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- former U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill describing Bush at Cabinet meetings
Bush Defied Again on OvertimeEmployee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – September 17, 2004
Wednesday, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to block G. W. Bush’s controversial overtime law, according to Reuters. It was the second embarrassing overtime defeat for Bush in less than a week. The House has already voted to block the law that deprives employees of overtime.
Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin offered the amendment. He was supported by two Republicans.
Sen. Harkin said "The economic health of too many workers is at stake."
Bush has threatened to veto the bill, if he does not get to take away overtime from millions of American workers. If he does veto the bill, it will make history. He has never vetoed a bill – not one! Why should Bush worry about spending too much? It is not his money. How could Bush possibly comprehend what it is to actually work for money? He is used to everything being handed to him by daddy, wealthy cronies, or hapless taxpayers.
If Bush is ignorant of the concept of work, overtime is certainly over his head. All he knows is that it is something that benefits workers, so he wants to cut it out. The amazing thing is that he pulled the overtime stunt in an election year. Yet some employees can’t seem to make up their mind which presidential candidate has their best interest in mind. They have less than two month to figure it out.
It is speculated that the Republicans will try to remove the overtime amendments when the two bills are reconciled in a Senate-House conference. Would they try such a thing? They pulled it off last year! Even after the full House and Senate had voted to block the overtime takeaway, the Republicans were able to slip the amendments out in the back rooms.
The House and Senate voted to return something that had been stolen from the workers. But the Republican took it away again.
If every worker in American would vote against those who continually rob them, the holdups would cease instantly. Without politicians in the pockets of corporations, employees would still have their overtime pay, full pensions, and their job would still be in America. Workers will continue to get the government that they deserve.
That people will continue to vote for their sworn enemies is a most perplexing phenomenon.
House Defies Bush on OvertimeEmployee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – September 12, 2004
Thursday, the House voted to block the Bush overtime takeaways, according to The New York Times. This was accomplished because twenty-two Republicans saw the light. They joined the 200 Democrats and one independent in backing the amendment.
The good thing about this move is that it will not hurt the few workers who will gain overtime from the new laws.
Bush has threatened to veto the spending bill. Other scare tactics were tried, but they did not scare anyone.
Bush Defied on OvertimeEmployee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – May 6, 2004
The New York Times reported that G. W. Bush suffered a significant defeat Tuesday when the Senate blocked his overtime rules. Bush has been scheming for some time to reduce the number of employees eligible for overtime pay.
Five Republican joined the Democrats in blocking the rules 52 to 47.
Thanks to everyone who wrote to their senators, opposing the Bush overtime rules. The rules may still go into effect in August. So, don’t let up on Congress yet.
Lawmakers Should Not Resurrect Energy BillPublic Citizen – Press Release – May 1, 2004
In what is yet another attempt by Republicans to force a bad energy bill down the country's throat, U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) has dredged up the bill - minus its tax package - and offered it as an amendment to the Internet tax bill.
The third time is a charm, is what Domenici must be thinking. But for the sake of U.S. consumers, it should be three strikes and out – for good.
On Tuesday, most Senate insiders were declaring that there would be no movement on the energy bill until fall, but much can change in a day. Aside from a political process that warrants much criticism due to its questionable ethics and closed-door negotiations, the energy bill's contents have great potential to severely damage consumers' pocketbooks and the fragile economy.
Even without the $10.5 billion giveaways to the oil, gas, coal and nuclear industries - now attached to the corporate tax bill – and without the liability waiver for MTBE producers, the bill is still a bad deal for consumers. Of most concern is the proposed repeal of the Public Utility Holding Company Act (PUHCA), which industry insiders agree will result in massive consolidation of utility ownership, rather than the promotion of competition, as repeal advocates claim. Enacted in 1935, PUHCA has for nearly 70 years limited the investment of utility profits in unrelated business ventures, prohibiting expansion-minded corporations from using captured ratepayers to fund risky investment schemes that do nothing to improve service reliability or keep electricity rates low.
PUHCA also has prevented the creation of an oil, electric and natural gas cartel, since PUHCA prevents oil companies from owning electric and natural gas public utilities. Repealing PUHCA would therefore open up at least $1 trillion dollars worth of utility assets for purchase by any company, including oil companies. This includes $600 billion in investor-owned electric utility assets, $300 billion in municipal-owned electric assets and $100 billion in natural gas distribution assets.
Repealing PUHCA would eliminate any effective method of limiting the size of such holding companies. It is therefore the largest dollar figure at stake in the bill, although the public has remained largely unaware of this.
If PUHCA is repealed, consumers will lose the ability to demand accountability from conglomerates that will acquire our essential public utilities and expand utility revenues without federal oversight. No responsible lawmaker should support this bill.
Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit www.citizen.org.
Asbestos Bailout Bill BlockedEmployee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – April 23, 2004
S.2290, the bill that would shortchange asbestos victims, was blocked in the Senate, on Thursday. Thanks to everyone who contacted their senators.
The vote was clearly partisan. G. W. Bush and the Republican senators were all for restricting compensation to those suffering from asbestos related diseases. Every Republican present voted for the bill. All Democrats, with the exception of one scab, opposed the bill and eventually blocked its passage. The fight is still not over.
Zell Miller, from Georgia, is the only Democrat that voted in favor of the legislation. The good new is that Zell will retire from the Senate this year.
Patricia Corona 72, is a victim of a cancer caused only by asbestos. She said "How can they place a price on a person's life? I think those of us who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, which we all know is a death sentence, should have a day in court…When senators get involved with these issues, it is always big business that wins. Always."
Dr. Jacqueline Moline, specialist in asbestos cases, said "Many of these individuals who develop asbestos-related diseases die an excruciatingly painful death."
Former Duke Energy employees are suffering from diseases stemming from asbestos. Former Duke Energy employees have died from these diseases.
Sen. Patty Murray, who voted against the bill, said "I was shocked to find out that asbestos is being imported and people are still being exposed."
The widow of U.S. Rep. Bruce Vento appeared in an ad against the bailout bill. In the ad, she said "My husband died of mesothelioma caused by working with asbestos. He and tens of thousands of others were poisoned by companies that knew the dangers of asbestos. Now, some of those same companies want Congress to bail them out and turn their backs on the victims and their families."
The problem with the bailout bill is that restricts the money available to victims and prohibits them from bringing their own lawsuit.
Lisa Witkowski lost her father, a retired utility worker, to asbestos related cancer. She watched him suffer for three months. She wants a jury to hear her case. She said "I want them to look at my face in court, and I want them to look at pictures of my dad gasping for his last breaths, then make a decision. Why on earth someone would permit this legislation to occur ...I can't even find the words for it."
Jane Witkowski, 72, is the widow. She said "Somebody has to be responsible for actually killing these people with asbestos."
Sen. Mark Dayton said of the bill "It assumes that the asbestos-producing companies are the victims … and the insurance companies are also portraying themselves as victims."
Sen. Edward Kennedy said "Republican sponsors are insisting on compensation levels which are far below what they (asbestos victims) deserve ... It reflects only what the companies who made them sick are willing to pay.”
Using typical legislative spin, the legislation that will limit asbestos settlements is called the Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act, “the FAIR Act.”
David S. Casey Jr., president of the Association of Trials Lawyers of America, said "After more than a year of intense negotiations, what began as an asbestos bailout bill is still an asbestos bailout bill, and calling it the FAIR Act is like putting lipstick on a pig and calling it pretty."
Sources: The Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Associated Press, Reuters, Chicago Tribune, and Pioneer Press.
Protecting CorporationsEmployee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – April 1, 2004
Public Citizen has issued a new report: “Mergers, Manipulation and Mirages: How Oil Companies Keep Gasoline Prices High, and Why the Energy Bill Doesn't Help.” The report details how mergers help oil companies manipulate prices by withholding supplies.
This is not an imagined problem: A 2001 Federal Trade Commission investigation concluded that oil firms intentionally withheld or delayed shipping oil to keep prices up. The current administration sees no problems at all.
Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook said " If the same company owns every step of the process, from crude oil production to the gas station down the street from your house, it has utter control over the price people pay at the pump. Making it worse is our government's lackadaisical approach to regulating these oil companies as they collect billions of dollars from every American who drives a car."
Congress is apparently reluctant to investigate the lack of competition in an industry that showers it with political contributions.
Dick Cheney's secret energy task force is behind the dubious bill, largely written behind closed doors. Instead of helping the citizens, the bill provides for even more subsidies for energy corporations.
Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program, said "The stalled energy bill does nothing to address this worsening crisis. In fact, as the legislation is currently written, these giant oil companies are the greatest benefactors, and consumers are the victims."
Even The Wall Street Journal has published an editorial calling the energy bill a “bipartisan embarrassment.”
In a desperate effort to get the bill passed, much of the pork was cut from the bill. But it is still over 1,200 pages of lucre for energy corporations – over $200 billion in corporate welfare.
The WSJ article concluded with: “Won't someone pull the plug on this overstuffed turkey once and for all?”
Stop Energy Bill Train WreckPublic Citizen – Press Release – February 8, 2004
Not content to allow a successfully filibustered energy bill to die a well-deserved death, U.S. Senate leaders are now considering resurrecting this atrocity from its grave and gluing the pork-laden bill to a transportation bill that is destined to pass in an election year when senators don't want to be accused of failing to bring jobs and money to their states.
What we are seeing is the failure of our democratic system, thanks to the relentless force and influence of special interests. The energy industry has contributed more than $70 million to the campaigns of federal politicians since 2001, with nearly three-quarters of that amount going to Republicans, who control Congress. This process began when Vice President Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force met in secret with corporate lobbyists; next came an energy conference hijacked by Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.), with virtually no input from the other members of the committee as the bill was rewritten and dollar giveaways enlarged. Worse still, members of Congress had little time to read all of the special interest provisions in the bill as it was rushed to votes in both chambers.
As we have urged before, lawmakers must acknowledge defeat of this monstrous energy bill and begin again with a clean slate - this time, without the input of an industry more interested in profits than in providing for our common future needs. Even this trimmed-down energy bill with no MTBE liability waiver is not worth passing. Instead, Congress should focus on creating an energy plan that reflects the needs of our country and our environment: clean, safe and affordable energy for every person.
If the energy and transportation bills go hand-in-hand for a vote, the special interests win, as each senator will have an interest in supporting some piece of the bill. Such maneuvering is a reckless act that threatens to derail the trust the public has in the lawmaking process. Anyone who is paying attention should be outraged.
Pension Break?Employee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – January 25, 2004
Congress is working on legislation to offer a “pension break,” according to the Associated Press. Employees who have lost half of their pensions, through no fault of their own, certainly need a break.
But think about it; this is Congress. Who owns the current administration and most members of Congress? The pension break will be for the corporations running the pension scams, not the employee victims!
Congress wants corporations to get a $26 billion break from making pension contributions. Over 200 companies have been crying and lobbying Congress to relieve them of their legal responsibilities. Once a pension plan is set up, minimum funding is required.
The corporations are really in a pickle. How can they continue to buy jet aircraft fleets and lavish executives with millions of dollars in perks and obey the law too? Keep in mind that the employees did not write the pension plans – the corporations did.
Now that the corporations have reaped the benefits of having pension plans, they do not want to fund them. The benefits of pensions to companies were being able to maintain a stable workforce and enjoying considerable tax breaks.
Corporations created their own problems by raiding the pension funds. If a steady amount had been placed into the funds each year, they would be overflowing with money. As the stock market appreciated, many companies rode for free, contributing nothing to the pension funds for years. When one is not putting money into the fund, one is effectively taking money out of the fund. Rather than letting market gains build up a cushion of pension surpluses, the corporations chose to consume the market gains.
Consuming the market gains did not satisfy the greed of corporations; they wanted more. Not only were new pension contributions not being made, but the gains of the existing funds were used to pad the bottom line. This made the corporations look more successful that they actually were.
Energy corporations were really able to produce phony numbers. Enron lobbying bought them special privileges from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). Energy derivatives were exempted from federal oversight. Wasn’t that special? Energy corporations were allowed to book profits that would not be realized for years. Is it any wonder that the energy bubble finally burst?
Then came cash balance pension plans. These pension conversions made it appear that the corporations owed the funds, and employees, less money. Then some corporations started making unrealistic projections of pension fund earnings. They were able to project any amount – and take credit for it! What the pension funds required and what was being put into them was out of kilter. Then came the market crash.
Once viable pension plans became nothing but lies and distortions to benefit executives. Now corporations want Congress to bail them out. When corporations say “jump,” Congress only wants to know how high.
The Bush administration says it is going to solve everything through new pension rules. One can imagine new pension rules from the Bush administration. Last year, it tried to legalize age discrimination in cash balance plans.
Republicans Against Cash Balance PensionsEmployee Advocate – www.DukeEmployees.com – January 5, 2004
For a number of years, it seemed that only Democrats in Congress supported pension justice for employees. That posed a problem, since Congress is controlled by the Republican Party. The injustice of cash balance pension conversions has become so publicized lately that many Republican members of Congress are also disgusted by it.
Republican Congressman Gil Gutknecht drafted a bill to address the main injustice of cash balance pension conversions, according to the Pioneer Press. Most conversions now force employees into abusive cash balance plans that take away much of their earned pensions. The bill would require employers doing conversions to give employees a choice of the decent plan that they were promised or the cheap cash balance plan.
Corporations will not be in favor of such legislation. Forcing employees to lose retirement money is how they have been profiting from cash balance conversions. It is the real reason for the conversions – to take earned pension money from employees. Consulting firms have profited handsomely by peddling cash balance plans to greedy companies, as a way to tap into the pension funds.
Executives, eager to profit at the expense of employees, bought into cash balance conversions. As long as the true purpose of these pension conversions could be hidden, everything would go smoothly. Campaign contributions would paper over any rough spots. But the whole rotten affair has been too well publicized for corporations to plead innocent. Greedy executives and consultants have been exposed. The stench is too great for Congress to ignore any longer.
The Bush administration attempted to legalize age discrimination in cash balance plans, by tinkering with Treasury regulations. The public protest was too great for the scam to be pulled off. The Treasury Department has indefinitely delayed releasing cash balance plan rules. Congress had a hand in this decision by forbidding the Bush administration from thwarting a federal court ruling against cash balance plans. The court ruled the IBM cash balance plan to be illegal and age discriminatory.