Refinery Bill Barely Passes as House Leaders Hold Vote Open for 46 Minutes
On October 7, the Leadership of the House held open what was supposed to be a five-minute vote for over 45 minutes in order to pressure a handful of House members to change their votes on a controversial refinery bill As the scheduled five‑minute vote was set to end, the refinery bill was losing Over the next 41 minutes, House leaders persuaded three Republican lawmakers to change their votes from no to yes, and the refinery bill squeaked by on a vote of 212 to 210 Rep. Levin voted against passage of the legislation and instead supported a substitute proposal authored by fellow Michigan Representative Bart Stupak to give the Federal Trade Commission explicit authority to stop energy price gouging The Stupak substitute would strengthen enforcement and penalties for those who price gouge, explicitly outlaw market manipulation, and empower state Attorneys General to enforce federal law on top of their state lawsIt would also establish a Strategic Refinery Reserve patterned after the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
Sharply Higher Home Heating Bills Expected This Winter
On October 12, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecast that heating bills will rise sharply this winter, especially for those who heat their homes with natural gas According to the EIA winter fuels outlook report, A on average, households heating primarily with natural gas can expect to spend about $350 (48 percent) more this winter on fuel. Also, the Weather Service has predicted colder than normal temperatures this winter If this forecast proves accurate, home heating costs would rise still higher For additional information, click here.
Lawmakers Seeks Emergency Funding for Energy Assistance
Rising energy costs will especially strain the heating budgets of low-income households, including families with children, the elderly, and disabled individuals this winter.The federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps pay the winter heating bills of low‑income and elderly people. LIHEAP is a vital safety net for our nation's low-income households that cannot afford their energy bills.Without LIHEAP assistance, low-income families and senior citizens face a difficult choice between paying their home energy bills or affording other basic necessities such as prescription drugs, housing and food.On September 30, more than 100 House members, including Representative Levin, wrote to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee to request $1.2 billion in emergency LIHEAP funds
Social Security Benefits to Rise in January
The Social Security Administration announced this week that Social Security payments to more than 48 million retired and disabled Americans will increase 4.1 percent in 2006. This will be the largest increase in 15 years.Retirees will begin receiving the cost-of-living adjustment in their January checks. Annual cost-of-living adjustments are one of the most important features of Social Security's guaranteed benefits because they help ensure that seniors retirement income is not eroded by inflation This inflation protection benefit is not offered by most private pension plans
New Bankruptcy Law Takes Effect Monday
On October 17, it will become significantly more difficult and expensive for individuals to claim bankruptcy protection. The new bankruptcy law, passed by Congress last April, includes a means-test to determine if filers will have to go through a three- to five-year repayment plan rather than having their debt wiped out. Oven the past month, tens of thousands of cash-strapped consumers and businesses have scrambled to file for bankruptcy protection before the new, more restrictive rules take effect
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