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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

The end of net neutrality as we know it? | Ed Mierzwinski

On Thursday, 5/15 the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) meets to propose new rules "to protect and promote the open Internet." It has no choice because a U.S. appellate court threw out parts of its current rules in a January decision favoring the telephone company Verizon. The decision did not eliminate FCC authority to regulate the Internet, but it did make it more complicated.

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Media Hit | Democracy

Money & Politics

How will recent campaign finance rulings by the Supreme Court and by the Maryland Board of Elections affect the governor’s race and other state campaigns? How do Maryland campaign finance laws compare to those of other states? Our guests: Andy Kroll, senior reporter for Mother Jones; Bruce Marcus, chair of the bipartisan state commission that looked at Maryland’s campaign finance structure; and Emily Scarr, director of Maryland’s Public Interest Research Group.

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Media Hit | Tax

Editorial: Improve online databases

“Big data” has become a catchphrase of our age, and Gov. Martin O’Malley is a professed believer in data-gathering and numbers-crunching as a tool in governing – hence, his much-heralded StateStat system. So it’s a little disappointing — if not surprising, given the usual bureaucratic resistance to change – that only modest steps have been taken to make this bonanza accessible to the taxpayers.

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Media Hit | Tax

Slightly Brighter Sunlight

Maryland is gradually improving its scoring when it comes to being transparent to the public, having moved from a C to a B- in a recently released report card from the Maryland PIRG Foundation.

That grade could get better: Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law this week legislation that may shine a little more light into the dark and dusty corners of state spending.

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News Release | Maryland PIRG Foundation | Tax

Poll: Public Wants Federal Agencies to Disclose and Restrict Corporate Tax Write Offs for Out-of-Court Settlements

A new poll shows that Americans want federal agencies to better disclose information about out-of-court settlements with corporations and to restrict companies from writing off these payments as tax deductions.

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Media Hit | Tax

New law aims at better access to Md. government data as state gets B- for transparency .

From C to B-

Maryland received a B- when it comes to transparency on government spending, up from a C last year, according to the fifth annual report card by Maryland PIRG Foundation, released Tuesday.

“Maryland has become more transparent about where public money goes, providing citizens with the information they need to hold elected officials and recipients of public subsidies accountable,” said Emily Scarr, Maryland PIRG Foundation Director. “Unfortunately, we’re still in the middle of the pack as far as state spending transparency, not leading the way as we should be.”

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Media Hit | Tax

Report: Maryland earns slightly higher grade for online transparency

The report, called “Following the Money 2014,” ranked Maryland 23rd in the country for its spending transparency website — tied with Pennsylvania — scoring 82.5 out of a possible 100 points. This year marks the fifth year that the report has been released by U.S. PIRG.

Maryland received a grade of B- from the report’s authors in an analysis of the content on the state’s transparency website and how easy the website is to use. The grade is an improvement from last year’s grade of a C for the website.

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News Release | Maryland PIRG Foundation | Tax

New Report: Maryland Receives a B- in Annual Report on Transparency of Government Spending

Maryland received a “B-“ when it comes to government spending transparency, according to “Following the Money 2014: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data,” the fifth annual report of its kind by the Maryland PIRG Foundation.

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Media Hit | Democracy

Supreme Court Gets It Wrong (again) On Campaign Finance

The court's decision to eliminate federal limits on the total amount of money that mega-donors can contribute during an election cycle empowers a tiny group of fewer than 3,000 elite donors to spend an additional billion dollars in our elections through 2020.

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News Release | Maryland PIRG Foundation | Tax

NEW REPORT TO GRADE MARYLAND AND OTHER STATES ON SPENDING TRANSPARENCY

The Maryland PIRG Foundation will release a new report, “Following the Money 2014: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data,” evaluating each state on how well it provides spending information online and assigning them with “A” to “F” letter grades. The report will reveal Maryland’s letter grade, compare its public disclosure of spending information to other states, and provide recommendations for improvements.

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Result | Safe Energy

EmPOWER Maryland Act

In 2008, Maryland PIRG helped pass the EmPOWER Maryland Act, which sets a statewide goal of reducing per capita electricity use 15% by 2015.

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Despite Big Tobacco, winning smoke-free restaurants

In 2007, Maryland PIRG Foundation and Maryland PIRG Citizen Lobby helped lead the campaign to make all Baltimore workplaces, including restaurants and bars, smoke-free.

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Report | Maryland PIRG Foundation | Transportation

Transportation in Transition

Tranportation in Transition

 

Americans’ transportation habits have changed. The average American drives 7.6 percent fewer miles today than when per-capita driving peaked in 2004.

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Report | Maryland PIRG Foundation | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland 2013

The 2013 Trouble in Toyland report is the 28th annual Maryland Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) survey of toy safety. In this report, Maryland PIRG provides safety guidelines for consumers when purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that may pose potential safety hazards.

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Report | Maryland PIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection, Safe Energy

Stepping Up to Bigger Savings

Energy efficiency is one of the best investments Maryland can make in its electricity system. Energy efficiency saves money on energy, increases the reliability of the state’s electricity supply, and reduces harmful pollution from power plants. Recognizing these benefits, the state passed the EmPOWER Maryland Act in 2007, which directs utilities to cut per-capita energy use 15 percent below 2007 levels by 2015.

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Private Loans, Public Complaints

This report is the second of several that will review complaints to the CFPB nationally and on a state-by-state level. In this report we explore consumer complaints in the private student loan sector with the aim of uncovering patterns in the problems consumers are experiencing with their student loans.

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Report | Maryland PIRG, Demos | Democracy

McCutcheon Money

This term, the Supreme Court is considering a challenge to aggregate contribution limits in a case called McCutcheon v. FEC. The current limit on what one person may contribute to all federal candidates, parties and PACs is $123,200. Absent this limit, one wealthy donor would be permitted to contribute more than $3.5 million to a single party’s candidates and party committees (plus a virtually unlimited amount to supportive PACs).

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Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Testimony on HB0229: Prohibition of Child Care Products Containing Flame-Retardant Chemicals - TDCPP

Studies link chlorinated Tris to neurological damage, hormone disruption, mutagenicity and cancer,    and it has the same chemical structure as banned chemicals like DDT, PCBs and Dioxin. Chlorinated Tris tested positive for mutagenicity in the 1970s and as a result it was voluntarily removed from children’s pajamas in 1977. Since the action was voluntary, companies can legally use it in other consumer products without informing government officials or the public.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Target says "Oops, 70-110 million consumers hacked." | Ed Mierzwinski

Target is now saying that "a range of 70 million to 110 million people," not the original 40 million customers, had their credit or debit card numbers hacked in December. Even worse, Target is admitting that the database stolen included email addresses and phone numbers, which leaves consumers vulnerable to phishing attacks that could lead to identity theft, as if fraud on existing accounts wasn't enough. Here are some tips.

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Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Toy Safety Tips | Emily Scarr

For 28 years, Maryland PIRG Foundation has worked to identify unsafe toys. Below are our top tips to help you choose the safest toys for the children in your life.

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Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Bag-O-Glass? Tips on finding both the visible and invisible toy dangers. | Emily Scarr

This iconic SNL skit "Bag 'O Glass," features toys you should NOT buy, courtesy of Dan Akroyd and Candice Bergen. Today, toys are safer then ever.... but there are still some toys to avoid.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB Report Shows Credit CARD Act Works | Ed Mierzwinski

Last week, the CFPB released a report showing that the landmark PIRG-backed Credit CARD Act of 2009 is saving consumers billions of dollars by helping them avoid penalty fees and unfair interest rate increases. We joined CFPB director Richard Cordray and others in Chicago to discuss the report's findings.

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