Consumer Protection

The Not Sharing Economy: Lyft and Uber take aim at Pennsylvania

The companies Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. offer smart phone apps that allow you to find drivers available for hire. The companies have expanded rapidly in the last year and are just now hitting the City of Pittsburgh. 

Investigators from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission responsible for regulating taxi cabs caught the companies operating in Pittsburgh and two judges have issued orders for the companies to stop offering their services in the city.

As Josh Eidelson in Business Week notes, the conflict in Pittsburgh is not a new experience for the companies. They have also met with resistance in some other states and localities in which the firms began offering services without first obtaining regulatory approval.

This is what the business lobby looks like on drugs

I just read this Mother Jones story on a letter from the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC) that focuses on whether or not auto insurance is affordable for low income consumers.  In making the case for the affordability of the auto insurance products of its members, NAMIC quoted statistics from the Consumer Expenditures Survey:

Exploiting People Down on Their Luck To Make A Buck

The House Commerce Committee is set to vote on June 17th on SB 622 the Debt Settlement Services Act.  This legislation covers the licensing and regulation of debt settlement companies in Pennsylvania. 

Debt settlement services run television commercials in which companies with comforting names that include words like free, freedom, and relief offer consumers a chance to cut their debt by up to 50%!

PA Deregulation Bill Will Hurt Rural Broadband Access and Increase Phone Rates

There has been a wave of deregulation bills introduced in statehouses across the country in recent years, and the latest in Pennsylvania is targeting landline telephone service. The plan could end up limiting access to broadband service in rural parts of the commonwealth and sharply increasing telephone rates.

Third and State This Week: Budget Analysis, Food Security Danger, Unremarkable Private Job Growth & Payday Lenders

This week at Third and State, we blogged about the state budget, the danger facing America's leading food security program, Pennsylvania's unremarkable private-sector job performance, and a gambit by payday lenders that backfired.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

  • On state budget and taxes, Sharon Ward shared the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center's detailed analysis of the 2013-14 budget, and Michael Wood explained that tax changes enacted along with the budget made some steps toward reform but weigh the state's Tax Code down with more special interest tax breaks.
  • On the federal budget, Sharon Ward wrote that legislation separating agricultural programs from nutrition supports funded through the farm bill poses a threat to food assistance for millions of struggling parents, children, and vulnerable citizens.
  • On jobs, Stephen Herzenberg blogged that Pennsylvania’s private-sector job growth has almost stalled since about a year into Governor Corbett's term.
  • On consumer protection, Mark Price explained how payday lenders won few friends in the state Senate when they convinced House leaders to insert language into a must-pass Fiscal Code bill stating it was the intent of House and Senate leaders to enact payday legislation in the fall.

STATE BUDGET RESOURCES:

Payday Lenders Make Few Friends in PA Senate

Payday lenders convinced state House Republican leaders to slip a line into a Fiscal Code bill needed to implement aspects of the new state budget stating that it was the "intent" of House and Senate Republican leaders to pass legislation legalizing high-interest payday loans in Pennsylvania.

Third and State This Week: Payday Lending Debt Trap, Medicaid Rally, Pensions, State Budget, and More

This week at Third and State, we blogged about the payday lending debt trap, a big rally at the Capitol in support of expanding Medicaid coverage in Pennsylvania, 10 reasons Governor Corbett's pension plan will cost taxpayers more, the latest with the state budget, Pennsylvania's housing market, and more.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

  • On payday lending, Mark Price wrote about a Senate bill that will open the door to payday lenders to come to Pennsylvania and charge triple-digit annual interest rates on short-term loans.
  • On health care, Chris Lilienthal blogged about a Capitol rally that brought out hundreds of people from across Pennsylvania to put some faces (and stories) to the ongoing debate over expanding Medicaid coverage in Harrisburg.
  • On the state budget, Sharon Ward wrote about superintendents from cuts-ravaged urban school districts coming to town to press for more education funding, among other happenings in the Capitol this week.
  • On pensions, Stephen Herzenberg shared the Keystone Research Center's top 10 reasons Governor Corbett's pension plan will dig a deeper hole for taxpayers.
  • On housing, Mark Price shared some charts on the Pennsylvania housing market.

IN OTHER NEWS:

  • Congratulations to the honorees of the 2013 Keystone Research Center Annual Awards Dinner: Henry Nicholas, president of the National Union of Hospital & Health Care Employees, who received the Sol Hoffman Award, and the Restaurant Opportunities Center United, which received the Susan C. Eaton Award.
  • Read the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center's media statement on the House passage of a 2013-14 budget bill and get the latest budget news here.
  • Read a fact sheet on the Medicaid expansion in Pennsylvania.
  • Read a memo to lawmakers from the Keystone Research Center on how transitioning new public employees to 401(k)-type retirement plans will cost taxpayers more. Read KRC's policy brief on how public pensions inject millions of dollars into local economies across Pennsylvania. Learn more about public pension reform here.
  • Learn more about education in Pennsylvania with data on student enrollment, school funding and more.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR:

Another Day Older and Deeper in Debt

Last week, the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee in a narrow vote approved Senate Bill 975, opening the door to thousands of predatory payday lenders to come to Pennsylvania and charge fees on short-term loans that equal an annual interest rate of over 300% on a typical two-week payday loan.

Third and State Recap: State Budget News, Payday Lending, Pensionomics, Education Funding & More

Over the past two weeks at Third and State, we blogged about the latest on the state budget and education funding, May's revenue report, and why policymakers must prioritize investments in Pennsylvania's future over new tax cuts. We also wrote about how public pensions inject millions into local economies and why payday lending, by any name, is still a debt trap.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

  • On state budget and taxes, Sharon Ward blogged about the state House Republicans' 2013-14 budget plan and shared a video of her appearance this week on the Pennsylvania Cable Network where she made the case for closing tax loopholes, delaying new tax cuts, and restoring funding to schools and human services in the next budget. Kate Atkins blogged about school district and county officials from across the state who came to Harrisburg this week with a message for state lawmakers: prioritize investments in our schools, county health services, and infrastructure over new tax cuts. And Michael Wood wrote that while General Fund revenues are ahead of estimates in May, this year’s revenue surplus is unlikely to reach the $232 million forecasted back in February.
  • On public pensions, Stephen Herzenberg blogged about a Keystone Research Center report showing that pension benefits earned by retired teachers, first responders and public health workers inject millions of dollars into regional and local economies across Pennsylvania.
  • On payday lending, Mark Price wrote about Senate legislation that would legalize predatory payday loans with annual interest rates above 300%. Payday loans are described in the bill as "micro loans," but as Mark writes, payday lending, by any name, takes advantage of people in financial distress.
  • Finally, on education, we posted a video from the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center's May 28 webinar laying out the facts on state cuts to education in recent years.

IN OTHER NEWS:

MARK YOUR CALENDAR:

  • Time is running out. Join the Keystone Research Center and Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center on Thursday, June 13 for our Annual Awards Dinner at the Hilton Harrisburg. Learn more and purchase tickets.
  • Join the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center on Tuesday, June 18 from 4 to 5 p.m. for a webinar highlighting the latest on the 2013-14 state budget. Learn more and register to participate.

Third and State This Week: Paying the Boss to Work, a Payday Lending Poll, and Austin Powers on Tax Incentives

This week at Third and State, we blogged about the problems with a "pay your boss to work" tax credit plan, what the Austin Powers movies can teach us about economic development, the gas industry taking on Pennsylvania charities, an online payday lending poll, and more!

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

  • On state tax policy, Michael Wood noted the top 10 reasons to vote no on a bill that would allow many Pennsylvania employers to pocket the state income taxes paid by new employees.
  • On taxes and economic development, Mark Price channeled his vast knowledge of Austin Powers' quotes to comment on an effort by a food corporation to secure a property tax abatement for a meat repackaging plant in Lower Allen Township.
  • On Marcellus Shale, Stephen Herzenberg wrote about the need for reliable data on natural gas drilling after the Marcellus Shale Coalition criticized the funding priorities of certain Pennsylvania foundations.
  • On payday lending, Chris Lilienthal urged readers to vote in an online poll asking Pennsylvanians if payday lenders should be able to open storefronts in the state.
  • And on jobs and the economy, Mark Price chronicled the many informative responses debunking former GE CEO Jack Welch's suggestion on Twitter that the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics altered September's jobs report.

More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

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