Last week, Massachusetts Rep. Bill Delahunt introduced a bill called the “Main Street Fairness Act,” which is a stupid name for a bill. The text of the bill hasn’t been released yet, but if passed, it would presumably set up a process where sales tax could be collected on purchases made over the Internet. As anyone who has shopped online over the past decade is probably aware, this has been an ongoing and thorny issue, since billions in online sales tax would provide a welcome revenue stream for struggling states. [More]
Kiplinger says that in the near future, if you’re driving down a rural or less-traveled road, you might find yourself driving on gravel. Road asphalt has doubled in price over the past three years and shows no signs of coming back down, so some states–Michigan, Minnesota, Indiana, Vermont, and Pennsylvania to begin with–are looking for ways to cut corners. Gravel costs $20 a ton compared to asphalt’s current $400/ton price. [More]
A new report has been published that ranks the quality of health care for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It’s not looking too swell for people who live in the South.
Connecticut shoppers with bowel disorders, rejoice! Now, there’s a sentence we never expected to write. In order to prevent humiliating and undignified restroom access debacles for people with verified medical conditions, Connecticut has passed a law guaranteeing their access to otherwise off-limits restrooms in public places. The law went into effect on October 1st.
Life insurance polices are backed by state guarantee associations, but the coverage offered varies drastically from state to state. Some products, like variable annuities, can be recovered in full because of the way they’re structured, but if you have term life insurance or a universal policy, you should know the limitations of your state’s coverage…
Governor David Paterson of New York signed into law a bill extending unemployment benefits for thirteen more weeks. Around 56,000 people are on their last week of benefits right now, and the extension takes effect immediately.
Very Short List notes that “America’s lotto kiosks are currently reporting heretofore unheard-of earnings,” despite the average rate of return—53%—being less than slot machines. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon recently completed a study in which they primed people to feel relatively poor, then offered them a chance to buy lottery tickets, and the results suggest that the poorer you feel, the more likely you’ll waste your money on a lottery.
Each year banks give states $4.7 billion belonging to people who failed to “initiate a transaction or communicate with the financial institution” in the past three years. The money isn’t lost forever, but getting it back can be a bureaucratic hassle full of forms and headaches.
CSO has produced an interactive U.S. map that shows what’s required of companies that suffer a data breach in the 38 states that care enough about consumer rights to have passed disclosure laws. Most are modeled after California’s strict SB1386 anti-ID theft law, but now you can tell at a glance what your state is doing about the issue—and in most cases you can click on the icon in the pop-up info box to see a copy of the actual law.
New Hampshire will become the latest state to keep payday lenders from gouging their patrons. A measure passed by the legislature will cap interest rates on payday loans at 36%, a drastic change for an industry used to bludgeoning underbanked consumers with interest rates exceeding 500%. Payday borrowers spend an average of $793 trying to repay a $325 loan. Let’s see how the economic leeches spin this as a loss for consumers.
What did the Bush administration do in response? Did it reverse course and decide to take action to halt this burgeoning scourge? As Americans are now painfully aware, with hundreds of thousands of homeowners facing foreclosure and our markets reeling, the answer is a resounding no.
South Carolina will begin selling ad space inside their public school buses—11-inch strips above the windows are now for sale, and “Interested school districts get about $2,100 per month per bus.”
In the last three years, New York has collected $19 million in unused gift card balances under the state’s unclaimed-property laws. Best Buy added $135 million in unspent gift cash to its total operating income over the past two years. “For individual retailers, unspent balances can range anywhere from 2% to more than 10% of all gift-card sales,” notes BusinessWeek.
The Tennessee State Board of Education is expected to pass a bill on January 25th that will make Tennesee the eighth state (after Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Missouri, South Dakota, and Utah) to require that its high school students take a personal finance class before graduation.
The “Shine the Light” law passed in California in 2005 requires all businesses to tell customers who they sell their private data to, and to provide a no-cost way to remove your name, address, and phone number from their lists. Unfortunately, it’s not being followed by more than half of the companies tested in a new report: “The California Public Interest Research Group found only one third of the survey participants received responses from companies consistent with the law.”
An insurance trade group today announced a “series of steps” to expand the number of Americans who have health insurance. “The proposals, approved by a board of the industry’s main trade group, would make it harder for insurers to cancel policies or deny coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions. The steps would also limit the premiums that could be charged for such people.” The trade off? “The trade group also called on states to provide individual coverage for people who were likely to incur very high medical bills.”
Kids who spin yo-yo waterballs around their heads can get them wrapped around their necks, leading to tales of temporary blindness, blackouts, and neck scars. Today New Jersey voted 71-to-7 to ban sales of the toy. [Newsday]