Category Archives: Laws/Legislation

Justice Department Issues New FBI Guidelines

Source: Center for Democracy and Technology, October 03, 2008

The Justice Department today issued new guidelines for FBI investigations, weakening the standards that have long been in place to ensure proper targeting of law enforcement and national security investigations. The guidelines represent another step in the creation of a domestic intelligence system in the United States. They permit FBI agents to go undercover to collect information, send in informants and tail citizens, all without suspicion of wrongdoing or connections to a foreign power.
Attorney General Guidelines
DOJ Fact Sheet
FBI Dir. Mueller/ A.G. Mukasey Statement

Selected State Pension and Retirement Legislation Enacted in 2008

Source: National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems, 2008

This report was compiled for the National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems by staff of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). This report summarizes selected state pensions and retirement legislation enacted through July 7, 2008. It builds upon a search of the legislation of all the states that held regular or special sessions from January through July 2008. The Arkansas, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon and Texas legislatures did not convene in regular session in 2008. Some states continue in session at this time. This report will be updated late in 2008 to reflect actions that may occur after July 7. The legislation summarized below was compiled from several sources. The report is based upon comprehensive surveys of legislation Statenet provided NCSL. That foundation was augmented with legislation and legislative summaries reported on various legislatures’ and state retirement systems’ Websites, and summaries legislative staff provided NCSL.

Mortgage Market Deregulation and Equity Stripping Under Sanction of Law

Source: Vincent Dilorenzo, St. John’s Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08-0146

From the abstract:
Who is to blame for the large mortgage market losses borne by consumers, communities, the financial services industry and others? This paper explores government’s responsibility. It explores whether the decision to deregulate the mortgage market to a degree that permitted both unsafe and unfair mortgage practices was the decision of Congress or the federal regulatory agencies. Part one of this paper explores Congress’ viewpoint toward deregulation of the mortgage market. It differentiates two types of deregulation: (a) lifting of statutory requirements and substituting regulatory constraints, and (b) lifting of all government mandates and substituting a preference for market forces to police abusive practices. This paper examines Congress’ actions and motivations over a thirty year period and initially concludes that Congress embraced the former view and not the latter. This view was consistently embraced in the period 1982 to 1994 to address unsafe banking practices and unfair banking practices. Unfortunately, Congress then provided mixed signals regarding its deregulation viewpoint in legislative enactments in 1994 when faced with unfair banking practices. This permitted regulatory agencies to continue to pursue a deregulatory agenda even when faced with evidence of abusive lending practices.

Part two of this paper explores the viewpoint of the federal regulatory agencies toward deregulation of the mortgage market. It examines the actions and viewpoints of the federal banking regulators in the last three decades. Two conclusions emerge. First, the agencies preferred a free market approach and implemented such an approach whenever statutes provided the discretion to do so. Second, the regulatory agencies embraced a decision making model that relied on predictions of net societal benefits as the determinant of a decision to intervene in the mortgage markets. Such a viewpoint led the agencies to typically shun government intervention. That decision led to equity stripping for over a decade, especially in low-income communities, more equity stripping in recent years as lax lending practices led to defaults and foreclosures, and even more in the coming year as foreclosures multiply.

A Legislative Agenda For The First 100 Days

Source: Bill Fletcher Jr., New Labor Forum, Vol. 17 no. 3, Fall 2008
(subscription required)

This agenda will be moot without a strong backing from social forces that are prepared to press for its implementation. Any demobilization of those who successfully brought the Democratic candidate to victory will buoy the political Rights leverage to assert its own agenda. Right-wing forces will push for a continuation of the Bush administrations anti-progressive policies. Thus, if we are not prepared to consistently place enough pressure on our “friend” in the White House, we should expect a repeat of the Bill Clinton years–an era in which there was (technically) a high degree of access to the President and top cabinet officials, but the progressive social movements were afforded very little actual power.

HUD Publishes Proposed PHAS Rule

Source: PHADA Advocate, Vol. 23 no. 16, September 17, 2008
(subscription required)

Significant Changes Made to Management Indicator

On August 21, HUD published “Changes to the Public Housing Assessment System” in the Federal Register, with comments due October 20, 2008. These changes are particularly dramatic in the management indicator, but important alterations were also made to the financial one while a new indicator entitled ‘Capital Fund’ replaces the resident survey.

Although each asset management project (AMP) will now receive a score, there will be no ‘troubled’ AMPs. Troubled status can only be imposed on a housing authority as a whole for a total score which falls below 60. Agencies will no longer be troubled in a single indicator, such as financially troubled, if an indicator score falls below 60 while the total authority score remains above 60. Agencies meeting these criteria will now be referred to as substandard. These agencies will have to correct deficiencies but are not required to enter into a memorandum of agreement with the Department

The Social Security Number: Legal Developments Affecting Its Collection, Disclosure, and Confidentiality

Source: Congressional Research Service, RL30318, February 21, 2008

From the summary:
While the social security number (SSN) was first introduced as a device for keeping track of contributions to the Social Security system, its use has been expanded by government entities and the private sector to keep track of many other government and private sector records. Use of the social security number as a federal government identifier was based on Executive Order 9393, issued by President Franklin Roosevelt. Beginning in the 1960s, federal agencies started adopting the social security number as a governmental identifier, and its use for keeping track of government records, on both the federal and state levels, greatly increased. Section 7 of the Privacy Act of 1974 limits compulsory divulgence of the social security number by government entities. While the Privacy Act does provide some limits on the use of the social security number by state and federal entities, exceptions provided in that statute and succeeding statutes have resulted in only minimal restrictions on governmental usage of the social security number. Constitutional challenges to social security number collection and dissemination have, for the most part, been unsuccessful. Private sector use of the social security number is widespread and continues to be largely unregulated by the federal government. The chronology in this report provides a list of federal developments affecting use of the social security number, including federal regulation of the number, as well as specific authorizations, restrictions, and fraud provisions concerning its use.

Legal Issues Relating to State Health Care Regulation: ERISA Preemption and Fair Share Laws

Source: Jon O. Shimabukuro and Jennifer Staman, Legislative Attorneys, American Law Division, Congressional Research Service (CRS), Order Code RL34637, August 26, 2008

In the absence of comprehensive federal health care reform, states and localities have undertaken certain initiatives in an effort to expand the provision of health care to residents. One type of measure has been the fair share law, which generally requires employers to choose between paying a certain amount towards health expenditures or coverage for their employees, or contributing to a state or locality to offset the cost of medical expenses for uninsured residents. Questions have been raised as to whether fair share laws can be preempted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). This report provides an overview of ERISA preemption, discusses legal challenges to fair share laws, and analyzes the fair share requirements included as part of the Massachusetts Health Care Reform Act.

Legal and Regulatory Issues Presented by Health Care Reform

Source: Timothy Stoltzfus Jost, Washington and Lee University, 2007

From the summary:
This paper discusses what law is and the role it plays in health policy. The author then proceeds to examine four areas where changes in the law will be necessary to implement health care reform. These include:
1. The relationship between federal and state authority and responsibility in governing health care;
2. The definition of health care entitlements;
3. Regulation of markets for health insurance; and
4. Regulation of the delivery of health care products and services.

New Publications and Internet Sites

Source: EBRI Employee Benefit Research Institute Notes, Vol. 29 no. 5, May 2008

Web Documents:
2008 Health Care for America Survey: Summary of Findings
Changes in Family Health Insurance Coverage for Small and Large Firm Workers and Dependents: Evidence from 1995 to 2005
Consumer-Driven Impact Study
Current Strategies to Employ and Retain Older Workers
Employer “Pay or Play” Requirements–Key State and Local Health Care Reform Initiatives
EP Determination Letter Resource Guide [for retirement plan sponsors]
FMLA Practices and Perspectives: A Survey of WorldatWork Members
Hewitt FMLA Resources for Employers
Improvement in Multiemployer Pension Plans’ Withdrawal Liability Funded Ratios Continues
MetLife Sixth Annual Study of Employee Benefits Trends–Findings from the National Survey of Employers and Employees
Milliman 2008 Pension Funding Study: 2007 Gains Reversed in First Quarter of 2008
Retirement Security for Women: Progress To Date and Policies for Tomorrow
The Role of IRAs in U.S. Households’ Saving for Retirement
Social Security: An Essential Asset and Insurance Protection for All
Summary of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)