July 15, 2010 - Volume VII Edition XII
I'm humbled to have been named a recipient of a "Good Government Award" by the public interest group Project on Government Oversight (POGO) in recognition of my efforts to achieve greater transparency and accountability in government.
POGO, founded in 1981, is an independent nonprofit that investigates and exposes corruption and other misconduct in order to achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government. In its award statement POGO said, “Long before the Deepwater Horizon disaster... Rep. Maloney (was) conducting rigorous oversight of the Minerals Management Service (MMS) and identifying those technical and cultural weaknesses at the agency that contributed to the Gulf Coast spill.
“Rep. Maloney’s extensive work on oil and gas issues is remarkable in the Congress, as it dates back to the early 1990s and includes investigative reports, hearings, and policy-making. In addition, Rep. Maloney has also focused on contractor accountability issues, and she introduced the legislation that led to the creation of the comprehensive, centralized contractor responsibility database.”
I'm especially proud that POGO recognized that my government oversight efforts show that “you do not need to be the Chair of a Committee to do meaningful investigations.”
The Federal Reserve issued the final set of rules implementing my credit card reform legislation, which will fully kick in on August 22.
They have capped late fees on credit card accounts to a maximum of $25, charged only once per violation, and have required any late fees to not exceed the cost of the violation (in other words, no $25 fee for a $10 offense). The Fed has also banned inactivity fees and required re-evaluation of any rate hikes since January 2009.
In doing all this, the Fed has achieved the final set of accountbility and fairness steps called for in my bill. What’s more, the Fed has published a terrific web page to guide consumers through all the provisions of the bill, including those that took effect last August, this past February, and this coming August. (For a timeline of which credit card reforms have been implemented when, click here.)
USA Today estimates that the Credit CARD Act provisions will save consumers on the order of $5 billion in its first year alone.
Vist the Federal Reserve’s latest credit card information here.
One of the requirements of the CARD Act is that all issuers' card agreements be posted online at the Federal Reserve. Here is the location of that database of card user agreements
As co-chair of the Congressional Human Trafficking Caucus, I've introduced the bipartisan “Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Deterrence and Victim Support Act” (H.R. 5575), which takes a multi-disciplinary approach to shutting down child sex trafficking in the United States.
This is an issue that regularly surfaces in the news. Just a few weeks ago, Brooklyn prosecutors indicted eight gang members for recruiting child prostitutes from public middle and high schools, then kept them out of contact with family and friends and threatened them with violence if they objected. Nationwide, scores of other arrests, indictments, and sentencings occur each week for all aspects of domestic sex trafficking in underage girls.
Too many think that sex trafficking is only a problem in foreign countries. But here in the U.S., an estimated 100,000 underage girls-- most of them American citizens-- are exploited through commercial sex each year. Yet, nationwide there are only 50 spaces to address the needs of those estimated 100,000 victims.
This is simply unacceptable; we have a moral obligation to help-- these are America’s daughters, granddaughters, sisters, and nieces.
My bill-- the House companion to a Senate version introduced by Sen. Wyden-- addresses domestic sex trafficking among minors exclusively, in the following ways:
-- Through a series of block grants, the bill would provide shelter and care for victims, including specialized counseling, clothing and other daily needs in order to keep victims from returning to the street. Lack of shelter space often means girls are sent to juvenile detention facilities which lack adequate care and counseling needed to help the victims-- or they are released on their own, which often propels them back into the clutches of pimps and exploiters.
-- It also aims to ensure adequate resources for law enforcement and prosecutors to rescue victims and put pimps behind bars.
-- Importantly, the legislation will strengthen deterrence and prevention programs aimed at potential buyers.
Complete text of the “Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Deterrence and Victim Support Act” (H.R. 5575) is here.
A $30 billion fund for small-business lending and tax relief would be created by a bill that passed the House in June. The "Small Business Lending Fund Act" of 2010 creates a new $30 billion fund to enable small- and medium-sized community banks (with less than $10 billion in assets) to lend to small businesses-- which would be paid back with interest. The bill also creates an exemption from capital gains taxes on investments made this year in small businesses, and increases tax deductions for entrepreneurs who start small businesses.
This action will help add fuel to an economic recovery. These small-business jobs bills will provide much-needed tax relief for those who start or invest in small businesses, and help get capital flowing again to creditworthy small firms.
This bill makes sense since small businesses are the backbone of the American economy, generating innovation, growth, and jobs. 75% of Americans work for firms with fewer than 250 employees. But a recent report by the Joint Economic Committee, which I chair, found that small businesses have been badly hurt by – and continue to suffer from – the tighter lending standards that resulted from the financial crisis. I am proud to support the measures we passed this week to get our nation’s small-business job creation engine back in gear.
The Federal Reserve's new rules on overdraft fees took effect July 1st. These new regulations apply to debit card transactions and ATM withdrawals, and require that the bank must obtain your permission in advance to participate in so-called overdraft "protection" plans. Previously, many banks had automatically enrolled their customers, resulting in sticker shock when $35 overdraft fees show up on bank statements at the end of the month.
The new rules do not apply to checks or recurring payments, such as automatic bill pay. Banks must comply with the new overdraft rules for all new accounts opened after July 1, and for existing accounts by Aug. 15. Find out more about the new overdraft rules at the Federal Reserve website here and here.
The Consumer Federation of America has compiled a useful guide to help consumers decide whether to opt-in to bank overdraft fees for debit card purchases and ATM withdrawals. CFA updated a survey of the largest fifteen banks’ overdraft fees and limits, reviewed bank overdraft opt-in forms, and calculated the total cost to consumers of a single debit card overdraft. That document is viewable here.
ALong with Sen. Robert Menendez, I've introduced the “Stop Deceptive Advertising in Women’s Services Act” (SDAWS), which would crack down on clinics which advertise themselves as a provider of abortion services yet don’t provide abortion services.
Although I may disagree with their views, many crisis pregnancy centers are forthright and respectful. Unfortunately, some take a more underhanded approach to lure in women seeking abortions by using tactics that should be illegal. An unintended pregnancy is an especially difficult time to encounter deception, and deceptive practices should be outlawed. Women shouldn’t have to face the added stress of deciphering whether or not the clinic they choose offers legitimate medical services.
Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America offered this comment on the bill: “We applaud Rep. Maloney and Sen. Menendez’s leadership in making sure women aren't misled about their health-care options. Many CPCs use deceptive and manipulative tactics that prevent women from making fully informed choices about their reproductive health. They put political propaganda before women’s wellbeing. Regardless of one’s position on abortion, we all should agree that lying to women is wrong. Americans value honesty in advertising and these anti-choice operations should not be exempt from living up to this basic principle.”
The SDAWS Act directs the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to promulgate rules declaring it an unfair or deceptive act for an entity, such as a crisis pregnancy center, to advertise as a provider of abortion services if the entity does not provide abortion services. Organizations that are not deceptive in their advertising or marketing will not be impacted by this bill. The bill has 11 cosponsors in the House.
Full text of the “Stop Deceptive Advertising in Women’s Services Act” (SDAWS), is viewable here.
Along with Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, State Senator George Onorato, Assemblyman Michael Gianaris, Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer today, I wrote to Mayor Bloomberg urging that the city take action to repair the Queens seawall without further delay.
A 200-foot portion of the seawall on the East River in Queensbridge Park has completely failed, and experts are warning of further deterioration along the waterfront near Queensbridge Houses, the city's largest public housing development. For safety reasons, the City Parks Department fenced off the area around the seawall, eliminating local residents’ access to the waterfront. In addition, cathodic devices under the seawall that are critical to the safe operation of New York subway lines are endangered by the seawall’s deterioration.
I helped secure significant funding to help repair the seawall, along with Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan. But the Parks Department rejected the funds because it said that the city could more quickly repair the seawall if the work was done as mitigation for city projects that have impacted area waterways, such as repairs made to the FDR Drive or the construction of the North Shore Marine Transfer Station. But many years have passed since the Parks Department rejected the funds and allowed them to be diverted to other projects, and no work has been done on the seawall.
In our letter to the Mayor,we demanded a meeting with city officials to iron out the question of which agency will satisfy their mitigation obligations under state law by making the repairs. I will keep you posted on our progress.
The crumbling seawall is an unacceptable danger to western Queens residents, who deserve a safe place to live and access to the waterfront. I know the Mayor shares our desire to protect residents of the neighborhood, and I hope he will urge city bureaucrats to get moving on the project without further delay. There’s no reason to wait any longer, and thousands of reasons to get the seawall repaired as soon as possible.
Please feel free to share this email with anyone who may be interested in these issues. As always, I appreciate your comments and invite you to write to me through my website
CAROLYN B. MALONEY
Member of Congress
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!
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