Friday, March 29, 2013

Last Call

The Big Apple has just approved a citywide ordinance that will give paid sick days to thousands who don't get them...that is if companies decide 14 is a great number, and the real issue is mayoral candidate and current NYC City Council Speaker Christine Quinn's reaction.

The mandate will take effect on April 1, 2014, and will extend to include businesses with 15 or more employees a year later, under the accord, which was confirmed by Robin Levine, a City Council spokeswoman. It will also require all employers in the city to provide unpaid sick leave starting in 2014.

“The final outcome leaves out over 300,000 New Yorkers,” said city Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, a rival to Council Speaker Christine Quinn among five Democrats running for the party’s mayoral nomination. She had previously blocked efforts to bring such a proposal, backed by 38 of the 51 council members, to a vote.

The law, if adopted, will mean workers won’t have to fear losing a job because of illness. It will affect 1 million New Yorkers by 2015. A similar measure has won approval in Portland, Oregon, while others are pending in Massachusetts, Vermont and Washington state.

Quinn for three years resisted calls from a majority of the council to permit a vote on a bill that would have covered employers with five or more workers, saying it would impose too great a burden on small businesses while the unemployment rate remained at more than 9 percent. As a mayoral candidate, she has been criticized by de Blasio and others for her opposition to the measure. 

The loopholes are big enough to drive a truck through, frankly.   But good for Christine Quinn to at least recognize that half a loaf here is better than none.  When the nation's largest city instituttes a law like this, I'm only hoping more cities will follow.

Fueled Up, Ready To Go

The Obama administration is today having the EPA lay out major new rules for cleaner gasoline with less sulfur.  Big energy companies are screaming it will "dramatically" raise the price of fuel by 9 cents a gallon, the reality is it'll add less than a penny and be the equivalent of taking about 12% of the nation's 250 million plus cars off the roads in reducing emissions.

While gasoline sulfur itself does not pose a public health threat, it hampers the effectiveness of catalytic converters, which in turn leads to greater tailpipe emissions. These emissions — nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide and fine particles — contribute to smog and soot, which can cause respiratory and heart disease.

The proposed standards were first reported by The Washington Post on Thursday afternoon and confirmed by the administration Thursday night.

The regulations are supported by environmental advocates, state regulators and even automobile companies, who would prefer uniform sulfur standards for fuel nationwide. But oil industry officials and their congressional allies say it will cost up to $10 billion to upgrade refineries and an additional $2.4 billion in annual operating costs.

Both public health advocates and the administration say the ultimate cost would be much lower because of provisions giving refiners flexibility in complying with the standards. The EPA estimates annual health benefits of up to $23 billion by 2030.

The agency surveyed 111 U.S. refineries and found 29 already can meet the sulfur standard or come close to it, 66 can reach it with modest modifications and 16 would require a major overhaul.

Time to invest those record tens of billions in profits back in your businesses and into the health of your customers, energy companies.  Of course, Big Oil knows it can jack up the prices whenever it feels like and they can continue being the most profitable companies on Earth, so I have no sympathy for them.

But the Obama EPA is doing the right thing here for all of us.  More of this, please.

Ohio Comes To Carolina

Back home in North Carolina, the Zandarparents inform me that new GOP Gov. Pat McCrory and the Tea Partified legislature are on a roll now that Democratic Gov. Bev Purdue is gone. She was the only thing standing between the Tarheel State and nonsense like this.

Two bills filed by Republican lawmakers seek to cut back early voting and eliminate same-day registration in North Carolina.
Senate Bill 428, filed by Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, would cut the early voting period from two weeks to one and would eliminate same-day voter registration.
House Bill 451, filed by Rep. Edgar Starnes, R-Caldwell, goes even further. In addition to cutting early voting and same-day registration, it would also outlaw early voting on Sunday and straight-ticket voting.

To recap, Republicans are happily running in NC on "We want fewer people to vote, and fewer people to be allowed to vote." Nobody apparently sees the problems with this. They're not even trying to hide the fact that it's voter suppression anymore.

Democrats say such bills are intended to make it harder to vote and will disproportionately affect low-income, working and minority voters – groups that traditionally favor Democrats.
The Sunday ban, in particular, would affect popular "Souls to the Polls" voting drives at African-American churches.
"I think Sundays just should be – some things you just shouldn't do on Sundays, so I am just opposed to voting on Sunday," Starnes said.

You can practically see the hidden "those people" before the word "voting" in that sentence there. But again, Republicans are actively saying A) we make it too easy to vote in North Carolina, so we should probably put an end to it, because if you can't vote during banker's hours on a Tuesday, you don't deserve to be a part of the body politic.

Tillman said his bill isn't meant to be partisan, noting all voters would still have equal access to the polls.
Meanwhile, he said, keeping early voting sites open for two weeks costs money that could be better spent elsewhere.  "We're paying people for two weeks to run those election centers," he said. "Let's cut it to one week, and we can do the same thing. It's not to disenfranchise anybody."

Why should representative democracies spend money on stupid crap like "voting", anyway? GOP learned their lesson in Ohio, and that lesson is "if the minorities can vote, we lose." Gotta actively legislate the end of that, call it non-partisan, and say God didn't want you to vote on Sundays anyway, plus why are we spending money to hold elections? Let's take the difference and cut some taxes for some one percenters, and they'll create votes instead!


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