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News Release | Maryland PIRG Foundation | Transportation

New Report Finds $71 in Volkswagen Settlement Funds Headed to Maryland Could Help Accelerate All-electric Transportation Revolution

A new report from the Maryland PIRG Foundation finds that $71 Million from the Volkswagen (VW) settlement is headed to Maryland to help clean up the state’s transportation system and recommends using the funds to purchase electric vehicle fast charging stations for the state’s highways along with an aggressive expansion of all-electric transit buses to replace aging, dirty, diesel buses.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB Report Finds 1 In 4 Consumers Feel "Threatened" By Debt Collector Tactics | Ed Mierzwinski

We joined Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray and Washington, DC Attorney General Karl Racine for release of new CFPB data on debt collector abuses. Fully 1 in 4 consumers feel "threatened" by abusive, possibly illegal, debt collector tactics. The release also included an emphasis on problems with the "debt buyer" industry, comprised of firms that buy older, uncollected debt for as little as less than a penny on the dollar.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

CFPB Taps Former Pentagon Legal Official to Head Office of Servicemember Affairs

We join National Consumer Law Center, Americans for Financial Reform and other leading groups in a release commending the appointment of senior Pentagon official Colonel Paul Kantwill (U.S. Army, Retired) to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) Office of Servicemember Affairs. The CFPB plays an important role in protecting servicemembers, veterans and their families from financial predators.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

CFPB Slams Two Credit Bureaus For Deceptive Marketing, Expect Experian Next | Ed Mierzwinski

This week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau nailed two "big 3" credit bureaus --Trans Union and Equifax -- for deceptive marketing of their over-priced, under-performing credit monitoring subscription products.  Combined fines and consumer restitution total $23 million. I predict that the CFPB will also bring a case against the remaining bureau, Experian, and that it will pay much more, because Experian really has led the way in aggressively marketing these tawdry products. They don't prevent identity theft, nor do they always accurately disclose your credit score, at fees of up to $16.95/month or more. Yikes!

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Media Hit | Public Health

Juliana Bilowich: Maryland’s chemical protections

The morning before my mom told me she had breast cancer, we went shoe shopping to pick out sandals for the coming summer. I stared down at those sandals as she told me the news, and because I didn’t dare ask my first question – how long until it gets bad – I asked my second question: How did this happen?

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Media Hit | Public Health

Congress poised to pass sweeping reform of chemical law

Congress is on the cusp of passing the most sweeping overhaul of U.S. chemical safety laws in 40 years, a rare bipartisan accord that has won the backing of both industry officials and some of the Hill’s most liberal lawmakers.

The Toxic Substances Control Act, which has not been reauthorized since President Gerald Ford signed it into law in 1976, regulates thousands of chemicals in everyday products including detergents and flame retardants. It has come under sharp criticism as ineffective from all quarters, including environmentalists who back stronger federal oversight and chemical companies that are now subject to a patchwork of more stringent rules in some states.

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News Release | Maryland PIRG and Fair Elections Maryland | Democracy

Montgomery County Increases Investment in Groundbreaking Fair Elections Program

(Rockville) – Today the Montgomery County Council made a critical investment in democracy by adding $5 million to its public election fund in its FY2017 budget. While this amount is only a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the County’s overall budget, it represents a real commitment to amplifying the voices of small donors in county politics and diluting the influence of wealthy special interests. With adequate funding, the program will be up and running for the next county elections, encouraging more voters to participate in county elections and providing opportunities for a wider range of candidates to run for office.

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News Release | Maryland PIRG | Public Health

Maryland PIRG statement on TSCA Reform

 

Unless Congress makes changes to the preemption clauses in the current bill being negotiated, it would effectively halt state action to restrict a toxic chemical while the EPA is assessing its safety – a years-long process that will leave us all at risk. When it comes to health protections, the federal government should set a floor, not a ceiling. We need sensible TSCA reform in order to keep us safe – not a step backward.

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News Release | Maryland PIRG | Public Health, Food

Taco Bell to Phase Out Chicken Raised on Routine Antibiotics; Students Host Event to Educate Peers

In a long-awaited victory for medically-important antibiotics, Taco Bell announced it will no longer serve chicken raised on human antibiotics in U.S. locations starting in 2017. Two Maryland PIRG interns this semester seized the opportunity to educate their peers on the dangers of antibiotic-overuse.

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Report | Maryland PIRG Foundation | Tax

Following the Money 2014

Every year, state governments spend tens of billions of dollars through contracts for goods and services, subsidies to encourage economic development, and other expenditures. Accountability and public scrutiny are necessary to ensure that the public can trust that state funds are well spent.

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Report | Maryland PIRG Foundation and Washington Toxics Coalition | Public Health

What's on Your List?

Parents want and expect the products they use to care for their children to be safe and free of harmful chemicals. But our nation’s toxic chemical laws are weak and ineffective and many harmful chemicals get into everyday consumer products without the public’s knowledge. Taking steps to remedy this problem, Washington State passed the Children’s Safe Products Act in 2008 (CSPA). CSPA set up requirements for makers of children’s products being sold in Washington to report to the state if these products contain chemicals on a list of 66 Chemicals of High Concern to Children.

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Report | Maryland PIRG Foundation | Transportation

A New Course

Universities and colleges across the country are taking steps to encourage their communities, students, faculty and staff to decrease their reliance on personal vehicles. These efforts are working well – saving money for universities, improving the quality of life in college towns, and giving today’s students experience in living life without depending on a personal car.

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Report | Maryland PIRG | Tax

Closing the Billion Dollar Loophole

New report tells how some states have found a simple reform to reclaim significant revenue lost to offshore tax havens. Includes estimates of how much each state loses in state revenue to offshore tax haven abuse and how much each state would gain by closing the "water's edge" loophole.

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Report | Maryland PIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection

Fixing the Broken Textbook Market

This study demonstrates that despite recent steps forward in the marketplace, high textbook costs will continue to be a problem for students unless the cost of high-priced, new editions of college textbooks comes down.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Delayed CFPB/Other Wall Street Reform Rollbacks Happening Today On House Floor | Ed Mierzwinski

Last month the House canceled floor consideration of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill. FSGG is back on the floor today and tomorrow. We urge support of amendments to protect the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) but, since they won't pass, we urge a no vote on the bill. Here's an updated excerpt from my previous blog.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Far From Done: Statement on Controversial Chemical Law Signed by President | Juliana Bilowich

 

Maryland PIRG is disappointed with the overhaul of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which passed Congress this month and was signed by the President last week. While the reforms improve some of the EPA’s authority to test and regulate chemicals, the law falls far short of keeping toxic chemicals out of the products we buy and use. In the aftermath of TSCA reforms, states can – and should – continue to play a vital role in protecting families from chemical exposure.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Court Rejects PIRG-Opposed Swipe Fee Settlement With Visa/Mastercard | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit threw out a preliminary $7.25 billion settlement between Visa and Mastercard and any merchant accepting credit cards (including U.S. PIRG), ruling that despite that seemingly massive payment for past practices that the settlement gave inadequate relief to merchants going forward, as it essentially immunized the networks for any future illegal conduct while providing mostly illusory benefits. Since we accept credit cards from our members, we, joined by Consumer Reports, had formally objected to the settlement as consumer advocates who also happen to be merchant class members (most merchant associations also objected).

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

House Launches Frenzy of Attacks on CFPB, Public Protections | Ed Mierzwinski

Today and tomorrow the House floor showcases a variety of special-interest backed bills designed to eliminate public protections and weaken financial reform. Action starts soon with an attempt to override the President's veto of legislation to wipe away a new Department of Labor rule designed to protect hard-earned retirement savings from Wall Streeters seeking their "share" of your own share. Then, the House will consider the massive FSGG Appropriations bill, which rolls back the independence and authority of the CFPB and other financial reforms. Finally, they've teed up a bill to eliminate the Supreme Court's long-standing "Chevron doctrine," which says that courts must defer to expert agencies in certain circumstances. Without the doctrine in place, polluters and wrongdoers will have more opportunities to challenge public protections.

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Blog Post | Transportation

Clean Transportation Doesn’t Need To Be A Distant Utopia | John Olivieri

For many, when they think of combating global warming, they think of solar panels on rooftops and eliminating coal fired power plants. But, the truth is, there is not an effective solution to address global warming that does not deal with transportation as well.

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Priority Action

We're calling on big restaurant chains to stop the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms. Tell KFC to stop serving meat raised on routine antibiotics.

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