Apr 30, 2010

What just happened?! Wake up it's Friday edition

With everything going on in the world, did Friday kind of sneak up on you? Let's recap so you can get to thinking about the weekend!
  • The Senate shocked everyone by finally voting to actually debate the idea of possibly reforming Wall Street.
  • Meanwhile, thousands of union members were joined by religious, community, and civil rights leaders at a rally in Wall Street's backyard, calling for higher taxes on big banks and a beefed up jobs program.
  • As outrage over Arizona's recently enacted immigration law mounts, with some calling for a boycott of the state, Senator Reid, Schumer, and Menendez unveiled a federal immigration reform proposal. Reactions thus far have been mixed.
  • And while we're on the topic of Arizona and its wacky laws... the Arizona state legislature sent a bill to Governor Jan Brewer this week banning ethnic studies programs.
  • Chuck Schumer has been a busy bee this week - in addition to taking on immigration reform, he joined Senators Feingold, Wyden, Bayh, and Franken and Representatives Van Hollen, Castle, Jones, and Brady in introducing new legislation to force disclosure of corporate money in politics.
  • Here's one out of left field: the House of Representatives passed a bill yesterday requiring Puerto Rico to vote on their relationship with the U.S., enraging Representatives Gutierrez and Velazquez. The bill sets up a two-step vote, first asking Puerto Ricans if they want to change their status, and then (if they favor a status change) asking them if they prefer statehood, independence, or sovereignty. In the event that Puerto Rico votes for statehood, the status change would still have to be approved by Congress. The bill now goes to the Senate for debate.
  • Health care reform update - part one: today is the deadline for states to elect whether they want to run the high-risk insurance pool for uninsured people with pre-existing conditions, or whether they want Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to do it for them.
  • Part two: caving to bad PR and pressure from Congress, insurance giants UnitedHealthcare and WellPoint this week officially ended their longstanding practice of revoking health insurance plans when patients gets sick. The law banning rescission doesn't officially take effect until September 23.
  • The Department of Labor is set to require employers to develop and implement compliance plans in order to ensure they follow wage, job safety, and equal employment laws. The goal is to replace the “catch me if you can” system with a culture of compliance.
  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced increased fines for serious workplace safety violations - raising the average fine from $1,000 to between $3,000 and $4,000. Agency officials are working to increase fines even more, but are waiting on legislation currently pending in Congress that would raise the maximum fines for serious violations and willful violation from $7,000 and $70,000 to $12,000 and $250,000, respectively.
  • Remember the explosion on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana last week that left 11 workers presumed dead and caused a massive oil spill? Well, crude oil from the rig is now beginning to "ooze" ashore, threatening migrating birds and river otters in its path.
  • Politico is obsessed with the White House Correspondents' Dinner (WHCD for those in the know). They're so excited that they decided to publish a glossy edition of their paper. Bonus points for anyone who can count the total number of articles about the dinner on Politico's website.