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Washington Poised to Be Second Paid Parental Leave State

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Washington Poised to Be Second Paid Parental Leave State

NOTE: Our condolences and thoughts go out to the families and friends of the victims and to the students and staff at Virginia Tech who suffered through the horrific madness of this week's events.

In Today's Dispatch:

Research Roundup

Research Roundup

Valuing Families

Washington Poised to Be Second Paid Parental Leave State

This past week, the Washington State House voted to approve five weeks of paid leave for parents with a new born or adopted child, following earlier approval of a broader Senate measure, SB 5659, that would have also included paid leave to to take care of a seriously ill parent.  Another advantage of the law is that parents in employers with 25 or more employees would have their jobs protected while away, more job protection than under federal law which covers only employers with 50 or more employees.

While the scaled-down Washington House version is less ambitious, and finding funding for the program has been deferred to a study task force, it is still encouraging that Washington will likely become the second state with family leave, following California which a number of years ago began offering employees six weeks of paid leave (up to $822 per week) for a new child or to take care of a loved one.

Other State Action:  

  • In Oregon, the state House has approved HB 2575, which offers  six weeks of up to up to $350 per week to care for a new child or ill family member.
  • The New Jersey Senate Labor Committee has approved a bill, S2249, to allow up to twelve weeks of $502 in weekly benefits.
  • And the Working Families Party and other coalition partners are working to move a paid family leave bill through the New York legislature.

As we discussed a few months ago, the United States remains one of the only countries on earth where new parents do not have some form of paid leave.  State by state, we are beginning to remove that anti-family blot in our public policy.

More Resources

Growing Economy

Supreme Court Shuts Down Range of State Banking Laws in Gift to Predatory Lenders

In a blow to consumers, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday that mortgage lending subsidiaries of national banks are exempt from state regulation.  Every state attorney general and bank regulator had urged the High Court to protect these state laws, especially in light of federal inaction in the face of abuse by predatory lenders.

But the Court in its Watters v. Wachovia decision, upheld the power of the Bush Office of the Comptroller (OCC) to pass regulations shutting down such state laws.  Those federal decisions, as we discussed a few weeks ago, directly fed the predatory lending mortgage bubble and helped encourage the abuses that may lead to 2.2 million subprime borrowers facing foreclosure on their home loans.

Justice Stevens, in his dissent to the decision, blasted his fellow Court members for endorsing those executive decisions, since no new Congressional action had given the OCC guidance to undermine these state laws:

"Never before have we endorsed administrative action whose sole purpose was to pre-empt state law rather than to implement a statutory command."

Stevens point was that while the federal government might have the power to preempt state laws, it should only do so when Congress has clearly authorized such preemption or where the exercise of existing federal laws leave "no room for additional state regulation."  Clearly, given federal inaction, there was plenty of room for state regulation in this situation, so the Court's decision is a radical expansion of executive power to undermine state power at the whim of a federal regulator.

Congressman Barney Frank, who chairs the House Banking Commitee, expressed similar outrage at the court decision: "We have to act on this...The controller has eliminated a whole bunch of state consumer laws with nothing to put in their place."  Hopefully, instead of just passing a few additional federal consumer protections, Congress will also restore state power to add its own protections as well.

More Resources

Strengthening Communities

New York Acts to Restrict Improper Influence of Student Loan Companies

We highlighted the problems of predatory lending industry a few weeks ago and now, problems are coming to light with the student loan industry.  In one of the more egregious examples, Student Loan Express, a student loan company that is a unit of CIT Group, Inc, is alleged to have paid more than $21,000 for Johns Hopkins University's director of student financial services to attend graduate school.  Coincidentally (or not), Student Loan Express happens to be on the preferred lender list at Johns Hopkins. 

And, it turns out, the problem is widespread.  A recent inquiry found that the student loan industry widely engages in illegal and deceptive practices, including financial payments to colleges for directing students to specific lenders, gifts and trips from lenders to financial aid directors and staffing of university call centers by lender employees.  

New York Takes Action: In response to these revelations, New York's legislature just introduced legislation that would implement strict regulations on the relationship between colleges and the companies that make tuition loans to their students.  the bill would ban lenders from sharing revenue from student loans with colleges and ban lenders from offering gifts to school officials or naming them to corporate advisory boards in exchange fro being placed on preferring lender lists.  The Student Lending Accountability, Transparency and Enforcement Act (Slate) was introduced in response to an investigation into the student loan industry by New York's attorney general. 

While New York is the first state to introduce new legislation, several attorney generals have begun investigating the relationship between lenders and colleges, including the attorney generals of California, Illinois, Ohio, Connecticut and Minnesota.  In Illinois, the Chicago Tribune reported that two top Chicago State officials are shareholders and board members of a bank the university recommends to students who need loans.

Under pressure of the investigations, Citibank has voluntarily donated $2 million to educate parents and students about  student loans in response to the investigation.  Sallie Mae, the nation's largest student lender, has also agreed to pay $2 million and adopt a new code of conduct on its lending practices.  Under the agreement, Sallie Mae consented to discontinuing call centers or other staffing for college financial aid offices, discontinue paying financial aid officers for appearing on advisory boards and discontinue paying for any trips or travel for any financial aid officer.

The student loan industry is an $85 billion industry, so states need to follow the lead of New York to make such illicit bribing of college officials by student loan lenders illegal.

More Resources

Research Roundup

Research Roundup

The bad news on Wal-Mart's abuse of taxpayers keeps coming. New research by Citizens for Tax Justice and Change to Win shows that Wal-Mart used tax loopholes in escape $2.3 billion in state corporate income taxes between 1999 and 2005.   But the news is worse-- add in health care costs dumped on taxpayers and other scams, and WakeUpWal-Mart estimates that Wal-Mart is costing state taxpayers up to $2.5 billion EVERY YEAR.

Comparing the rise in residential construction permits to the official rise in residential affordable housing construction payroll employment, New York's Fiscal Policy Institute released a report estimating that two-thirds of workers in this sector are employed off-the-books or as independent contractors, encouraging low wages and illegal abuse of workers rights among such residential construction workers.

The Center for American Progress has released a report,  "Toxic Trains and the Terrorist Threat," on how rail transport of chlorine gas threatens our communities and how states can take action to expand chemical safety regulations to encourage less use of chlorine gas.

Washington Poised to Be Second Paid Parental Leave State

Bills: Oregon HB 2575, New Jersey S2249, Washington SB 5659

Progressive States & MomsRising, Providing Paid Family Leave

Project on Global Working Families, Work, Family and Equity Index: How Does the US Measure Up?

Supreme Court Shuts Down Range of State Banking Laws in Gift to Predatory Lenders

Supreme Court, Watters v. Wachovia Bank

FindLaw, Watters v. Wachovia Bank

Progressive States Network, The Predatory Lending Bubble and How the Feds Made it Worse

New Rules Project, Preemption of State Banking Rules

State PIRGS, OCC Watch

New York Acts to Restrict Improper Influence of Student Loan Companies

New York Attorney General's Announcement of the Slate Act:

New York Acts to Curb Lenders to Students

Cuomo Subpoenas CIT, Columbia Over Lending Conflicts

College's Links to Lender Revealed 2 on Bank's Board from Chicago State

State Probes Student Loans Following Tribune Report

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Masthead

The Stateside Dispatch is written and edited by:

Nathan Newman, Policy Director
Mijin Cha, Policy Specialist
Adam Thompson, Policy Specialist
John Bacino, Communications Associate

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Please shoot me an email at jbacino@progressivestates.org if you have feedback, tips, suggestions, criticisms, or nominations for any of our sidebar features.

John Bacino
Editor, Stateside Dispatch

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