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Lori WallachBe sure to mark your calendar for Thursday September 26 for the next NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation luncheon:

Worse than NAFTA? Why North Carolinians should be very, very worried about the so-called “Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

Click here to register

Featuring Lori Wallach, Director of the Global Trade Watch Division at the national advocacy group Public Citizen.

Co-sponsored by AFL-CIO of North Carolina and Witness for Peace.

Few American states have experienced the devastating impact of global “free” trade more directly and painfully than North Carolina. Our shuttered manufacturing plants and record unemployment rates both serve as powerful daily reminders of the lasting impact of NAFTA, CAFTA and other alphabet soup trade deals negotiated by far-off politicians and corporate giants.

Now, amazingly enough, yet another such trade agreement is being negotiated in secret, and it could be the worst one yet. As you read this, trade officials from the U.S. and 11 Pacific Rim nations are negotiating something called the Trans-Pacific Partnership in hopes of reaching agreement this fall.

Lori Wallach thinks this is a big mistake. Read More

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Duke Energy ratehikeWaving over-sized “Monopoly” money and signs calling for the state Utilities Commission and its Public Staff to begin acting like genuine watchdogs, 50-plus representatives from a variety of consumer and environmental groups held a press conference/protest today outside the offices of the Commission in downtown Raleigh. The took place just over an hour prior to the commencement of new hearings on what would be Duke’s third major rate hike for residential consumers since 2009.

Despite the immediate impetus for the event, Jim Warren, Executive Director of NC WARN said that the protest was about “a lot more than a rate hike. ” He said that protesters were calling into question “Duke Energy’s business model” which is predicated on improperly charging customers hundreds of millions of dollars each year.   Read More

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Some giant corporations complain about and battle government. Others try to co-opt and corrupt it. In the case of Duke Energy, one gets the distinct impression that the ever-mushrooming Charlotte-based monopoly will simply absorb North Carolina state government at some point and turn it into its Raleigh branch.

Fortunately, some intrepid consumer advocates are still giving Duke heck for the heck it continually visits upon residential ratepayers and our ever-more-fragile natural environment. Here’s their press statement from earlier this week on the occasion of a public hearing in Charlotte (the actual Utilities Commission proceedings begin Monday July 8 here in Raleigh — be on the lookout for more information):

Broad Coalition of Ratepayers Calls for Rejection of Duke Energy Rate Hike
Rate case opposed for environmental, social justice and financial reasons

Charlotte, NC.  A broad coalition of organizations and dissatisfied ratepayers will gather this evening at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse to call on the North Carolina Utilities Commission to reject the proposed Duke Energy rate hike and a settlement proposed by the Commission’s Public Staff. The coalition’s opposition is based on environmental, social justice and financial reasons. Read More

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At a time of historically low interest rates, state lawmakers gave final approval last night to legislation that ramps up the cost of consumer finance loans.

Meanwhile, consumer advocates are calling on Governor McCrory — who once made his oppostion to predatory “payday” loans a major plank in a mayoral reelection campaign in Charlotte  — to veto the legislation. This was released earlier today:

AARP Calls on Governor to Reject Rate Hike for Consumer Loans, Senate Bill 489 Senate Bill 489 will increase rates and fees on consumer finance loans 

RALEIGH —  On Monday night the Senate voted to concur with the House’s amendments to Senate Bill 489.  The bill now goes to the Governor’s office for his consideration.

“We are calling on the Governor to reject Senate Bill 489,” said AARP NC Director Doug Dickerson. “This legislation is going to hurt seniors and other consumers that use these loans by increasing interest rates and adding new fees.” Read More

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3-4-13-NCPW-CARTOONTomorrow the North Carolina House Banking Committee will hear proposed legislation (already passed by the Senate) to jack up rates on already exorbitantly priced installment loans.

And in case you had any doubts as to what the proposal (and others like it) are at least partially about, check out this news story from earlier today over at Bloomberg News:

Payday Lenders Evading Rules Pivot to Installment Loans

For three years, payday lenders have been bracing for dedicated scrutiny from a U.S. agency for the first time. One way they’re getting ready: switching to loans designed to fall outside the regulator’s grasp.

Companies including Cash America International Inc. (CSH) and Advance America Cash Advance Centers Inc. (AEA) are increasingly selling longer-term installment loans to avoid rules the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau may impose on their shorter-term products.

Read the entire article by clicking here.