November 5, 2009 - Volume VI Edition XI
Our current health care system is broken. Costs continue to increase at unsustainable rates and too many families and businesses are feeling the debilitating burdens brought on by these expenses. Too many Americans have inadequate coverage or lack coverage entirely and are suffering or dying as a result.
This week, the House unveiled revised health care reform legislation, H.R. 3962, aimed at solving the largest problems: covering the uninsured and bringing costs down-- with a public option to, as President Obama puts it, "keep the insurance companies honest." The bill includes provisions which would:
Health care is the most important public policy issue of our generation that will affect generations to come. I'm proud to be a strong supporter of this legislation, and commend the House leadership-- Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Hoyer, Chairman Waxman, Chairman Rangel, and Chairman Miller-- who have worked so long and so hard to bring this legislation to fruition.The Senate leadership as well has given its blessing to a version of health care reform, and I believe that both houses of Congress will pass legislation.As Congress and the Administration continue to grapple with this enromous issue, there is actually other legislation moving through the legislative process. This e-newsletter highlights my role in those actions.
The House of Representatives this week overwhelmingly approved my legislation that would push up the effective date of credit card reforms scheduled for next year to immediately upon the signing of the bill.
The bill is needed because card companies have redoubled many of the abusive practices that brought Congress to pass my original reforms last Spring. Rather than use the time-- time they asked for-- since the bill’s signing in May to prepare for the changes, they’ve raised rates and fees with absolutely no regard for the dire position of millions of their customers.
These reforms are crucial changes which level the playing field between card issuers and card holders. The reforms force the credit card market to actually function as markets should: by open competition among card offerings, with clear disclosure of interest rates, fees and other features. It bans rate hikes on existing balances, deceptive due-date gimmicks, and requires consumer opt-in to over-limit fees—and allows consumers enough time to switch cards if other terms and conditions change.
Originally passed by Congress and signed into law by the President last spring, the Credit CARD Act had three staged implementation dates: August 2009, February, 2010, and August, 2010. H.R. 3639 moves up the remaining dates by which banks and credit card issuers would have to comply. It applies to the largest card issuers that control over 80% of the credit card market. The bill passed by a vote of 331-92.
The bill now goes to the Senate, where Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) has introduced companion legislation (S. 1833) and Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Chair of the Senate Banking Committee, has introduced an immediate moratorium on retroactive rate increases (S. 1927).
In 2007, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) celebrated the most recent groundbreaking for the Second Avenue Subway. At the time I expressed the wishful hope that the fourth groundbreaking on this project would be the charm. And it still may be, but there’s been a lot of sobering news since we celebrated the subway line’s most recent resurgence.
At groundbreaking, the plan was for the subway line to be completed in 2013, with three tracks at 72nd street and at a cost of $3.8 billion. Today, the MTA and the Federal Transit Adminstration (FTA) are discussing whether the subway will open in 2016 or 2018, projected costs are now estimated at $4.4 billion and we’ve lost the third track.
Meanwhile, construction is having a dramatic impact on local businesses, residents and traffic. Roughly two and a half years into construction, it is time to take a look at the project and see how well the MTA is doing.
I've surveyed the entire scope of the project and issued a mid-term "report card." Because it's mid-term, the MTA has plenty of time to make up for early deficiencies. This is my attempt to shine a light and help us all gain a better understanding of how the MTA is doing in moving forward with construction.
The Second Avenue Subway is crucial to the economic future of New York. It needs to be built. The MTA has an ambitious construction schedule, and it needs to put its full attention to making sure that this project is moving forward with all deliberate speed. Up until now, the project has been marred by missed deadlines, cost overruns and a harsh impact on local businesses. There's a lot of room for improvement, but also the possibility that the project is now starting to gain momentum.
For complete details on each of the line items below, click here.
What’s Been Working
Project Merit: A+
Economic Benefits: A+
Communication with the Public: B+
What Needs Improvement
Construction Management: B-
Mitigation of Construction Impact: C
On Time Record: C
Staying on Budget: C
Progress Toward Completion: C-
Overall Mid-term Grade: B-
My bill to establish a National Women’s History Museum near the National Mall in Washington has passed the House. The new museum would honor the role that women have played in American History passed the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure last month.
The museums and memorials in Washington are one measure of what our society values. We already have museums for stamps and spies, but less than five percent of the 2,400 national historic landmarks chronicle women's achievement, and of the 210 statues here in the U.S. Capitol only ten are of female leaders. This bill would provide women, comprising 53% of our population, a long overdue home to honor their many contributions to building our country.
From Susan B. Anthony to Oprah Winfrey, from Hattie Caraway-- the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate-- to Julie Taymor-- the first woman to win a Tony Award for Directing—the story of what women have contributed to the American way of life is a story long overdue for the telling. This museum will do just that. Now, it’s on to the Senate!
Too many banks are simply stacking the deck against consumers. First, they enroll customers automatically in so-called overdraft "protection." Then, consumers are encouraged to use debit cards for purchases large and small-- from the grocery store to a fancy cup of coffee-- without any indication if the purchase of, say, a $4 cup of coffee is about to incur a $35 overdraft fee. Finally, many banks "post" each day's transactions by size rather than chronologically. Thus, a large transaction more quickly drives the account balance down toward overdraft territory, and each smaller transaction incurs a separate overdraft fee.
I've been working to reform bank overdraft policies for several years, and my work on the issue is starting to bear fruit. Last week, the House Financial Services Committee held a hearing on my latest bill, H.R. 3904, co-sponsored by the Chair of the committee, Rep. Barney Frank. It closely tracks an overdraft bill that Senator Dodd has introduced in the Senate.
The bill will require banks to get a consumer’s permission before enrolling them in an overdraft "protection" plan and charging overdraft fees, require that ATMs notify consumers before charging a fee (and allowing the consumer to cancel the transaction), and--most importantly--cap the number of overdrafts banks can charge to a maximum of one per month and six per year.
In addition, the Overdraft Protection Act would require that overdraft fees relate to the ‘actual cost’ of processing the overdraft, as defined by bank regulators; and stop the ‘re-ordering’ of transactions in a way that maximizes fees to the financial institution. This approach to protecting consumers from egregious overdraft fees is one that has already attracted bipartisan support.
I believe that bank customers should have a right to decide what financial products they’ll buy-- including overdraft plans. That’s the principle behind my credit card reforms passed earlier this year, and we need to extend it to bank overdraft policies.
To be sure, some financial institutions have recently begun to take some steps to dial back the burden their overdraft policies have placed on consumers. But those steps have been small, and customers of all banks must be protected equally. I completely agree with what White House Economic Adviser Larry Summers said just last month: ‘The time has come for fundamental change... both in how financial institutions conduct their business and how they are regulated.’
With the credit card reforms signed into law by President Obama earlier this year, and with the overdraft reforms Senator Dodd and I have proposed, Congress has begun to address the first goal. With the derivatives legislation and the Consumer Finance Protection Agency legislation already approved and sent to the full House, we’ve begun to address the second category.
For complete text of H.R. 3904, click here or visit http://maloney.house.gov/documents/financial/overdraft/HR3904OverdraftProtection.pdf
With newspapers across the country facing down cutbacks, closures or bankruptcy at an alarming rate, I've introduced the “Newspaper Revitalization Act of 2009” (H.R. 3602) which would allow newspapers to become non-profit 501(c)(3) organizations similar to public broadcasting.
Unless something is done, and done fast, it’s likely that many metropolitan areas may soon have no local daily newspapers—and that would damage our democracy. Providing this option to structure the newspaper business would be a way for a community or local foundations to preserve their local paper. The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Rocky Mountain News, San Francisco Chronicle, and The Baltimore Sun are all facing steep drops in advertising and subscription revenue due to the double-whammy of the recession and competition from the internet.
Newspapers are an essential component to our free democratic society. Studies have shown that areas where daily newspapers have gone out of business there has been a rise in corruption in government and plummeting civil engagement in politics. With the state of the current newspaper model, dependent on advertising and circulation revenue, it will be difficult for newspapers to maintain and produce high quality news without bold changes.
President Obama has signed my legislation to name the Long Island City Main Post Office after former Queens Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro.
In 1984, Ms. Ferraro strode into history as the first female vice-presidential candidate on a national party ticket. In the House, Ferraro served on the Post Office and Civil Service Committee, among other committee assignments.
Geraldine Ferraro is a pioneering figure in American history-- an extraordinary leader and public servant. Through all of her many successes in life, the Queens residents she represented remember her as their Congresswoman -- a tenacious fighter who never backed down when it came time to stand up for them and their interests. She never forgot where she came from, as they have never forgotten her.
I'm proud to have had a role in naming the edifice of the Long Island City Post Office in her honor.
CAROLYN B. MALONEY
P.S. Please do not respond to this unattended email account, but instead click here if you would like to send me a message. I look forward to hearing from you!