions until new analyses are completed. In the meantime, lives could be lost and people could be needlessly injured.

 The Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act (H.R. 1493) targets citizen suits aimed at spurring agencies to move forward with overdue and congressionally mandated protections. While consent decrees and settlement agreements provide citizens and the courts with a means of ensuring agency accountability, this bill would force them to run a gauntlet of burdensome, time-consuming, and redundant procedures—furthering slowing agency action. This bill would weaken the power of citizens to prod agencies to follow the law—and waste government resources in the process.

 The Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act (H.R. 899) is premised on the notion that regulations are unnecessary. It would allow business interests to get advance notice of proposed regulations, as local governments do, and give them the opportunity to comment, but would continue to exclude voters and taxpayers from such deliberations. It also undermines the independence of important agencies that are working to put new Wall Street reforms and product safety standards in place. Finally, it forces agencies to pick the least costly rule to industry, rather than the rule that is most effective at keeping the public safe.

These flawed bills would further serve industry interests at the expense of American families. We strongly urge you to vote against them all.

* The organization’s position on this bill was entered by POPVOX. Direct link to this position: https://www.popvox.com/orgs/uspirg#uspirg-hr-899-oppose
S. 1704: The Affordable College Textbook Act
* The organization’s position on this bill was entered by POPVOX. Direct link to this position: https://www.popvox.com/orgs/uspirg#uspirg-s-1704-support
H.R. 532: The Private Student Loan Bankruptcy Fairness Act
* The organization’s position on this bill was entered by POPVOX. Direct link to this position: https://www.popvox.com/orgs/uspirg#uspirg-hr-532-support
H.R. 624: CISPA (Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act)

March 11, 2013

Dear Representative:

We the undersigned organizations write in opposition to H.R. 624, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2013 (CISPA). We are gravely concerned that this bill will allow companies that hold very sensitive and personal information to liberally share it with the government, which could then use the information without meaningful oversight for purposes unrelated to cybersecurity.

CISPA creates an exception to all privacy laws to permit companies to share our information with each other and with the government in the name of cybersecurity. Although a carefully-crafted information sharing program that strictly limits the information to be shared and includes robust privacy safeguards could be an effective approach to cybersecurity, CISPA lacks such protections for individual rights. CISPA’s information sharing regime allows the transfer of vast amounts of data, including sensitive information like internet records or the content of emails, to any agency in the government including military and intelligence agencies like the National Security Agency or the Department of Defense Cyber Command. Once in government hands, this information can be used for undefined ‘national security’ purposes unrelated to cybersecurity.

Developments over the last year make CISPA’s approach even more questionable than before. First, the President recently signed Executive Order 13636, which will increase information sharing from the government to the private sector. Information sharing in this direction is often cited as a substantial justification for CISPA and will proceed without legislation. Second, the cybersecurity legislation the Senate considered last year, S. 3414, included privacy protections for information sharing that are entirely absent from CISPA, and the Obama administration, including the intelligence community, has confirmed that those protections would not inhibit cybersecurity programs. These included provisions to ensure that private companies send cyber threat information only to civilian agencies, and stricter limits on how this information may be used. Finally, witnesses at a hearing before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence confirmed only weeks ago that companies can strip out personally identifiably information that is not necessary to address cyber threats, and CISPA omits any requirement that reasonable efforts be undertaken to do so.

We continue to oppose CISPA and encourage you to vote ‘no.’ Fundamental changes to this bill are required to address the many civil liberties problems.

(Letter provided to POPVOX by Congressional office.)

* The organization’s position on this bill was entered by POPVOX. Direct link to this position: https://www.popvox.com/orgs/uspirg#uspirg-hr-624-oppose
H.R. 645: The Equal Employment for All Act

January 31, 2013

Dear Representative:

On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the undersigned we urge you to cosponsor “The Equal Employment for All Act” sponsored by Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN). In addition to the weak economy, job-seekers today confront another less discussed challenge—employers that require credit checks as a condition of employment. Not only does this practice discriminate against the long-term unemployed, it has a disparate impact on people of color and constitutes an unwarranted invasion into job seekers’ personal lives. This bill would reduce employment discrimination and protect job seekers’ privacy by prohibiting employers from using credit checks as part of their hiring and promotion decisions for most positions.

Use of employment credit checks is common. A 2012 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 47 percent of firms use employment credit checks for some positions.1 A 2012 survey by Dēmos finds that 1 in 4 unemployed people from low- and middle- income households with credit card debt has been asked to submit to a credit check as part of a job application.2 The actual prevalence of employment credit checks may be significantly higher. In the flurry of paperwork that surrounds the job application process, applicants may quickly forget the specifics of the many documents they sign.

Credit checks create a catch-22 for job seekers. A core value of American society is the opportunity to work hard and get ahead. Yet today in the United States, willing job seekers are facing a new barrier to employment—credit checks. The use of employment credit checks is creating a catch-22 for job seekers. It means that workers who have fallen behind on their bills because they are unemployed are finding it harder to get the job that would make it possible for them to pay off their bills.

No evidence connects credit problems to greater propensity to commit financial crimes on the job. The most common reason employers cite for requiring employment credit checks is a concern that employees who are behind on their bills will be more likely to embezzle funds or engage in other criminal activity.3 Yet, there is virtually no evidence to support this fear. In 2010, Eric Rosenberg, Director of State Government Relations for TransUnion, one of the largest credit reporting companies, told Oregon legislators, “At this point we don’t have any research to show any statistical correlation between what’s in somebody’s credit report and their job performance or their likelihood to commit fraud.”4 Richard Tonowski, the Chief Psychologist for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission agreed with Mr. Rosenberg. In 2010, he testified that there is “very little evidence that credit history is indicative of who can do the job better” and it is “hard to establish a predictive relationship between credit and crime.”5

A more recent study from 2011 also failed to find a link between low credit scores and propensity to commit financial crime at work.6

Weak credit among prospective employees reflects the weak economy—not a lack of personal responsibility. Employment credit screening imposes an automatic second-class status on the 13 million Americans who lost their job during the recession through no fault of their own—or who have fallen victim to the unregulated predatory lending leading up to the financial crisis.7 Prior to the recession, on average, just 15 percent of the 170 million consumers with active credit accounts, or 25.5 million people, had poor credit, defined as FICO scores below 600 out of a possible 850. As of April 2010, one-quarter of U.S. consumers, nearly 43.4 million people, had poor credit. 8

Employment credit checks are an invasion of privacy. The organization that represents corporate HR professionals, the Society for Human Resource Management, notes that when employers have a concern about a potential employee’s credit history, they generally ask the individual to explain why he or she is behind on their bills.9 Given that past due medical bills make up the majority of accounts reported by collection agencies,10 for a significant number of prospective employees, this will mean that they will have to discuss their personal medical histories as a pre-requisite for obtaining employment.

This is contrary to Americans’ strong belief in a right to privacy of their medical histories. That right is embodied in our expectation of confidentiality in the doctor-patient relationship and numerous bipartisan pieces of legislation, including the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the 2003 amendments to the Fair Credit Reporting Act that require medical debt to be masked on credit reports. This is an issue that impacts all Americans, but particularly impacts people with disabilities, who have good reason to fear that disclosure of their medical conditions will lead to discriminatory treatment.

Domestic abuse and divorce also frequently lead to credit problems. In cases of domestic abuse, it is not uncommon for the abuser to purposely ruin a spouse’s credit as a way of controlling the spouse. In divorces, individuals frequently find their credit record tarnished by the poor decisions of their former spouse. Many states bar employers from discrimination in employment on the basis of marital status, and the federal government is prohibited from discriminating in its employment decisions on the basis of marital status. Despite common sense and legal recognition that questions about marital status ought to be out of bounds in the hiring process, many prospective employees asked to explain their credit problems now must choose between discussing a recent divorce and/or very personal details regarding the abusive dynamics in a relationship, or risk losing a job opportunity. Furthermore, subjecting potential employees to credit checks will make it more difficult for financially abused spouses to achieve the financial security necessary to end an abusive relationship, thus potentially trapping them in that abusive relationship.

Credit checks are discriminatory. A 2007 report by the Federal Reserve Board found that African Americans and Hispanics had considerably lower credit scores than non-Hispanic whites.11 Additional research, including studies by the Federal Trade Commission and the Brookings Institution, has also documented a racial gap in credit scores.12 Various factors contribute to these racial disparities, including many outside of the control of individual consumers. In the last decade, predatory lending schemes targeting communities of color compounded historic disparities in wealth and assets. During the housing boom, borrowers of color were frequently steered into subprime (or high-interest) loans even though they actually qualified for a prime loan.13 As a result, since the crash, African-American, Latino and Asian- American households have lost more than 50 percent of their family wealth—exactly the assets that workers draw on during emergencies to avoid debt. This compares to a 16 percent loss among white households. Thus, today, families of color have less than a dime in wealth for every dollar held by white families.14 Similarly, Americans with disabilities are less likely than Americans without disabilities to have the assets to weather economic setbacks15—making it more likely for people with disabilities that a setback will lead to real hardship and bad credit. Employment credit checks are thus compounding historic injustices and recent weak regulatory oversight, ensuring that similarly-qualified job seekers cannot compete on an even playing field.

Legal challenges have also raised the discriminatory impact of employment credit screening. The Department of Labor won an administrative hearing officer decision against Bank of America stemming in part from the bank’s use of credit checks to hire entry-level employees, which had a discriminatory impact on African Americans.16 Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, employers may not use an assessment tool that disproportionately disqualifies minorities from employment without providing a legitimate business reason for doing so. For reasons discussed above, the bank could not provide any such justification.

Employers ought to use alternatives to protect against on-the-job crimes by employees.

There are superior methods for determining whether employees are likely to perform well and for preventing theft on the job that do not have the downsides of subjecting large numbers of prospective employees to invasive and discriminatory credit checks, including, effective interviewing techniques, tests to assess job relevant competencies, and personality tests. Also, employers can create more effective systems for detecting and preventing financial crimes by employees once they are on the job.

We urge you to cosponsor the Equal Employment for All Act, which will help prevent discrimination against the long-term unemployed and people of color in hiring and promotion decisions, and limit the invasion of job seekers’ privacy.

(Letter provided to POPVOX by Demos.)

* The organization’s position on this bill was entered by POPVOX. Direct link to this position: https://www.popvox.com/orgs/uspirg#uspirg-hr-645-support
H.R. 4078: Red Tape Reduction and Small Business Job Creation Act

July 23, 2012

Dear Representative,

On behalf of our millions of members and supporters, we are writing to urge you to oppose the “Red Tape Reduction and Small Business Job Creation Act" (H.R. 4078), which includes the “Regulatory Freeze For Jobs Act,” the “Midnight Rule Relief Act of 2012" (H.R. 4607), and the “Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act of 2012” (H.R. 3862), among other harmful bills. The bill is expected to be voted on this week. This bill would shut down the entire regulatory system, endangering the health, safety, and economic stability of every American. This sweeping and unprecedented bill would also supersede numerous laws currently on the books without any evidence that they would improve the economy.

The “Regulatory Freeze for Jobs Act" is the most far-reaching, extreme, and dangerous of this trio. It prohibits almost all “significant” regulatory actions for as long as unemployment remains consistently above 6% without fluctuation. This would stop important and critical protections in their tracks, including regulations that ensure that we aren’t contracting foodborne illness, that veterans receive benefits for defending our country, that our air and water are clean, that our medical products are safe, and that we aren’t injured when we go to work. To recognize the absurdity of this bill, consider what would have happened if the government had been prevented from issuing new rules to protect the economy at the outset of the Great Depression or the recent financial meltdown. Or think about how this bill would block new clean car standards, which are supported by industry and help consumers and the economy while protecting the environment.

The “Midnight Rule Relief Act” would stop any regulations from being proposed or finalized during the Presidential lame duck period if the President is not serving a consecutive term. This legislation would block implementation of regulatory standards and safeguards simply by virtue of when they were proposed or finalized. Such an arbitrary distinction, which bears no relationship to the merits of any particular regulation, would impact regulations that have been in the works for years.1 Indeed, regulatory process experts at the Administrative Conference of the United States recently released their recommendation on reforms to “midnight” rulemaking, stating “shutting the rulemaking process down during this period would be impractical given that numerous agency programs require constant regulatory activity, often with statutory deadlines.”2

Last, but not least, the “Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act” allows individuals who want the federal government to continue breaking the law for their own benefit to obstruct and delay requirements to follow federal law. Consider the situation in which a federal agency commits a gross violation of a federal law and a state challenges that lawbreaking in court. Today, the state and federal agency have the ability to resolve that legal violation through a consent decree or settlement agreement, promptly, without wasting judicial resources, while ensuring federal law is upheld and the state’s valid legal interests are safeguarded. But this bill thwarts all of that by anointing third parties that support the perpetuation of the unlawful behavior with the right to obstruct and delay a plaintiff’s legal right to ensure that the law is followed and the plaintiff’s interests are protected. By interfering with a court’s ability to oversee consent decrees and the ability of parties to enter into settlements, this bill would cause delay, greatly increase the costs of litigation, and impede meaningful resolution of lawsuits.

Even if you believe that the regulatory process should be refined, this bill is extreme. It is not intended to improve the regulatory system, but to destroy it. It would stop almost all regulation in its tracks, putting the safety, security, and health of the American public at risk. For these reasons, we strongly urge you to oppose this bill.

(This bill failed to be passed during the two-year Congress in which it was introduced.)
* The organization’s position on this bill was entered by POPVOX. Direct link to this position: https://www.popvox.com/orgs/uspirg#uspirg-hr-4078-oppose
H.R. 1148 (112th): The STOCK Act

The STOCK Act has a broad base of support from organizations dedicated to government reform including Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Common Cause, Democracy 21, Public Citizen and U.S. PIRG. In a letter to both lawmakers, the organizations said, “This measure provides a balanced application of the laws against insider trading to both the private and public sectors and offers the important tool of disclosure for ensuring compliance with the law. The STOCK Act should be adopted by Congress before new scandals arise.”

http://walz.house.g...;id=326&Itemid=

(This bill failed to be passed during the two-year Congress in which it was introduced.)
* The organization’s position on this bill was entered by POPVOX. Direct link to this position: https://www.popvox.com/orgs/uspirg#uspirg-hr-1148-support
S. 1787 (112th): The Wall Street Trading and Speculators Tax Act
(This bill failed to be passed during the two-year Congress in which it was introduced.)
* The organization’s position on this bill was entered by POPVOX. Direct link to this position: https://www.popvox.com/orgs/uspirg#uspirg-s-1787-support
H.R. 3313 (112th): The Wall Street Trading and Speculators Tax Act
(This bill failed to be passed during the two-year Congress in which it was introduced.)
* The organization’s position on this bill was entered by POPVOX. Direct link to this position: https://www.popvox.com/orgs/uspirg#uspirg-hr-3313-support
H.R. 3035 (112th): The Mobile Informational Call Act

The real purpose of H.R. 3035 is to open up everyone’s cell phones, land lines, and business phone numbers, without their consent, to a flood of commercial, marketing and debt collection calls (to not only the debtor but everyone else). The bill would effectively gut the TCPA, a widely popular statute that protects Americans from the proliferation of intrusive, nuisance calls from telemarketers and others whose use of technology “may be abusive or harassment.” In 1991 Congress found that unwanted automated calls were a “nuisance and an invasion of privacy, regardless of the type of call” and that banning such calls was “the only effective means of protecting telephone consumers from this nuisance and privacy invasion.”

Automated predictive dialers would be exempt from the TCPA, permitting repetitive “phantom” calls to cell phones, doctor’s offices, hospital rooms and pagers. Predictive dialers use a computer to call telephones based on predictions of when someone will answer and when a human caller will be available. They are the source of calls that begin with a long pause and of calls with no one on the other end (if the prediction of the human caller’s availability is wrong.) Since the purpose of predictive dialers is to get someone to answer, computers often call a number repeatedly throughout the day. The TCPA currently prohibits the use of automatic telephone dialing systems to make calls, with certain exceptions, to (1) any emergency telephone line (including 911, hospitals, medical offices, health care facilities, poison control centers, fire protection or law enforcement agencies), (2) guest or patient room of hospital, health care facility, elderly home, (3) pagers or (4) cell phones. H.R. 3035 would revise the definition of “automatic telephone dialing system” so that modern predictive dialers, which do not use random or sequential number generators, would be outside of the TCPA’s protections. Calls could even be made for solicitation purposes unless the telephone number is a residential one on the Do Not Call list.

Businesses could make prerecorded robo-calls to anyone’s personal or business cell phone for any commercial purpose that is not a solicitation, including debt collection, surveys, “how did you like your recent shopping experience,” and “we’ve enhanced our service” – even if you are on the Do-Not-Call list. TCPA currently prohibits robo-calls to cell phones unless the consumer has provided prior express consent. H.R. 3035 would add a new exception permitting robo-calls to cell phones for any commercial call that is not a solicitation. The possibilities are endless. The Do Not Call list protects people only from telemarketing calls, not these other calls. Debt collection calls would be made to the cell phones of friends, family, neighbors, employers, or strangers with similar names or numbers. Families struggling in the current economy will be hounded on their cell phones, even if they have a landline that the collector could call, and even if the call uses up precious cell phone minutes or incurs per-minute charges for those with prepay phones. Commercial calls for debt collection or other commercial purposes could be made even if the consumer never gave out his or her cell phone number—the business could call if it found the consumer’s cell phone number on Google or by purchasing a list from entities that collect that information.

Read more: http://www.nclc.org...-letter-hr-3035.pdf

(This bill failed to be passed during the two-year Congress in which it was introduced.)
* The organization’s position on this bill was entered by POPVOX. Direct link to this position: https://www.popvox.com/orgs/uspirg#uspirg-hr-3035-oppose
H.R. 3010: Regulatory Accountability Act of 2011

“U.S. PIRG views the Regulatory Accountability Act and the REINS ACT as direct assaults on the safety and well-being of American consumers, particularly our littlest consumers — children. The bills discard public health and safety considerations, tie regulators in knots and give manufacturers a free pass to continue to produce dangerous toys and other substandard products. The bills wrongly make the demands of powerful special interests more important than child safety.”

Nashima Hossain, public health advocate

US Public Interest Research Group

http://www.sensible...ill%20conceived.pdf

(This bill failed to be passed during the two-year Congress in which it was introduced.)
* The organization’s position on this bill was entered by POPVOX. Direct link to this position: https://www.popvox.com/orgs/uspirg#uspirg-hr-3010-oppose
H.R. 10 (112th): Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act

“U.S. PIRG views the Regulatory Accountability Act and the REINS ACT as direct assaults on the safety and well-being of American consumers, particularly our littlest consumers — children. The bills discard public health and safety considerations, tie regulators in knots and give manufacturers a free pass to continue to produce dangerous toys and other substandard products. The bills wrongly make the demands of powerful special interests more important than child safety.”

Nashima Hossain, public health advocate

US Public Interest Research Group

http://www.sensible...ill%20conceived.pdf

(This bill failed to be passed during the two-year Congress in which it was introduced.)
* The organization’s position on this bill was entered by POPVOX. Direct link to this position: https://www.popvox.com/orgs/uspirg#uspirg-hr-10-oppose
H.R. 2860 (112th): The Deficit Super Committee Transparency Act
(This bill failed to be passed during the two-year Congress in which it was introduced.)
* The organization’s position on this bill was entered by POPVOX. Direct link to this position: https://www.popvox.com/orgs/uspirg#uspirg-hr-2860-support
H.R. 2028: Private Student Loan Bankruptcy Fairness Act of 2011

Dear Ranking Member Cohen:

On behalf of the undersigned organizations, we are writing to express our strong support for the Private Student Loan Bankruptcy Fairness Act of 2011.

Private student loans are one of the riskiest, most expensive ways to pay for college. Like credit cards, they typically have variable interest rates that are higher for those who can least afford them. However, private student loans are treated much more harshly in bankruptcy than credit cards and other comparable types of debt.

Private student loan borrowers also lack access to the important deferment, income based repayment, or loan forgiveness options that come with federal student loans. This leaves most private loan borrowers at the mercy of the lender if they face financial distress due to unemployment, disability, illness or military deployment, or when a school shuts down before they can finish their certificate or degree.

With recent reports that student loan debt has outpaced credit card debt, the Private Student Loan Bankruptcy Fairness Act of 2011 is needed now more than ever. This legislation would reverse the unfair and unjustified special bankruptcy protections for private student lenders included in the 2005 bankruptcy law. Our broad coalition of groups representing students, consumers, higher education institutions, faculty and staff, as well as civil rights and public policy organizations thanks you for your leadership on

this important issue.

http://projectonstu..._to_Cohen_FINAL.pdf

(This bill failed to be passed during the two-year Congress in which it was introduced.)
* The organization’s position on this bill was entered by POPVOX. Direct link to this position: https://www.popvox.com/orgs/uspirg#uspirg-hr-2028-support
H.R. 1121: Responsible Consumer Financial Protection Regulations Act of 2011

H.R. 1121 (Bachus) would make the CFPB less accountable and more likely to slide into gridlock and inaction, by altering the leadership of the agency from that of a single director to a five-member commission. The fractured and unaccountable nature of the current regulatory system allowed consumer protection to fall through the cracks and regulators to blame each other for inaction. That is why Congress consolidated authority within a single agency fully accountable to the President, Congress, the judiciary and the American people. The agency must be able to act in a timely manner when problems arise and to then be fully accountable for its actions. Directors who do not do enough to protect consumers or who overstep their authority will not be able to deflect blame for their actions on other commissioners. Given all of the unprecedented limits on the CFPB’s ability to act to protect consumers described above, putting a commission in charge would be a debilitating blow to the agency’s ability to do anything in a timely manner. Moreover, the CFPB director structure is exactly the same as that of the OCC, which regulates national banks. Why should the CFPB be less able to act quickly and decisively on behalf of consumers than an agency that has a history of bias toward large banks and of indifference or outright hostility to consumer problems?

http://www.consumer...up-letter5-3-11.pdf

(This bill failed to be passed during the two-year Congress in which it was introduced.)
* The organization’s position on this bill was entered by POPVOX. Direct link to this position: https://www.popvox.com/orgs/uspirg#uspirg-hr-1121-oppose
H.R. 1315: Consumer Financial Protection Safety and Soundness Improvement Act of 2011

H.R. 1315 (Duffy) would grant the same regulators who failed so spectacularly to protect consumers and stop the financial crisis broad leeway to block CFPB rules. Bank regulators did not bother stopping dangerous mortgage lending and credit card practices because they were not independent of the lenders they regulated and because they subordinated consumer protection to a dangerously shortsighted focus on the near-term profitability of these institutions. (They called it “safety and soundness.”)

The bill would allow a simple majority of bank regulators and others on the FSOC to veto CFPB rules under the exceedingly vague and easily-manipulated standard that the rules are “inconsistent” with “safe and sound operations.” If we have learned anything from the financial crisis, it is that strong consumer protections would have reduced, rather than increased, systemic financial risk. Consumers would have had less unsustainable debt. Banks would have had fewer losses and been more financially stable. The economy would not have been pushed to the brink of collapse. But that did not stop financial regulators like the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) from claiming that protecting consumers from unfair and deceptive practices would harm bank “safety and soundness”.

The bill would ensure that bank regulators who want to block the CFPB from curbing abusive but lucrative practices – like unjustified credit card interest rate increases or exploding ARM loans – have an easy excuse and a very good chance of succeeding.

http://www.consumer...up-letter5-3-11.pdf

(This bill failed to be passed during the two-year Congress in which it was introduced.)
* The organization’s position on this bill was entered by POPVOX. Direct link to this position: https://www.popvox.com/orgs/uspirg#uspirg-hr-1315-oppose
H.R. 654: Do Not Track Me Online Act

Supports HR 654. The Do Not Track Me Online Act addresses a simple question: “Should companies including many I have never heard of and do not do business with be allowed to continue to secretly attach cookies and other tracking devices to my computer and follow me around the Internet for the purpose of changing my behavior or causing me harm or should I have a comprehensive right to a mechanism in my computer that says “Do Not Track Me” once and for all?

(This bill failed to be passed during the two-year Congress in which it was introduced.)
* The organization’s position on this bill was entered by POPVOX. Direct link to this position: https://www.popvox.com/orgs/uspirg#uspirg-hr-654-support