Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Foreclosed Homeowners Have Tenant Rights in Eviction Actions

The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts today held that the Housing Court and other courts which hear eviction matters may consider homeowner defenses and counterclaims against the mortgage companies engaged in evicting them post foreclosure.  See BANK OF AMERICA, N.A. vs.  ROSA (SJC-11330). This is another victory for homeowners in the foreclosure process given recent history of extensive bank misconduct. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Federal Student Loan Agency Recognizes Same-Sex Marriage

Is someone in your family planning to apply for federal student aid? A recent change may affect the results. The U.S. Department of Education just announced that it will recognize students' and parents' same-sex marriages in determining federal student loan eligibility. Depending on the particular circumstances, this change could mean either an increase or decrease in the aid received.
Unfortunately, college still requires a lot of Benjamins.
Photo used under Creative Commons license from @401(K) 2013 on Flickr.

Education secretary Arne Duncan wrote, "We must continue to ensure that every single American is treated equally in the eyes of the law, and this important guidance for students is another step forward in that effort... As students fill out their FAFSA this coming year, I'm thrilled they'll be able to do so in a way that is more fair and just.”

The changes are effective immediately, although updated forms are not yet available. Students may file an amended FAFSA to make sure their aid is calculated correctly.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Immigration reform set to return in 2014

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives wrapped up its work on Thursday with no progress made on immigration reform.  However, both parties gave assurances that they tackle this thorny issue early next year.  Supporters of immigration reform held sit-ins in the Capitol on Thursday and visited with other activists who have been fasting to protest the lack of a vote in the House.

House speaker John Boehner appeared to signal a major break from right-wing conservatives on Thursday after they opposed his efforts to reach a deal with Democrats over the federal budget.  The House has shied away from a comprehensive plan, in favor of a more piecemeal approach.

Experts in immigration reform believe that Boehner is preparing to work with Democrats on the issue in the New Year.  Only last week, Boehner appointed a high-profile immigration expert, Becky Tallent, who worked for senator John McCain when he last tried to pass comprehensive immigration reform under President George W. Bush.  It seems unlikely that Ms. Tallent would have taken the job unless there was a plan in place to move forward on immigration reform in 2014.

The White House has continued to promote reform.  Democrats have hinted at possible concessions they may be willing to make in order to come to an agreement on an immigration reform bill.

Max Sevillia, policy director at the Naleo Educational Fund, said “If Republicans ever want to have a president again, they need to pay attention to the Latinos.”

Let’s hope that the Senate and House make immigration reform a reality in 2014.

For more on this subject, see this article published on Thursday in the New York Times and another one published today in The Guardian. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

FDA considers regulations on pet food

Inspector, my hot dog has legs!
Photo credit @Mosman Council on flickr; used under CC license
When you give your pet a treat, how do you know it's safe?

A 2010 food safety bill gives the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to begin regulating pet food more stringently. After dogs across the country became sick from eating tainted jerky treats from China in 2007, the FDA began a deeper investigation. It already has the authority to make rules about what ingredients pet food may contain, but it does not inspect the products. Now, it wants to promulgate regulations that would allow it to do more to catch tainted animal food before it gets to consumers. 

The proposed rules would cover contamination by chemicals, pathogens, and other contaminants, in an attempt to reduce food-borne illnesses. The regulations would also cover feed for farm animals, but would not affect antibiotic use on industrial farms.

To learn more about what the FDA currently does to ensure pet food safety, and to give comments on proposed regulations, please visit its website.