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GRINCHES
How lame-duck Ohio lawmakers stole rights from us before Christmas 2006

On Sunday December 17, 2006 The Cleveland Plain Dealer carried a hard-hitting story by Consumer Affairs reporter Sheryl Harris. She wrote about the stealth-like theft of our consumer rights by state legislators in a lame-duck session. The PD had the story on the first page of the Business section and on its website. A week later her column listed those who voted for this bill. This list will be archived on the PD's pages for six months, but we'll keep it here much longer and hope that anyone Googling their names will soon find this page.

With apologies to Dr. Seuss, we call this our Grinch list because they stole from us just before Christmas, Hanukah and Kwanzaa. In a season of giving, they took.

Grinch image 19372007 Dr. Seuss Properties

 

 


Plain Dealing with Sheryl Harris

Lawmakers gut consumer rights

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Sheryl Harris, Plain Dealer Columnist
sherylharris@plaind.com


Ohio's legislature has swindled the state's consumers.

Last week, lame-duck members of the House and the Senate waved goodbye to us with one hand and yanked away our consumer rights with the other.

In a single day, they tore the heart from the state's 30-year-old Consumer Sales Practices Act and crippled the state's tough new predatory-lending law before it even went into effect.

Why?

Lobbyists representing car dealers told them that a recent Ohio Supreme Court decision would open the floodgates of litigation and allow consumers to line their pockets with court winnings.

What the Supreme Court actually did was knock down a rogue court of appeals decision that said defrauded consumers couldn't sue for noneconomic damages.

The Supreme Court simply said that lower courts were acting within the law when they awarded triple damages for stress and humiliation to consumers who proved they were victims of deceptive or unconscionable sales tactics.

This is something the law has allowed for the last 30 years.

The floodgate rusted open a long time ago, and there never was a flood.

Most businesses simply aren't out there defrauding people.

But a few do. The damage provisions of the Consumer Sales Practices Act are aimed at them.

So couples tricked into predatory loans can sue for the humiliation of losing their homes to foreclosure.

So senior citizens ripped off by fly-by-night contractors can be compensated for the anguish of dealing with shoddy repairs.

So customers who are cheated on car lots have recourse.

But the legislature didn't listen to any of those folks.

Nope, in a spectacular display of arrogance and cynicism, it arranged this whole thing so the public wouldn't realize it had been swindled out of both the Sales Practices Act and the predatory-lending law until the deed was done.

Here's how the legislature pulled it off: At the last minute, a House committee rewrote an unrelated bill that had already passed the Senate, ensuring there would be no public hearings. The rewrite could simply fly through the House for a vote and then back to the eagerly waiting Senate for a quick concurrence vote.

When Attorney General Jim Petro dispatched an attorney to the Statehouse, testimony in hand, to defend the existing law, he was invited to sit down and shut up. And then House Speaker Jon Husted had the audacity to say that Petro "wasn't part of the debate."

"He didn't sit through the hearings, so he doesn't know what he's talking about," Husted said.

There was no debate for Petro - the public official charged with enforcing the Sales Practices Act - to be part of.

Or any of the rest of us.

Thanks to the legislature, non- economic damages will be capped at $5,000. A court won't be able to triple that figure - as it can now - to teach fraudulent businesses a lesson.

Our fate rests in the hands of Gov. Bob Taft.

Unless he vetoes Substitute Senate Bill 117 within 10 days after it hits his desk, it will become law.

Urge Taft to use his veto. Call him at 614-644-4357. E-mail him through   http://governor.ohio.gov/ contactinfopage.asp

Democracy shouldn't be a shell game.

To contact Sheryl Harris call 216-999-6344 or sherylharris@plaind.com

2006 The Plain Dealer

To read this on the web pages of the Plain Dealer, click here.

 

THE GRINCH LIST
In a lame-duck session they voted to reduce consumer rights.
Northeast Ohio Legislators only.

 Name

District

Hometown

Party

 Senators      
 Ronald Amstutz 22 Wooster Republican
 Jeffrey Armbruster 13 North Ridgeville Republican
 Kevin Coughlin 27 Cuyahoga Falls Republican
 Kevin Grendell 18 Chesterland Republican
 Robert Spada 24 North Royalton Republican
 Representatives      
 Charles Calvert 69 Medina Republican
 Matthew Dolan 98 Novelty Republican
 Bob Gibbs 97 Lakeville Republican
 Sally Conway Kilbane 16 Rocky River Republican
 Earl Martin 57 Avon Lake Republican
 Thomas Patton 18 Strongsville Republican
 Mary Taylor (auditor-elect) 43 Uniontown Republican
 James Trakas 17 Independence Republican
 Dan White 58 Norwalk Republican
 John Widowfield 42 Cuyahoga Falls Republican
Source:
Cleveland Plain Dealer December 24, 2006  Cheryl Harris
Party Affiliations from official lists for Senate and House of Representatives

To see our second Grinch List, click here.
 

 
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