On KFAI this morning, 90.3FM [February 6, 2012] Andy from “Truth to Tell” had on 3 people talking about the MN bills on the floor this week that were written by A.L.E.C. I was only able to hear part of the show but the woman from the Trial Lawyers was very good speaker. [The show is available from KFAI.org.]
The only thing was they didn’t mention the name or # of the bill or the name of the author who would be a GOP MN A.L.E.C. member, at least not when I was able to listen.
The guests did do a good job of explaining A.L.E.C. and how the bills benefit Corporations and hurt small business and consumers. We really need to expose the GOP MN members of A.L.E.C.
Here are the names of the guests and who they are with. I wish the guests had named names of the GOP authors because of the Caucus tomorrow. But I don’t know how many of KFAI members listen are conservatives or Republican.
I would think if they knew which of the GOP MN legislatures are members of A.L.E.C. they might confront them.
The Minnesota Association for Justice Website had a good link to the Bills and what they are about which is completely different from the title of the bill. sort of like “right to work” bill.
MARY CECCONI – Executive Director, Parents United for Public Schools (website under renovation)
The Common Cause has a report that is much more specific on the bills.
Here are the bills I took of ALECMATCH and Minnesota Association for Justice
Stopping Whistleblowers at Agriculture Operations (HF 1369/SF 1118) * This bill would block investigative reporters, food safety advocates, animal rights advocates, and others from investigating or reporting on cruelty to animals or diseased animals entering the food chain. ALEC’s leading sponsor, Koch Industries, has beef operations that would benefit from laws to block complaints from neighbors or investigations into food supply safety or the environmental impact of the farm operations. Pork producers who run very large confinement feeding operations that produce noxious odors and water pollution would use this law to attack anyone who raises a complaint about their operations.
Making Tobacco More Appealing to Youth (HF1079) * This bill would change the tax rate of moist smokeless tobacco products so that they are taxed by weight instead of by wholesale price. The legislation is actually designed to make it easier for youth to get addicted to these tobacco products by lowering the assessed tax rates. Unsurprisingly, Altria Corp. (formerly Philip Morris) is one of ALECs sponsors.
Protecting Corporate Tax Breaks in the Minnesota Constitution (HF 1598/SF 1384) * Corporations have spent decades creating special tax breaks and now, with increased public scrutiny, corporations are trying to make it more difficult for the state to get rid of them by passing a constitutional amendment. This constitutional amendment would require a super-majority of votes in the legislature to end special tax breaks or pass tax increases when needed.
HF 747 / SF 429 – Attorney’s Fees & Offers of Settlement (A.L.E.C. Bill) **
This bill will make it difficult to hold companies accountable for their discriminatory, fraudulent, and employment related wrongful conduct, as well as over 300 other statutes that require an award of attorney’s fees to prevent wrongful and/or illegal conduct.
§ This proposal has been rejected as unfair by the US and Minnesota Supreme Courts.
§ The bill requires “proportionally” when awarding fees, meaning small claims will not be able to be asserted.
§ The bill proposes a “one way street” by imposing litigation risks on the plaintiff without any sanctions on the defendant. No penalties or “costs” are assessed against a defendant when they reject a settlement.
§ The legislation will encourage defendants to make unacceptable offers prior to trial because it requires the plaintiff’s attorney to disclose their time, fees and costs when they reject an offer. This provision violates the attorney/client privilege and is patently unfair and unprecedented.
§ Despite insurance industry myths – it’s the CLIENT that makes a decision on whether or not to accept a settlement or proceed to a trial. Insurance industry claims that an attorney prolongs litigation to churn up a fee is outrageous – and never supported by any evidence.
HF 770 / SF 530 – Pre & Post Judgment Interest Rate (A.L.E.C. Bill ) **
This bill reduces the judgment interest rates to the lowest in the country (4%). This bill is a windfall for insurance companies by creating an incentive to avoid paying legitimate claims by lowering their interest costs.
§ The current 10% judgment interest rate promotes prompt payment of awards, compensates the party of the loss of use of their money and prevents frivolous delays.
§ Minnesota’s previous judgment interest rate of 4% did not accomplish any of these goals. Allowing defendants to reduce their costs simply by delaying settlement or payment is bad for Minnesota businesses and consumers, and burdens the court with cases that should be settled and frivolous appeals.
HF 654 / SF 373 – Reduction of the statute of limitations (A.L.E.C Bill) **
§ Minnesota’s 6 year statute of limitations has been the law since 1841. It is one of the few laws that have remained in place, with little amendment, since statehood in 1858.
§ The 6 year statute has provided a great benefit to consumers and businesses. It provides an adequate period to bring a claim, but ends exposure for defendants at a reasonable time.
§ Minnesota does not generally recognize a “discovery rule” as many other jurisdictions provide. Some states may have a shorter limitation period but their statute does not begin to run until the injured party discovers the injury AND that is was caused by the defendant.
§ Lowering the statute of limitations for contract disputes would put us outside the norm for these types of claims. Many states allow 10 and even 15 years for contracts. Four years with no discovery rule is simply too short.
HF 211 / SF 149 – Class Action (A.L.E.C. Bill) **
Effectively eliminates consumer fraud, deceptive trade, and false advertising claims; imposes a legislative stay of discovery which is a breach of the separation of powers; provides for interlocutory appeals of class certifications.
§ This bill is harmful not only to Minnesota’s consumers but also to the business community.
§ This bill creates an automatic appeal of interim court decisions, which delays justice.
§ The legislative “stay of discovery” is completely unwarranted. Courts control the discovery process and have more than adequate tools to control abuse. Having the legislature stop discovery is a protection for those committing fraud and will allow for the destruction of evidence – again protecting wrongful conduct.
HF 1418 / SF 1236 – Corporate Successor Asbestos-Related Liability
This bill eliminates corporate successor asbestos liability; absolves companies from asbestos liability when certain conditions are met.
§ This bill is model legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) which is funded by corporate America and is behind much of the ‘model’ legislation moving through the Minnesota legislature.
§ This bill is not just about Crown, Cork & Seal – it would limit liability for any corporation that has asbestos liabilities as the result of or in connection with a merger or consolidation.
§ Crown, Cork & Seal is doing extremely well on Main Street and Wall Street. Fitch, Moody’s and other investment analysts upgraded Crown’s bond rating in April, 2011.
§ Crown Cork has annual sales of $8 billion and 22,000 employees worldwide.
§ In a hearing on this bill in Senate Judiciary Crown, Cork and Seal’s Minnesota defense counsel testified that the average annual cost of ALL asbestos claim payments to injured
Minnesotans is $57,000 – and that his fees to the company for defending these claims far exceed that amount each year.
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