Category Archives: Laws/Legislation

Lobbying Disclosure Databases

Source: Peggy Garvin and Deanna Gelak, Online, Vol. 32 no. 5, September/October 2008
(subscription required)

Public disclosure has come to mean availability on the internet, free of charge, for everyone. HLOGA [Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 (Public Law No. 100-81)] brings lobbying disclosure records into the modern world with a requirement that the House of Representatives – via the Clerk of the House’s office – and the Senate – via the Secretary of the Senate’s office – each make the filings available online “in a searchable, sortable, and downloadable manner.”

See also:
Lobbying Law and Ethics Rules Changes in the 110th Congress
Source: Jack Maskell, Congressional Research Service, RL34166, September 2007
Regulating Lobbyists at the Statehouse
Links to State Disclosure Web Sites on Lobbying Disclosure
House Lobby Disclosure Filings Search
House Lobby Disclosure Website
Senate Lobby Disclosure Filings Search
Senate Lobby Disclosure Website
Foreign Agents Registration Act Disclosure (FARA Document Search)
Open Secrets (subscription required)

Pinkertons at DHS

Source: T.A. Frank, Washington Monthly, Vol. 40 no. 5, May/June/July 2008

Are immigration busts undermining U.S. labor law?

…In fact, there’s disturbing evidence to suggest that unscrupulous employers are leaning heavily on ICE to threaten their employees. Some of the most damning statistics come from a 2004 report by Professor Michael Wishnie of Yale Law School. In a remarkable study of all workplace raids – 184 in all – conducted by federal immigration enforcement in the New York City area over a thirty-month period, Wishnie found that over half were on workplaces officially embroiled in labor disputes.

No matter how you feel about illegal immigration, this is bad news for U.S. workers. Normally, when a factory breaks health and safety rules, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration finds out about the violations thanks to employee tips and subsequent interviews. Likewise, when a factory fails to pay minimum wage or overtime, inspectors from federal or state labor departments can normally depend on employee cooperation. If employees don’t answer questions honestly, or if they run away the moment inspectors enter a building, then investigations go nowhere. And if labor officials are unable to enforce wage and safety standards properly, then law-abiding companies and legal workers suffer too, placed at an unfair disadvantage to rogue competitors.

But the damage goes beyond that. Illegal employees who fear deportation are far easier to exploit than legal ones who don’t fear it. Owners can work illegal employees harder, subject them to more dangerous conditions, and pay them less money. So why not hire as many as possible? (To be sure, none of this would apply if employer sanctions for hiring illegal workers were heavy, but in reality they are light- and rarely imposed.) In this way, the so called “job magnet,” the main driver of illegal immigration, remains as powerful as ever. Perversely, then, the occasional ICE bust can make illegal workers even more appealing to employers than legal immigrants or American citizens.

The Impact of Extending Marriage to Same-Sex Couples on the California Budget

Source: Brad Sears and M.V. Lee Badgett, Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law, June 2008

This analysis estimates the impact of the California Supreme Court’s recent decision to extend marriage to same-sex couples on state and local government revenues in California. Using the best data available, we estimate that allowing same-sex couples to marry will result in approximately $63.8 million in revenue for the state of California over the next three years. The weddings of same-sex couples will generate new economic activity for the state’s businesses and over the next three years, the direct spending from same-sex couples on weddings and tourism will generate over $63.8 million in revenue for state and local governments.
The Impact on Iowa’s Budget of Allowing Same-Sex Couples to Marry

Justice Department Okays Benefits for Child of Lesbian Couple

Source: Sue Reisinger, AMLaw Daily, June 17, 2008

The federal government won’t recognize same-sex couples, but it can pay benefits to their children. That’s the result of a U.S. Department of Justice opinion released June 9. According to the opinion, federal law does not prohibit the Social Security Administration from paying insurance benefits to the nonbiological child of a partner in a Vermont civil union. The decision is notable because the Defense of Marriage Act bars the government from extending federal benefits to gay and lesbian couples.

Court upholds U.S. Department of Labor reporting requirements on employer payments to unions

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Press release, 08-0693-NAT, 5/20/2008

WASHINGTON — On May 5, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia dismissed a challenge to the U.S. Department of Labor’s authority to require reports from attorneys who make payments to unions or union officials. The Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) requires employers to file reports if, among other things, they provide money or other things of value to a union or a union officer or employee.

In this case, Warshauer v. Chao, an attorney who had been appointed as a designated legal counsel by the United Transportation Union (UTU) sued to enjoin the secretary of labor from requiring him to file a Form LM-10 (Employer Report). Designated legal counsel are lawyers recommended by a union to its members for representation in workers’ compensation, personal injury or other matters.

Recent CRS Reports

Source: Congressional Research Service
• February 26, 2008 – Child Welfare Issues in the 110th Congress
• February 20, 2008 – Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) for Workers: Current Issues and Legislation
• February 19, 2008 – The Alternative Minimum Tax For Individuals: Legislative Activity in the 110th Congress
• February 14, 2008 – Largest Mergers and Acquisitions by Corporations in 2007

Returning Reserve Troops Are Still Being Denied Their Old Jobs, Witnesses tell House Labor Subcommittee

Source: U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Education and Labor, Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions, Press release, February 12, 2008

An increasing number of military service members and U.S. contractors working abroad are being discriminated against on the job and are left with little ability to hold their employers accountable for it, witnesses told the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions today.
“If a worker is wronged while on the job, then that employee should have every opportunity to be made whole under the law,” said Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ), chairman of the subcommittee. “Unfortunately, there are too many loopholes in the law today and we have the responsibility to not allow any instance of discrimination to go unchecked.”

Reserve troops returning home from active duty in places like Iraq and Afghanistan are finding it difficult to get their jobs back, government statistics show. According to a U.S. Defense Department report, more than 33,000 reserve service members from 2001 to 2005 have complained to the agency that their employers failed to give them their jobs back – as required by law – or received a reduction in pay and benefits.

Witness testimonies from hearing

Maloney Bill Targets Credit Card Abuses – Legislation Reining in Unfair Interest Rate Hikes and Unjust Fees a Strong Step Forward

Source: Consumers Union, Press release, February 7, 2008

WASHINGTON, D.C. — New legislation introduced today by House Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee Chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA) curbs some of the most abusive credit card lending practices, consumer groups said.

Among the key provisions of the “Credit Card Bill of Rights Act” are prohibitions on:
• Bait-and-switch interest rate and fee hikes for any or no reason at all during the life of the card;
• Assessing hidden and unfair interest rate charges by charging interest on balances already paid off;
• Unjustifiably maximizing interest charges by requiring consumers to pay off balances with lower interest rates before those with higher rates;
• Charging late fees when consumers mail their payments seven days in advance of the due date; and
• Applying certain unfair interest rate hikes retroactively to balances incurred under the old rate.

See also:
HR 5244 To amend the Truth in Lending Act
S. 1395: Stop Unfair Practices in Credit Cards Act of 2007

Compulsory Labor in a National Emergency: Public Service or Involuntary Servitude? The Case of Crippled Ports

Source: Michael H. LeRoy, Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law, Volume 28, no. 2, 2007

The Thirteenth Amendment ban on involuntary servitude has new relevance as the United States grapples with national emergencies such as catastrophic hurricanes, flu pandemics, and terrorism. This article considers work refusal and coerced work performance in the context of life-threatening employment. Overwhelmed by fear, hundreds of police officers and health care workers abandoned their jobs during Hurricane Katrina. Postal clerks worked against their will without masks in facilities with anthrax. A report by Congress demonstrates concern that avian flu will cause sick and frightened medical personnel to stay away from work, thus jeopardizing a coherent response to a crisis. How far can the U.S. go in forcing reluctant civilians to perform essential jobs during a national emergency? The author explores solutions to his question by hypothesizing a large release of radiation–whether by terror attack, catastrophic accident, or major earthquake–in a vital Pacific port.