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Senate committee votes to change judges' rules
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Senate committee votes to change judges' rules

BY PHILLIP RAWLS

Alabama legislators are getting involved in the disciplinary process for judges while a complaint is pending against state Supreme Court Justice Harold See. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 8-7 Thursday for two bills changing the rules for the state Judicial Inquiry Commission, which acts like a grand jury to hear complaints against judges, and the state Court of the Judiciary, which disciplines judges for improper conduct. The two bills now go to the Senate for consideration.

02/14/2002
Commerce Department Actions on Lumber Imports Harm American Consumers, National Economy, Senate Finance Committee Told
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Commerce Department Actions on Lumber Imports Harm American Consumers, National Economy, Senate Finance Committee Told

 A group representing more than 95 percent of the domestic consumption of lumber in the United States today urged the Senate Finance Committee to "protect the interests of U.S. consumers" by asking the Bush Administration to interpret pending cases involving softwood lumber trade with Canada in a "fair, factual, and unbiased manner."  The Alliance of American Consumers for Affordable Homes (ACAH), an ad hoc group of 17 national organizations, called for free trade of softwood lumber between Canada and the U.S. in a written statement presented to the Senate Finance Committee.  "Any level of trade restraint on lumber harms U.S. consumers and the national economy," explained Susan Petniunas, ACAH spokesperson.  "While we applaud the Administration for attempting to reach a long-term durable solution for trade between the two countries, we are greatly concerned by recent actions taken by the Commerce Department."  Petniunas indicated that Commerce announced in August it would impose a 19.3 percent countervailing duty on Canadian softwood lumber imports.  Two months later it announced it would tack on an additional 12.6 percent in duties for anti-dumping.  "These claims of subsidy (the basis for the Commerce Department's action) remain unsubstantiated even though U.S. industry had brought numerous cases," pointed out Robert Verdisco, president, International Mass Retail Association, an ACAH member.  "The U.S. has never been able to prove in a neutral forum, such as U.S. courts, a NAFTA tri-national panel or at the World Trade Organization that Canada's forest policies constitute a subsidy, as defined by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade."  Yet, the Commerce stance is hurting U.S. consumers and the economy, according to ACAH.  "Imports from Canada represent approximately 35 percent of the softwood lumber used by U.S. consumers," Petniunas reported.  "These actions create harm for potential American homeowners and the American economy.  As the Administration strives to strengthen the economy, it must remember that the housing sector represents one of the strongest and most important segments of our economy."  "Home building and remodeling account for two-thirds of lumber consumption in the U.S.," said Bobby Rayburn, vice president and treasurer, National Association of Home Builders, an ACAH member.  "Lumber accounts for a larger share of the cost of a home than any of the other materials used by homebuilders.  Each one dollar increase in the price of framing lumber per 1,000 board feet adds about $20 to the price of an average new home."  U.S. consumers and lumber-dependent industries are already experiencing the harmful effects of these trade restrictions, according to ACAH.  "The preliminary decisions on lumber tariffs have resulted in increased price volatility in the market, forcing U.S. purchasers to make provisions to incorporate what amounts to as much as a 32 percent tax imposed by the Commerce Department," said Petniunas.  "It is estimated that the Preliminary Determinations by the Commerce Department could add as much as $1,000 to the price of a new home, thus excluding nearly one-half million U.S. households from mortgage eligibility," Petniunas continued.  Additionally, the Commerce Department actions conflict with other steps by the Bush Administration to promote free trade, according to the ACAH.  "Just last month President Bush, while speaking to the Organization of American States, indicated he would seek a free trade accord with the countries of Central America," Petniunas reported.  "To encourage free trade with Central America while instituting protectionist tariffs with Canada -- our best trading partner in this hemisphere -- simply does not make sense."  ACAH today called the Commerce Department's action nothing more than a "tax increase on housing."  "ACAH opposed implementing tariffs and other potentially restrictive border measures because they cause artificial price increases and volatile swings in the lumber market, which hurts housing affordability and U.S. purchasers of lumber," Petniunas said.  "These types of actions are simply a tax increase on housing."  "We urge that the Senate Finance Committee protect the interests of U.S. consumers and lumber-dependent industries that employ seven million workers by requesting that the Administration interpret pending trade cases in a fair, factual, and unbiased manner," ACAH wrote in its testimony.  "Moreover, it is imperative the Administration exclude any provision that would impose a tax, quota or other government-mandated cost increase on U.S. consumers in negotiations with Canada."

02/13/2002
The day in Tallahassee, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2002
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The day in Tallahassee, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2002

BY The Associated Press State & Local Wire

Anti-tax activists fanned out across the Capitol to lobby against a proposed overhaul of the state sales tax. About 150 members of Citizens for a Sound Economy were trying to derail the tax plan, which is being pushed by Senate President John McKay. The measure would lower the sales tax rate from 6 percent to 4.5 percent, but end tax exemptions that make some items and many services tax free.

02/13/2002
Economic Liberty and Government Growth
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Press Release

Economic Liberty and Government Growth

02/12/2002
A Toast to Diversity
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Press Release

A Toast to Diversity

At the end of last year, the broadcast television subsidiary of General Electric, National Broadcasting Company (NBC), announced its plans to end the 54-year voluntary ban on liquor advertising with the sale of primetime commercial slots to British spirits firm, Diageo, which owns such brands as Smirnoff vodka, Tanqueray gin, Johnnie Walker whiskeys and Guinness. The move was triggered by the cirrhotic advertising market, which has heaved the revenues of media firms into the toilet and punished poorly rated network programs. In January, NBC announced that its 2001 revenues fell by 15 percent from the previous year.

02/12/2002
President’s Day: Time for Action
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Press Release

President’s Day: Time for Action

02/12/2002
Florida CSE Day at the Capitol
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Press Release

Florida CSE Day at the Capitol

Over one hundred and fifty citizens will travel from all across the state this week (February 13, 14) to send a direct message to the state legislature “We Want Less!” The two days of meetings with legislative and executive branch officials will begin with a press conference to present Citizens for a Sound Economy’s top priorities for this legislative session:

02/12/2002
New Jersey’s Consumers Need Competition and Choice, Not More Regulation
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Press Release

New Jersey’s Consumers Need Competition and Choice, Not More Regulation

New Jersey has one of the most heavily regulated insurance markets in the nation. Historically, New Jersey’s consumers have paid the highest rates in the nation for automobile insurance, and they continue to do so today in the wake of a number of failed attempts to reform the insurance market over the past 30 years. In fact, a recent survey found that in New Jersey 17 percent of consumers believe that automobile insurance is the most important problem they face, while in other states only 1 percent of the consumers rate automobile insurance as a significant problem.

02/11/2002
Minorities protest EchoStar-Hughes
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Minorities protest EchoStar-Hughes

BY Ron Orol

HIGHLIGHT: Protesters marched on EchoStar Communications' D.C. office Feb. 11 urging the rejection of the satellite company's $26 billion merger with Hughes Electronics. Several groups claimed that the merger would cut programming available to African-Americans. BODY: WASHINGTON - Toting signs reading, 'We're dis'n the DISH,' and 'Access for African-Americans,' protesters marched on EchoStar Communications Corp.'s Washington office Feb. 11 and urged rejection of the satellite company's $26 billion merger with Hughes Electronics Corp.

02/11/2002
U.S. Flaws in Trade Action Against Canadian Softwood Lumber Cited
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U.S. Flaws in Trade Action Against Canadian Softwood Lumber Cited

Congressional trade staff today heard that a major flaw in the current trade penalties being applied to Canadian softwood lumber imports is the failure of the Bush administration to consider the significantly negative impacts they cause on consumers. The briefing, hosted by the Cato Institute's Center for Trade Policy Studies, was sponsored by Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking minority member of the Senate Finance Committee.  "The Department of Commerce effectively levied a federal sales tax on every American family buying a home," said Gary Horlick, prominent trade attorney with O'Melveny and Myers, a law firm representing American Consumers for Affordable Homes (ACAH). The combined countervailing duties and antidumping duties imposed by Commerce amounted to 32 percent for 90 days last fall.  In December, countervailing duties lapsed until May 2002, and the current antidumping duty is 13 percent.  ACAH is an ad-hoc alliance of 17 major national consumer groups, businesses and organizations representing at least 95 percent of lumber consumption in the U.S.  "These duties essentially mean that the cost of homes in the U.S. is increased by more than $1,000 per home, which, according to U. S. Census Bureau calculations, means that approximately a half-million American families can not qualify for mortgages to buy a new home," Horlick said. "In 1986, Commerce negotiated a 15 percent export tax with Canada that cost American consumers hundreds of millions of dollars. The Softwood Lumber Agreement, which expired last March, replaced it, adding even more hidden taxes on homebuyers, and pricing hundreds of thousands of families out of the housing market.  It is time for the U. S. to give millions of consumers consideration in trade disputes. It is time to get rid of hidden sales taxes and help make homes more affordable."  Horlick also said that the U. S. is not following World Trade Organization or North American Free Trade Agreement rules in making its preliminary countervailing and antidumping decisions. "The U. S. position has significant flaws," he said. "It uses cross-border comparisons, for example, to calculate the duties.  Cross-border comparisons are not allowed under international trade rules."  Following hearings before the Commerce Department and the International Trade Commission in late February and March, final determinations will be made on both countervailing and antidumping duties in May.  "What the protectionist forces in the U.S. are asking Commerce to do is to force Canada to agree to an export tax on softwood lumber, collect it and keep it in Canada," Horlick added.  This means that a foreign government will impose a tax on lumber bought by U. S. homebuilders and consumers."  Congressional staff members were also told that spruce pine fir from Canada does not compete with southern yellow pine produced in the U. S.  The properties of the two species are significantly different, and their uses in a home are different.  Representatives of homebuilders, lumber dealers and other consumer groups told the International Trade Commission (ITC) last summer that Canadian lumber is used for framing because it will not twist or warp. Southern yellow pine is not suitable for framing, and is used in decking, for example.  Horlick noted that both Canadian softwood lumber and U. S. southern yellow pine are needed to build U.S. houses, so raising the price of Canadian lumber reduces the number of houses built, and thus, the amount of U. S. lumber ultimately used.  Additionally, the U. S. supply of softwood lumber has been significantly depleted or is now locked up in state and federal forests.  Twelve U.S. Senate and two House leaders recently sent a letter to President George W. Bush and Commerce Secretary Don Evans urging them to overturn the duties that are harming consumers, the housing industry and the overall economy.   In addition, more than 100 Members of Congress have expressed support for free trade in lumber between the U.S. and Canada by sponsoring H. Con. Res. 45 or S. Con. Res. 4.  ACAH members include American Homeowners Grassroots Alliance, Catamount Pellet Fuel Corporation, CHEP USA, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Consumers for World Trade, Free Trade Lumber Council, The Home Depot, International Mass Retail Association, International Sleep Products Association, Leggett & Platt Inc., Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform, Manufactured Housing Institute, National Association of Home Builders, National Black Chamber of Commerce, National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association, National Retail Federation, and the United States Hispanic Contractors Association.

02/11/2002

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