Congressman Randy Forbes | Capitol Monitor
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January 28, 2010 Twitter Facebook YouTube Digg RSS
Balancing The Rules
It’s the light bulb in your local Martin’s or Farm Fresh. It’s the refrigerator in the little bakery down the street. It’s the plant food used at the nursery where you stop each spring to buy supplies for your garden. It’s the water hose you use to do your at-home car wash. It’s the shampoo you buy when you visit the salon.

As Americans, we come in contact with hundreds of items in our daily lives that are subject to federal regulations. In fact, it is nearly impossible to leave for work each morning without coming in contact with objects that are federally regulated: the bread you toast, the toaster you toast it with, the electrical socket you plug the toaster into, the car you sit in, the seatbelt you wear in the car...

Not all regulations are bad, nor are all regulations completely inconsistent with free-market principles. The ability for the federal government to set parameters for the basic protection of American citizens is important. We see this with over-the-counter and prescription drugs, with anti-fraud measures, and for the preservation of our natural resources as seen most recently with the BP oil spill. However, there has to be some level of examination to ensure the federal government is not overstepping its bounds. Also, there is a cost associated with each regulation – both to our economy and our pocketbooks – and Americans deserve to know that the costs are justifiable in terms of the benefit they provide.

In 2010, unelected bureaucrats in Washington issued 95 new “major” regulatory rules that cost our economy billions of dollars by imposing them on businesses, families, and local governments. These 95 “major rules” had an economic effect of over $100 million each, and they do not include the thousands of regulations that were imposed that are not considered “major rules.” In fact, the General Accountability Office (GAO) reports that in the four fiscal years from 1996 to 1999, a total of 15,286 new federal regulations went into effect. Nearly all of these regulations are done via rule-making rather than democratic consent.

Here’s how: every year, federal agencies issue thousands of regulations impacting all areas of the United States economy. The regulations are legally binding, but Congress never has to vote on them or approve them. These regulations can be on anything from restricting certain light bulbs to requiring certain heaters or roofs to changing how an industry compensates their employees. They come from unelected bureaucrats in federal agencies.  

This bureaucratic “rule-making” is a part of a disturbing trend in Washington. The regulations span from attempts to control the Internet, to the environment, to the financial industry, to healthcare and just about any product, service or industry in our country. The barrage of regulations has caused consumer costs to rise and businesses to become reluctant to invest or grow. According to a report released by the Small Business Administration, total regulatory costs amount to about $1.75 trillion annually, nearly twice as much as all individual income taxes collected last year. Had every U.S. household paid an equal share of the federal regulatory burden, each would have owed $15,586 in 2008.

Most recently, we have seen this bureaucratic rule-making with major financial and healthcare legislation. For example, the non-partisan Congressional Research Service reports that the new healthcare law “gives federal agencies substantial responsibility and authority to ‘fill in the details’ of the legislation through subsequent regulations.”

The Constitution has given Congress the duty to make laws, not to pass fuzzy ideas off to federal bureaucrats to interpret how the laws should look or to “fill in the details” with regulations. Over the past several years, Congress has shown disregard for its Constitutional duty by allowing the executive branch to fill in important details of legislation after it is passed. Likewise, the executive branch has been quick to overstep its authority to use the rulemaking process to circumvent the will of the people. One of the reasons the Constitution gives the lawmaking, or rulemaking, duty specifically to Congress is because representatives are held directly accountable for their actions by the people that they represent.

We need to restore a system of checks and balances to federal regulations. This week, I cosponsored a bill that would ensure legislative accountability in Congress and restore the constitutional balance of powers. It would require Congress to take an up-or-down vote on every government regulation deemed a “major rule” before it can be imposed on the American people and businesses.

The Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act would do just what it says: rein in the costly overreach of federal agencies that stifles job creation and hinders economic growth. Members of Congress should never have an option to avoid responsibility for the effects of the laws they pass. The bill ensures the responsibility for Congressional decisions is placed on representatives in Congress, as was intended by our founders.
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Understanding Your Credit Report
Understanding your credit report and what effect it may have on your financial decisions can seem like a daunting, confusing, and sometimes nerve-racking task.  Especially in the tough economic times we are facing today, many people may be reluctant to check their credit report, in fear that it could be more bad news.  Your credit report, however, can have a large impact on your personal finances, including your decisions on purchasing a car or home, or the loans you get, job you take, and future savings you make.  The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides specific information and resources on how exactly to check your credit report and what your credit report means for your future.

What is a Credit Report?

A credit report includes information on where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you’ve been sued or arrested, or have filed for bankruptcy. Nationwide consumer reporting companies sell the information in your report to creditors, insurers, employers, and other businesses that use it to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, or renting a home.

Why should I request a copy of my free credit report?

  • To make sure the information is accurate, complete, and up-to-date before you apply for a loan for a major purchase like a house or car, buy insurance, or apply for a job.

  • To help guard against identity theft.  Identity thieves may use your personal information to open a new credit card account in your name and then not pay the bills, which will show up on your credit report. 

How do I order my free report?

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months.  The three nationwide consumer reporting companies have set up a central way to contact them: 

  • Visit www.annualcreditreport.com

  • Call 1-877-322-8228

  • Complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. The form can be found at www.ftc.gov/credit.

Note that AnnualCreditReport.com is the only official site to help consumers to obtain their free credit report.

Do not contact the three nationwide consumer reporting companies individually; use this central contact information instead.  Through this contact information, you can choose to either get a credit report from all three consumer reporting companies at the same time or space out your credit reports over the 12 month period, opting for a credit report from one company at a time. For more information on access to your credit report, click here.

What if I find errors — either inaccuracies or incomplete information — in my credit report?

By law, you are responsible for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your report. To take full advantage of your rights under this law, contact the consumer reporting company and the information provider.

1. Tell the consumer reporting company, in writing, what information you think is inaccurate.  The consumer reporting company will investigate the items in question — usually within 30 days.  They also must forward all the relevant data you provide about the inaccuracy to the organization that provided the information. After the information provider receives notice of a dispute from the consumer reporting company, it must investigate, review the relevant information, and report the results back to the consumer reporting company. If the information provider finds the disputed information is inaccurate, it must notify all three nationwide consumer reporting companies so they can correct the information in your file.

2. Tell the creditor or other information provider in writing that you dispute an item. Many providers specify an address for disputes. If the provider reports the item to a consumer reporting company, it must include a notice of your dispute. And if you are correct — that is, if the information is found to be inaccurate — the information provider may not report it again.

For more information on how to dispute a credit report error, click here

Are there other times I am eligible for a free credit report?

Besides the three credit reports you get from each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – you are also entitled to a free report if a company takes adverse action against you, like denying your application for credit, insurance, or employment, and you ask for your report within 60 days of receiving notice of the action. The notice will give you the name, address, and phone number of the consumer reporting company. You’re also entitled to one free report a year if you’re unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days; if you’re on welfare; or if your report is inaccurate because of fraud, including identity theft.

If you are not satisfied with your credit report, there are ways you can improve it.  For instructions on how to build a better credit report, click here.  For information on using a credit counselor or debt management plan, click here.

IRS Scam Alert
As tax season approaches, be aware of the fraudulent use of the IRS name by scammers to gain access to financial information. 
Follow this link to read more. 
Did You Take This Week's instaPoll?
Don't miss out on the next instaPoll from Congressman Forbes' office. Subscribe to his blog or like his page on Facebook to get alerts on the current instaPoll.
Follow this link to learn more. 
Chart: Net Interest Spending Will Quadruple over the Next Decade
As the national debt grows, interest payments will consume more and more of the federal budget. This chart from the Heritage Foundation shows the projected growth.
Follow this link to view. 
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ON THE HILL PHOTO GALLERY
  Congressman Forbes discusses Hu Jintao's visit on Reuters TV. 
  Congressman Forbes is sworn in to the 112th Congress.
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