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Florida Legislators to Address Malpractice Issue in June
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Press Release

Florida Legislators to Address Malpractice Issue in June

Frivolous lawsuits in Florida continue to drive up the costs of medical malpractice insurance. The Senate recently rejected a $250,000 cap on punitive damages that trial lawyers successfully fought citing poor economic conditions as the motivating factor for insurance companies to raise their rates.

05/29/2003
Florida Legislators to Address Malpractice Issue in June
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Press Release

Florida Legislators to Address Malpractice Issue in June

Frivolous lawsuits in Florida continue to drive up the costs of medical malpractice insurance. The Senate recently rejected a $250,000 cap on punitive damages that trial lawyers successfully fought citing poor economic conditions as the motivating factor for insurance companies to raise their rates.

05/29/2003
Gov. Locke Increases Taxes
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Press Release

Gov. Locke Increases Taxes

Gov. Gary Locke signed a bill last week increasing the gas-tax in the state of Washington by a nickel per gallon as of July 1. The tax hike is part of a $4.2 billion transportation fix that includes a 15 percent boost in trucking fees and a 0.03 cent sales tax surcharge on new and used vehicles. Locke, who presented a “no-new-taxes” budget to the legislature in December, reversed his previous pledge to improve the state’s ailing economy by preventing new tax increases.

05/29/2003
Gov. Locke Increases Taxes
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Press Release

Gov. Locke Increases Taxes

Gov. Gary Locke signed a bill last week increasing the gas-tax in the state of Washington by a nickel per gallon as of July 1. The tax hike is part of a $4.2 billion transportation fix that includes a 15 percent boost in trucking fees and a 0.03 cent sales tax surcharge on new and used vehicles. Locke, who presented a “no-new-taxes” budget to the legislature in December, reversed his previous pledge to improve the state’s ailing economy by preventing new tax increases.

05/29/2003
CSE Meets in Wilmington on Medical Malpractice
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Press Release

CSE Meets in Wilmington on Medical Malpractice

CSE's Wilmington chapter met last night (Tuesday) to discuss medical malpractice reform. Dr. John Lovett spoke on the effects of lawsuits on doctors and how increasing malpractice insurance is driving some doctors completely out of business.

05/29/2003
ANNEXATION PLAN RAISES OUTCRY; 1,100 ATTEND PUBLIC HEARING, AND MANY AIR STRONG
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ANNEXATION PLAN RAISES OUTCRY; 1,100 ATTEND PUBLIC HEARING, AND MANY AIR STRONG

BY Victoria Cherrie

They came armed with pamphlets and stickers, and toting signs opposing annexation. About 1,100 Forsyth County residents attended a public hearing last night at Joel Coliseum on Winston-Salem's plan to annex 14 areas that cover about 34 square miles and include about 24,000 people. Council members will vote on the proposal June 16. If approved, the people annexed would officially become city residents June 30, 2004.

05/28/2003
Groups' Support for RESPA Change Hinges on GMP
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Groups' Support for RESPA Change Hinges on GMP

BY Brian Collins

WASHINGTON -- Mortgage lenders will continue to support reform of the mortgage application and settlement process, according to six trade groups, provided the Department of Housing and Urban Development allows lenders to offer guaranteed mortgage packages without itemizing costs.

05/28/2003
Groups' Support for RESPA Change Hinges on GMP
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Groups' Support for RESPA Change Hinges on GMP

Mortgage lenders will continue to support reform of the mortgage application and settlement process, according to six trade groups, provided the Department of Housing and Urban Development allows lenders to offer guaranteed mortgage packages without itemizing costs. In a letter to HUD, the industry associations point out that the GMP proposal would reduce settlement costs by allowing volume discounts, average cost pricing and other pricing structures currently inhibited by the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act. "With a few refinements, the GMP option can thrive in the marketplace," the April 30 letter to HUD says. Under HUD's GMP proposal, lenders could guarantee settlement costs, as well as the interest rate, without itemizing costs. However, Senate Banking Committee chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., has been pressing HUD to require itemization. But the lender groups claim itemizing the cost of individual services at the time of application is not practical and the disclosure would come too late in the process to help consumers comparison shop. It would "effectively eviscerate the GMP" and "prevent the GMP from becoming a reality in the marketplace," the trade groups say in the letter. The American Bankers Association, American Financial Services Association, America's Community Bankers, Consumer Bankers Association, Consumer Mortgage Coalition and Mortgage Bankers Association signed the April 30 letter. The letter sends a strong message at a time when most participants in the debate over RESPA are getting edgy - because no one seems to know where HUD is going with its reform proposal. And the lenders want to make sure HUD knows where they stand. "We are gravely concerned that the department might undertake to revise the good faith estimate (disclosure) as part of a final rule, while delaying or forgoing any efforts to allow GMPs. Such a move would have severe consequences," the trade groups warn. They also are concerned that HUD is reviewing newly "fleshed out" proposals for a two-package approach, advocated by the American Land Title Association and the Real Estate Services Providers Council (RESPRO). The two-package approach would create a lender's package that would include origination fees, appraisals, credit reports and flood certifications that are required by the lender, and a settlement services package would include title services, recordation fees, pest inspections and other fees. Meanwhile, lender groups are also concerned about the consumer groups and their lackluster support for Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act reform. "All they care about is predatory lending," one trade official said. To bolster the reform effort, the lenders have solicited support from conservative interest groups, such as former HUD secretary Jack Kemp's Empower America, the National Taxpayers Union and Citizens Against Government Waste. These groups are urging secretary Martinez to move ahead with RESPA reform, despite warnings from key Republicans, such as Sen. Shelby, that HUD should slow down and reissue the proposal (with revisions) for another round of comments. "We applaud your efforts and hope that you will move quickly to issue a final rule," according to the joint letter to HUD secretary Martinez. The Seniors Coalition and Citizens for a Sound Economy also signed the letter. "HUD's proposed rule to revise the nearly 30-year-old Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act to allow for greater competition in the market for home mortgage lending and settlement services will benefit consumers greatly without additional government spending," the letter says. In a separate letter, Americans for Tax Reform also expressed support for HUD's effort to simplify the regulatory process and increase competition in the real estate market.

05/28/2003
Annexation Plan Raises Outcry
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Annexation Plan Raises Outcry

BY Victoria Cherrie

They came armed with pamphlets and stickers, and toting signs opposing annexation. About 1,100 Forsyth County residents attended a public hearing last night at Joel Coliseum on Winston-Salem's plan to annex 14 areas that cover about 34 square miles and include about 24,000 people. Council members will vote on the proposal June 16. If approved, the people annexed would officially become city residents June 30, 2004. Vernon Robinson is the only council member who has publicly opposed annexation. Council Member Robert Clark has said that he is gathering all the information he can before making his decision. Others have not publicly taken a position. Robinson was among the 140 people who signed up to speak for three minutes. The crowd applauded when it was announced during roll call that he was present. In the first 90 minutes of the meeting, no one spoke in favor of the proposal. "I think the driving force of this annexation is that Durham has replaced you as the fourth-largest city and your egos are propelling you to get that spot back," said Darwin Parrish of Pfafftown. Winston-Salem has dropped from the fourth-largest to the fifth-largest city in the state, according to the 2000 Census. City officials have said that the city's reasons for wanting to expand its boundaries are twofold: Winston-Salem is growing. By annexing areas around it, the city can plan for and have jurisdiction over the building of the infrastructure to support its growth. Many people who live outside Winston-Salem work and shop in the city, and take advantage of such city services as police protection but the don't pay city taxes. State law allows cities and towns to annex surrounding areas if certain standards are met, including population density and minimum levels of development. However, such actions have been historically unpopular. This time around, Forsyth County residents opposed to annexation say that the city's proposal offers no benefit to them. They have argued that they did not get to vote for the council members who will make the final decision and that therefore annexation is unfair. Together they have formed groups that are trying to fight the action in various ways. Petitions against annexation are circulating around the county. A group called the Citizens Against Forced Annexation has set up its own Web site. There, opponents have been posting their anger and concerns online, and sharing information about their plight. Some people have threatened to have council members recalled. To do so there would have to be enough signatures to equal 25 percent of the entire vote for mayoral candidates in the last election. Based on figures from the 2001 election, about 7,600 would be needed for each member of the council the group wants to remove. Residents arrived at the coliseum last night with hand-painted signs that read "No Bang for Your Bucks." One sign simply read "No Annexation." N.C. Citizens for a Sound Economy, an anti-tax activist group, handed out stickers that read "No Forced Annexation." Joyce Karawiece, a spokeswoman for the group, said that more than 1,000 people had signed anti-annexation petitions by 9:30. Other groups handed out lists of elected officials ranging from the governor to members of the city council. "We know this is a very emotional issue," Mayor Allen Joines said during his opening remarks. "We want to be sensitive to you." His statement was met with heckling from members of the audience.

05/28/2003
Oppose the Texas Senate Partnership Tax
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Press Release

Oppose the Texas Senate Partnership Tax

Background: The House Ways and Means Committee crafted a number of bill drafts in an effort to close what is mistakenly described as the "Delaware Sub loophole." However, it is in truth a result of the longtime policy decision of the Legislature to tax corporations and not partnerships. The House was unable to draft a bill that did not have far reaching consequences to businesses of all sizes, many fo which are not engaged in Delaware Sub structures. Last minute provisions added to HB 2425 by the Senate Finance Committee without public testimony or thoroigh analysis attempt to eliminate the "Delaware Sub." While the provisions are narrower in scope that the House bills, they still have a number of undesirable consequences - some inteded, some not.

05/28/2003

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