HOUSE TAKES CARE OF BUSINESS. In contrast to their rhetorical commitment to "put the people's business first," the new leaders of the House of Representatives made a pro-corporate, anti-consumer "blast from the past" their first order of business in 1999, Public Citizen said. Among the first bills passed by the House in early February were two retreads from the 1994 Contract with America's campaign against government safeguards:

H.R. 350 creates a procedural roadblock for legislative proposals designed to strengthen public health, safety and environmental protections. The "point of order" it allows against private sector mandates costing more than $100 million annually also could be used to derail a minimum wage increase or tough managed care reforms. H.R. 350 would let members of Congress hide behind an undemocratic procedural motion instead of voting up or down, on their merits, on measures of critical significance to the American people.

H.R. 391 lets first-time violators of any record-keeping or reporting requirement automatically off with no penalty -- an invitation to scofflaw companies to ignore paperwork that is vital to pollution control, food safety, nursing home fraud and abuse and other vital public protections. H.R. 391 is ostensibly just for "small businesses," but it covers firms with up to 500 employees, and in some cases, up to 1,500.

EMPLOYED BUT UNINSURED. Nearly half of all poor working parents lacked health insurance coverage throughout 1997, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported. The study, "Employed but Uninsured," with state-by-state data, determines that working poor parents are twice as likely to be uninsured as poor parents who are unemployed. It also finds that few states yet to take advantage of a new option the welfare law created that allows states to extend Medicaid coverage to low-income parents. The report is available online at http://www.cbpp.org/.

SANDERS MULLS SENATE RUN. U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a socialist who is the only independent member of Congress, is considering making a run for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican James Jeffords in 2000. Sanders told the Boston Globe his office received calls urging him to run when Jeffords voted with the Republicans not to dismiss the articles of impeachment. ''What it raises here is the fact that Senator Jeffords tells people he is a maverick Republican ... when the truth is, on most of the important issues, Senator Jeffords will side with the very right-wing Republicans,'' Sanders said. (Jeffords ended up voting to acquit Clinton.) Sanders, who has been elected statewide five times to his congressional seat and is the co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus, has not yet announced his candidacy for Jeffords' seat, saying he is only ''giving some consideration to running.''

BIOTECH FINDING SIDELINES RESEARCHER. A British scientist at a government-funded institute in Aberdeen, Scotland, who had been forced to retire early after publishing research showing that rats fed on genetically modified potatoes suffered a weakened immune system and damage to vital organs, has been supported in "an unprecedented memorandum" by 20 scientists from 13 countries calling for his rehabilitation, according to reports in the British newspapers, the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph. The Guardian also revealed that the rats' brain size had decreased. The government promised an urgent investigation but no immediate moratorium on the use of genetically engineered food.

NEW CAMPAIGN LOOPHOLE. Candidates for elective office may be able to form non-profit organizations to raise tax-deductible funds for campaign-related purposes in the newest loophole in campaign finance law. The IRS issued a memo in a case regarding the Progress & Freedom Foundation, affiliated with ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, according to Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, Feb. 8. Gary Ruskin of the Congressional Accountability Project said the new campaign finance loophole will likely provide greater influence to corporate and wealthy elites, who could afford to make large tax-deductible contributions to candidates, while further damaging the political influence of the vast majority of Americans who are less wealthy. See the Roll Call web site (www.rollcall.com/

JUDGE ORDERS NAFTA EXPLANATION. A U.S. District Court in Birmingham, Alabama, has directed the U.S. Government and the United Steelworkers of America to submit briefs addressing the merits of the union's lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of U.S. participation in the North American Free Trade Agreement because the trade agreement didn't receive a two-thirds approval vote of the U.S. Senate. A tentative hearing is scheduled for May 17. Justice Department lawyers had asked the court not to schedule such proceedings until the court ruled on the government's motion to dismiss the case. Nonetheless, the court decided to proceed.

USWA President George Becker said: "We look forward to presenting our arguments on why NAFTA must be viewed as a treaty that cannot be adopted without complying with the 'treaty clause' of the U.S. Constitution. The government has never explained how it could have come to the conclusion that NAFTA is not a treaty."

The lawsuit challenging NAFTA was filed by the USWA and the Made in the USA Foundation on July 13, 1998, in Birmingham. Copies of the court filings are available on the USWA'S website at: www.naftalawsuit.org

CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM RETURNS. Early House action on the Shays-Meehan campaign finance reform bill is a key test for newly elected House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.). An overwhelming bipartisan majority of House Members passed Shays-Meehan 252-179 just six months ago, despite House leaders' efforts to delay reform so that the issue shifted to the Senate with only weeks left before the end of the 105th Congress. A minority in the Senate was able to block the bill with a filibuster,and it died when the 105th Congress adjourned. Early House passage of Shays-Meehan is critical to putting pressure on the Senate to pass real reform that bans soft money. Contact House Speaker Hastert at 202-225-0600, write c/o Capitol, Room H-233, or e-mail him at dhastert@mail.house.gov with a variation of the following message:

Speaker Hastert: I urge you to schedule a vote on the bipartisan Shays-Meehan campaign finance reform bill early in 1999. Please do not deny the will of a majority of House Members and the American public by delaying a vote on real reform or by using other legislative tactics to derail it.

THE ALLIANCE FOR DEMOCRACY will hold its third national convention in Boulder, Colorado, from April 29 through May 3. A special preconvention session planned for April 29 will deal with food and agriculture. The focus of Convention99, "Ending the Corporate Century and Launching the People's Millennium," will be on deepening the Alliance's analysis of corporate rule, sharing visions of economic democracy and planning hard-hitting campaigns to change the status quo. Planned speakers include Mark Ritchie, director of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, who has launched a broad based attack on Monsanto's rBGH, and Ellen Miller who heads up Public Campaign, the lead organization promoting campaign finance reform. For more information call the AfD office, 781-259-9395, or email Peoplesall@aol.com.

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