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Fort BraggThere’s word from the General Assembly that the consumer finance industry is unhappy with state law designed to help protect active members of the military from exploitation. In case you’ve forgotten, the consumer finance industry runs more than 400 storefront shops throughout North Carolina that make loans featuring high interest rates and fees. The loans are often packed with junk insurance products and customers are also routinely “flipped” from one loan to another.

The provision at issue (G.S. 53-180.1) was enacted last year as part of legislation that gave the industry the authority to significantly raise the amounts it charges for loans. While failing to protect the rest of us from these predatory lending practices, the General Assembly was shamed into including some modest protections for military service members, whose paychecks are often targeted by the industry. The provision requires lenders to make sure that they do not extend loans to lower ranking enlisted personnel without at least notifying their commanding officers. It also prevents lenders from trying to collect on loans via phone or email from service members or their spouses while the service member is deployed to a dangerous area.

Now, less than a year after the protections were enacted, it appears that at least some lenders want the law (or its enforcement) weakened. For some time, it has been rumored that industry lobbyists have been working on such an effort and recently, insiders report, an industry representative confirmed the rumor.

In addition to raising the real prospect that junior service members could be exploited before heading off to Afghanistan or some other dangerous venue, such a potential change also raises important political issues in the Senate race between Senator Kay Hagan and House Speaker Thom Tillis. Read More

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Trans-Pacific PartnershipOne of the things notably and happily absent from President Obama’s State of the Union speech this week was any push for the pro-corporate/globalization agenda found in the move to revive “Fast Track” and approve the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). About which, all a caring and thinking person can say is “thank goodness.”

As explained in this commentary from last October (“NAFTA on Steroids?”), the TPP is a potentially grave threat to the well-being of American workers and consumers and our national security itself. By ceding democratic powers to corporations and international tribunals, the TPP threatens to subject American labor, environmental and consumer protections to being overruled and dismantled as unlawful restraints on trade. Meanwhile “Fast Track” is an already discredited idea that would bestow powers on the President to unilaterally negotiate and control trade agreements that has been appended on to TPP legislation in Congress.

The President’s failure to promote the proposal is being hailed by opponents as an extremely positive sign — especially given the public opposition of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. According to the good folks at Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch program: Read More

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The Affordable Care Act needs lots more work, but it is also an essential and incredibly important step toward improving the American health care system: That’s one of the central messages that was delivered to a large and engaged audience yesterday at an NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation breakfast by Lynn Quincy of Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine.  You can watch the video of the event below — Quincy’s talk starts at around the 6:30 mark. You can also check out her PowerPoint presentation by clicking here.

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Lynn QuincyIn case you missed the excellent explanation of the Affordable Care Act by Lynn Quincy of Consumers Union at this morning’s NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation breakfast in Raleigh, don’t fret — we’ll have a video of the event posted shortly. In the mean time, click here to view a PDF version of Lynn’s slides — which also include several helpful web links to sites maintained by the folks at Consumers Union/Consumer reports.

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It’s going to be a full house, but we have a few seats remaining for tomorrow morning’s Crucial Conversation breakfast — “The Truth about the Affordable Care Act: What it really means for American health care consumers” with Lynn Quincy of Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine. Here are the vitals:

When: Tuesday, December 10 at 8:00 a.m. — Coffee and breakfast will be available at 7:45 a.m.

Where: Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. (At the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets)

Space is limited – pre-registration required.

Click here for parking info.

Click here to register

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com