David Kirkpatrick

July 13, 2010

House passes Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act

Some employment related details on the legislation that’s now been sent to the Senate for a vote in the week or so:

  • Corporate governance: The legislation gives shareholders a say on pay and proxy access, ensures the independence of compensation committees, and requires companies to set clawback policies to take back executive compensation based on inaccurate financial statements, seen as important steps in helping shift management’s focus from short-term profits to long-term growth and stability.
  • Hedging rules: The SEC is directed to adopt rules requiring a company to disclose whether any employee or director is permitted to purchase financial instruments designed to hedge the market value of equity securities granted to the employee or director as part of his or her compensation.
  • Executive compensation disclosure: The SEC is required to amend Item 402 of Regulation S-K to mandate disclosure of the median of the annual total compensation of all employees, except the CEO; the annual total compensation of the CEO; and the ratio of the two.

Update 7/16/10 — the bill passed the Senate with a 60-39 vote.

March 2, 2010

Is health care reform going to pass?

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 2:19 pm

Looks like it. Here’s a solid analysis from Jonathan Bernstein guest-blogging at the Daily Dish.

From the link:

Item: Ten House Dems who voted against the bill the first time around are telling the AP (via Jonathan Chait) that they might vote yes this time around.  Chait is right about the incentives here as far as public statements are concerned.  I’d put it this way: there’s an easily understandable story of going from no, to maybe, to yes…but it makes no sense at all to go from no, to maybe, to no.

I should emphasize here that it is very, very rare for the majority to lose a high-stakes vote on final passage on the House floor.  You just don’t bring a bill to the floor unless you know you’re going to win.  I can’t imagine a reason that Nancy Pelosi and the White House would bring this to the floor knowing that they were going to lose, for some sort of spin advantage.  They either know that they have the votes, or it’s the biggest bluff in who knows how long.  Keep watching: does the president really announce the schedule tomorrow that was leaked today?  Does the Speaker really keep to that schedule, or do leaks start appearing about pushing it back a few days?  I don’t think so, however.  I think they have the votes.

November 20, 2009

New jobs bill this year?

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:53 pm

There’s not much time before the recess, but looks like some measure of employment relief could happen.

From the link:

Continued rising unemployment in the U.S. is prompting House Democratic leaders to consider a jobs bill before lawmakers leave Washington and end the first session of the 111th Congress on December 18, according to House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md. Hoyer told reporters on November 17 that a second stimulus bill is unlikely, but lawmakers might consider taking some type of legislative action to boost jobs. He declined to list specific proposals that might be under consideration.

November 13, 2009

The Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009

This is a pretty nice rundown on the bill’s specs.

From the link:

The Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009 (H.R. 3548) was signed into law by President Obama on November 6, 2009. The bill began as a simple extension of unemployment insurance benefits but then several tax provisions were added to it, namely the expansion and extension of both the home buyer tax credit and the net operating loss (NOL) carryback rules.

October 29, 2009

The public plan is in play

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:30 pm

And if the GOP is honestly against it I really wonder why the party took itself out of the sausage-making from day one.

From the link:

U.S. House leaders today plan to unveil legislation that would create a government-run health- insurance program, require employers to offer coverage to their workers and impose a new tax on the wealthiest Americans.

The legislation comes after three months of negotiations by House Democrats and represents the most sweeping changes to the nation’s health-care system since the 1965 creation of the federal Medicare program for the elderly. The measure would overhaul the insurance market, encourage greater use of preventive medicine and help Americans buy coverage.

“We think we’ll have the votes,” said California Representative George Miller, who runs the House Education and Labor Committee, after meeting with fellow Democrats yesterday. Formal debate is planned for next week, Miller said.

Lawmakers said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi agreed to a compromise over one of the most divisive issues facing Congress — the establishment of the government insurance program to compete with private insurers try to and drive down costs.

October 23, 2009

John McCain v. net neutrality

Disappointing news from the Arizona senator.

I’ve never felt McCain was in the pocket of corporate America, but unless he signed off on a bill he doesn’t understand that’s the only conclusion for this move. And the name — the Internet Freedom Act?  That’s some Orwellian obfuscation worthy of well, standard GOP talking points which is exactly where it probably came from.

It is interesting to see the various sides lining up for and against net neutrality now that the FCC has brought the regulation argument to the actual table.

From the first link:

U.S. Senator John McCain has introduced legislation that would block the U.S. Federal Communications Commission from creating new net neutrality rules, on the same day that the FCC took the first step toward doing so.

McCain on Thursday introduced the Internet Freedom Act, which would keep the FCC from enacting rules prohibiting broadband providers from selectively blocking or slowing Internet content and applications. Net neutrality rules would create “onerous federal regulation,” McCain said in a written statement.

The FCC on Thursday voted to begin a rulemaking process to formalize net neutrality rules. The rules, as proposed, would allow Web users to run the legal applications and access the legal Web sites of their choice. Providers could use “reasonable” network management to reduce congestion and maintain quality of service, but the rules would require them to be transparent with consumers about their efforts.

Click here to find out more!

The new rules would formalize a set of net neutrality principles in place at the FCC since 2005.

McCain, an Arizona Republican, called the proposed net neutrality rules a “government takeover” of the Internet that will stifle innovation and depress an “already anemic” job market in the U.S. McCain was the Republican challenger to President Barack Obama in the 2008 election, and Obama has said net neutrality rules are among his top tech priorities.

October 13, 2009

If we’re going to pass health care reform …

… it’d make sense to do it right.

For better or worse, health care reform is going to pass. The votes are essentially there — and really have been all along. The angry Baby Boomers at town hall meetings over the summer were but a minor distraction in the big play on this issue.

With the knowledge something is going pass regarding health care, I’ve thought it makes the most sense to radically overhaul a much less than perfect system as things currently stand in the U.S., and I agree with Cato’s Michael Tanner that it’s “time to start over.”

The problem is there is no political will, or most likely any political ability, to remake health care. There might have been a shot for that during middle few years of the Bush 43 administration when the GOP held all the reins of power, but we know how successful Republicans were in promoted the stated goals of the party — small government (epic fail), personal responsibility (epic fail) and fiscal conservatism (nuclear fail.)

As appealing as radical health care reform may be for anyone who takes a few hours to drill down into the issue, it’s just not going to happen. The GOP has taken itself out of the process by choice and great forces in the form of the American Medical Association, the pharmaceutical industry and the health insurance industry are lined up t ensure nothing earth-shattering, at least for their fiefdoms, comes to pass.

From the link:

And our current tax laws penalize people who don’t receive insurance through their work, meaning that if you lose your job, you lose your insurance.

The bills now before Congress don’t fix these problems. They simply pile on new mandates, regulations, taxes and subsidies. No amount of tinkering, or budgetary sleight of hand, can make them better.

It’s time for Congress to scrap its current flawed government-centered approach and start over with a focus on creating a consumer-oriented free market in health care.

After all, isn’t it better to get it done right than to just get it done?

August 20, 2009

Health care reform heading for split bill?

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 9:57 am

Seems to be the favored option right now. I’m still fairly certain something substantial will pass within two years, and right now it looks as soon as four months.

June 26, 2009

FDA oversight to kill big tobacco?

I seriously doubt it since big tobacco is not all that displeased about the new heavy taxation and oversight since it figures all the legislative moves will serve to kill off competition in a marketplace artificially altered by government overreach.

Don’t take a drink before reading this release because you might do a spit take and trash a perfectly fine keyboard:

Experts: Big Tobacco dead by 2047, possibly sooner

MADISON – President Barack Obama’s signature on a bill this week to grant the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulatory authority over tobacco was historic, and represents a step in the march to eliminate tobacco use in this country by 2047, two national tobacco experts said today (June 25).

The pair published “Stealing a March in the 21st Century: Accelerating Progress in the 100-Year War Against Tobacco Addiction in the United States” in the July issue of the American Journal of Public Health. Michael Fiore and Timothy Baker, director and associate director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention (UW-CTRI), respectively, chart milestones in beating tobacco addiction and map a battle plan to eradicate tobacco use in the next few decades. The researchers analyzed data from the 1960s, when the first systemic tracking of smoking rates began, until the present.

“Numerous observers have claimed over time that tobacco use has plateaued and progress against its use has stalled,” the authors write. “However, the remarkable decline in rates of tobacco use since the 1960s belies this claim and underscores the remarkable success of tobacco control efforts to date.”

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show adults smoking between 1965 and 2007 dropped by an average of one half of one percentage point per year, from 42 percent to the current rate of about 20 percent rate. While this rate of decline hasn’t occurred each year, the overall decrease has been quite steady.

The two researchers urge a nationwide effort designed to accelerate the rate of decline over the next 50 years through:

  • Substantial increases in federal and state tobacco excise taxes.
  • A national clean-indoor air law.
  • Elimination of nicotine from tobacco products.
  • Funds for an aggressive mass media campaign to counter the tide of tobacco industry ads and sponsorships.
  • A ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
  • Evidence-based counseling and medication for every smoker who wants to quit.

Protecting young people, particularly those 17 and younger, from starting to smoke. Research shows that a major genetic risk for lifelong nicotine dependence can be suppressed if young people avoid daily smoking prior to age 17.

“The progress made in reducing tobacco use over the last 50 years should in no way temper our commitment to further reductions. Nor should that progress be interpreted to mean tobacco use is less toxic or that tobacco companies are now on the ropes. But, if appropriate steps are taken, a tobacco-free nation can be achieved within a few decades,” Fiore says.

Past success has been born of:

  • Tobacco tax increases.
  • Enactment of clean-indoor air laws.
  • Tobacco industry advertising restrictions.
  • Tobacco product-labeling requirements.
  • Policies that restrict youth access to tobacco products.
  • Mass media campaigns.
  • Increased availability and effectiveness of treatments to help current smokers quit.

In their article, Baker and Fiore called for FDA regulation of tobacco products to spur progress. That bill was signed into law on June 22, along with provisions that would further restrict tobacco industry targeting of kids, strengthen health warnings on tobacco packaging, require disclosure about what’s in tobacco products and ban terms like “light” and “mild” to describe cigarettes.

 

###

 

UW-CTRI is a nationally prominent research center established at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in 1992. The center’s director, Fiore, chaired a panel on behalf of the U.S. Public Health Service to write three successive editions of treatment standards on treating tobacco use and dependence, and chaired the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Subcommittee on Tobacco Cessation of the Interagency Committee on Smoking and Health that produced a comprehensive plan for promoting tobacco cessation in the United States. Visit http://www.ctri.wisc.edu for more information.

March 30, 2009

Prison reform …

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 7:55 pm

… is a long-overdue topic for Congress to take on. Jim Webb introduced “The National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009″ to address the issue, and here’s a PDF of his Senate floor speech introducing the legislation.

From Webb’s speech:

Let’s start with a premise that I don’t think a lot of Americans are aware of. We have 5% of the world’s population; we have 25% of the world’s known prison population. We have an incarceration rate in the United States, the world’s greatest democracy, that is five times as high as the average incarceration rate of the rest of the world. There are only two possibilities here: either we have the most evil people on earth living in the United States; or we are doing something dramatically wrong in terms of how we approach the issue of criminal justice.

These numbers are simply shameful. All Americans ought to be embarrassed when reading this graf from Webb’s intro speech. I hope something tangible comes from this bill.

February 7, 2009

GOP pushing to delay CPSIA of 2008

This is news that affects one of my clients, Vouch Software, because its application is a virtual product safety test for infant toys and products. I will say pretty much everyone is in agreement that this law was far too draconian and implemented way too quickly. Hopefully this legislation will gain some traction to give the industry a little breathing room.

I’m betting this will be big talk next weekend at the Toy Industry Association’s Toy Fair ’09 in New York. The safety talk is to be held Monday, February16.

From the WSJ link:

Congress rushed to pass a tough new consumer safety law last year, and now a number of Republican lawmakers are rushing again to pass legislation to delay the date the stricter rules go into effect.

The bill, which sets stringent limits on lead in children’s products and bans some phthalates, a class of chemicals used to soften plastics, called for children’s products to be in compliance by Tuesday, Feb. 10. Companies, particularly smaller ones that make toys and other children’s products, are worried and have been begging lawmakers to delay the rules. Because the standards were applied retroactively, they argue, they now face warehouses full of noncompliant inventory, financial losses or even bankruptcies. Some lawmakers blame the Consumer Product Safety Commission for doing too little while the CPSC’s acting chairwoman blames Congress for going too far.

January 24, 2009

Nanny state in legislation — South Carolina

This’ll never go anywhere and is just political posturing, but it’s still sickening to think a public official would even want to make a point by attempting to gut the First Amendment.

From the link:

State Senator Robert Ford is hoping to outlaw lewd language and is pushing for a bill that would prohibit profanity.

Under the pre-filed bill, profanity could land you in jail for up to 5 years and/or cost you up to $5,000 in fines.

Which words are exactly considered profane is still unclear, but the bill does have a list of qualifications for profanity including words or actions that are lewd, vulgar or indecent in nature.

We spoke to Debra Gammons with the Charleston School of Law about freedom of speech.

She reminds that the First Amendment is not absolute. You cannot say whatever you want whenever you want to.

Courts will usually look at where the words were said and who heard them. Children are usually protected.

Er, Debra you might not want to take that argument to the Supreme Court. Fire in a theater, okay that’s a public safety issue. Salty language at the mall? Not so much. No threat to anyone other than the easily offended. Maybe not too couth, but definitely not criminal.

December 17, 2008

US law and internet gambling

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 5:56 pm

Idiotic. That’s the only word that properly describes the current US legislative stance on internet gambling. Gambling that is legal in most of the civilized world.

The following blockquote from Reason’s Hit & Run opens with a quote from Anurag Dikshit, co-founder of the Gibraltar-based online gambling company PartyGaming, who just pled guilty to violating the U.S. Wire Act. His fine is $300 million.

From the link:

I came to believe there was a high probability that the company’s business was illegal under US laws. I acknowledge my actions and have come to believe that what I did was wrong.

Doesn’t the rule of law require something more than the possibility of gradually realizing, after operating a business for years, that you are probably committing a crime?

Former BetOnSports CEO David Carruthers, meanwhile, is still awaiting trial in St. Louis. He could face up to 20 years in prison.

Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), chairman of the Europe subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, responded to Dikshit’s guilty plea by urging the legalization of online gambling:

It is of critical importance that we find an effective and immediate way to regulate and tax internet gaming in order to avoid a serious trade dispute with the E.U., which, in turn, could have global trade repercussions for the United States. The retroactive and discriminatory enforcement against E.U. parties, who ceased operating in the U.S. a long time ago, has directly led to an escalating trade dispute with the E.U.

December 15, 2008

Bush’s midnight regulations …

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:31 pm

a parting shot after his eight years in the Oval Office.

One thing to keep in mind with midnight regulations is all presidents do this. It’s par for the course.

From the link:

Bush’s midnight regulations will:

• Make it easier for coal companies to dump waste from strip-mining into valleys and streams.

• Ease the building of coal-fired power stations nearer to national parks.

• Allow people to carry loaded and concealed weapons in national parks.

• Open up millions of acres to mining for oil shale.

• Allow healthcare workers to opt out of giving treatment for religious or moral reasons, thus weakening abortion rights.

• Hurt road safety by allowing truck drivers to stay at the wheel for 11 consecutive hours.

October 17, 2008

With the PRO-IP Anti-Piracy Law …

… not only did Bush sign a bad piece of legislation, he added to government bloat with yet another “czar.” Nice.

From the link:

U.S. President George W. Bush Monday signed into law a bill designed to increase protection of intellectual property (IP) such as software, films and music by raising penalties for infringement and creating a national “IP czar.”

The Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act of 2007, or PRO-IP Act, creates a high-ranking IP protection overseer, appointed by the Senate and reporting directly to the president. The position’s first appointee will likely come from the next U.S. administration. The U.S. Department of Justice will also form a new division dedicated to enforcing intellectual property protection.

Some public advocacy groups had opposed the bill, stating that its penalties were far too harsh and that it didn’t balance users’ rights and concerns over those of major software, media and pharmaceutical companies. “The bill only adds more imbalance to a copyright law that favors large media companies. At a time when the entire digital world is going to less restrictive distribution models, and when the courts are aghast at the outlandish damages being inflicted on consumers in copyright cases, this bill goes entirely in the wrong direction,” said Gigi B. Sohn, president and co-founder of Public Knowledge, a Washington, D.C.-based digital rights group, after the passage of the Senate version of PRO-IP in late September.

August 14, 2008

Coming soon — Online Privacy Bill of Rights?

New legislation is almost never a solution to any problem, real or perceived, but something along these lines might be necessary given the technology out there for collection and mining of data.

I’m not rendering any judgement on the idea of an “online bill of rights” being proposed by Representative Edward Markey (D-Mass.), head of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, since there are no real details to latch on to. One big problem with any legislation is little bits and pieces of odd law always end up in the body of the bill

There are plans to introduce comprehensive online privacy legislation in the next congressional session.

From the second link:

Dubbed the Online Privacy Bill of Rights, the law may require companies to get approval from consumers before collecting information about their Web-surfing habits, a process known as behavioral targeting that helps Web sites more strategically place ads. The legislation may also demand that companies disclose more information on how they collect and use people’s Web-use data. “There is a reasonable chance that we will see something in the next Congress,” says Michael Hintze, an associate general counsel at Microsoft (MSFT).

Watching what you watch

Legislative interest in ad targeting spiked amid recent hearings over a company called NebuAd, which makes devices that attach to the networks of Internet Service Providers and log surfers’ movements(BusinessWeek.com, 8/14/08). Lawmakers are particularly interested in the implications of NebuAd’s technology, known as deep packet inspection (DPI), one of the most comprehensive ways of keeping tabs on what people do online.

An examination of NebuAd prompted congressional staffers to look at ad targeting more broadly. On Aug. 1, Markey’s committee sent letters to 33 companies, including Google (GOOG), Yahoo! (YHOO), and Microsoft, asking each to outline its tracking practices.

Behavioral targeting has come into its own in recent years as companies crafted ever more powerful methods for combing through data. Internet companies have bolstered their ability to target ads through the acquisition of large ad networks able to amass their own information on consumers’ site-viewing habits. During the past year, Microsoft acquired aQuantive, Time Warner’s (TWX) AOL snapped up Tacoda, Google purchased DoubleClick, and Yahoo bought BlueLithium. The use of ad networks surged from 5% of total ad impressions sold in 2006 to 30% in 2007, according to a study released Aug. 12 by the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

Google’s Move Toward Transparency

Markey’s office says the legislation is still in the planning stages. For instance, it’s unclear what kinds of targeting would fall under requirements that companies let consumers opt-in to letting their data be collected and used. Opt-in clauses could apply to DPI only, or they could include less comprehensive targeting, such as the methods employed by companies such as Google and Yahoo.

The industry is already reacting to new scrutiny from Congress and the Federal Trade Commission in an attempt to avoid federal intervention. During the past year, Yahoo, Microsoft, and AOL began allowing people to opt out of tracking on their sites. They also adopted policies for deleting or making search data anonymous after a certain time period. Updated policies were “long overdue,” says Jules Polonetsky, AOL’s chief privacy officer. “After behaving rather glacially, there has been a huge jump forward just in the past year.”

July 29, 2008

401(K) debit card — a bad, bad idea

Filed under: Business, Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:20 pm

This article is the first I’ve ever heard of the concept of a 401(K) debit card, but man the idea is stupid. The penalties are so high for tapping into 401(K) money early, that “nuclear option” should be reserved for financial relief of the last resort.

I can’t believe Congress is even debating this idea. Guess the bank lobby is flexing some muscle. Banking has such a great track record over the last fifteen years or so for looking out for the best interests of its customers …

From the link:

It’s bad enough that 40% of workers in their 20s and 30s cash out their 401(k)s when they switch jobs, even though taxes and penalties decimate the balances to almost half, according to a CMI survey of 1,200 people in January commissioned by Fidelity.

Worse, even, a small percentage of 401(k) participants take out loans or hardship withdrawals from their retirement savings, which average only $122,000 in the first place, with a national median balance of $66,000, data from the Investment Company Institute and the Employee Benefit Research Institute shows.

Now Congress is debating the pros and cons of supplying people with 401(k) debit cards.

Are they serious? Putting this piece of plastic in investors’ hands would be akin to telling them to live for today and go out and spend whatever money they’ve saved for retirement.

January 11, 2008

Nanny state in action Cali style

Filed under: et.al., Politics — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 12:40 am

I actually found this via Samizdata. This American Thinker post covers a legislative movement in California to gain control over the thermostats in private residences.

Wow. Nanny statism out of control. I can’t see something like this making it into law, but I’m not in California. Just wow.

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