Lame duck weekend includes several consumer victories–Pell grants, food safety, community radio, Internet scam relief; One big loser– no money for Wall Street reform

Reposted from U.S. PIRG’s Consumer Blog

While the 111th Congress already had resulted in enacting several major, historic victories, from health care to Wall Street reform, the lame duck post-election session — against usual form — is eking out a few more important victories for consumers.

Food Safety: The House is expected to today finalize presumed dead-in-the-water food safety reform, a major U.S. PIRG priority, after the Senate, somewhat  surprisingly, fixed a procedural mistake and re-passed the bill over the weekend. More from the Washington Post story Food-safety measure passes Senate in Sunday surprise.

Pell Grants to students: Following a weekend New York Times story by Tamar Lewin, Unease Grows About Future of Financing for Pell Grants, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) was able to insist that funding for this critical student program be restored.

Local Community Radio Act sent to President: After an epic ten-year battle led by the Prometheus Radio Project and other members of the PIRG-backed Media and Democracy Coalition, the Senate on Saturday passed the Local Community Radio Act. More from Prometheus:

“A town without a community radio station is like a town without a library,” said Pete Tridish of the Prometheus Radio Project, the group which has led the fight to expand community radio for ten years. […] The Local Community Radio Act will expand the low power FM (LPFM) service created by the FCC in 2000 – a service the FCC created to address the shrinking diversity of voices on the radio dial.  Over 800 LPFM stations, all locally owned and non-commercial, are already on the air.  The stations are run by churches, schools, non-profit organizations,
local governments, and emergency responders.

House Sends President “Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act,” S 3386 (Rockefeller-LeMieux): This PIRG-backed legislation will prevent websites that you’ve purchased something from from then giving your credit or debit card number to some sleazy third-party marketer which has a “trial-offer” pop-up on the first website’s page. You guessed it– you look at the pop-up page full of tawdry junk offers — for even a mere two seconds — and you get billed, even though you never agreed to buy anything and never gave that site your account numbers. The first site did! The small print on a different page said they could! Not any more! We still need more work in this area– where the banks lead in offline abuses — but the online fix is big. Rockefeller hearing.

Alas, Wall Street pressure is choking off funding to implement Wall Street reform.

Well, those are all good outcomes, but so far, it looks as if the House and Senate Republican leadership — in the budget deal — have succeeded in choking off necessary additional funding for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to ramp up their efforts to implement key investor protection and shadow market reforms elements of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. This sort of action is Congress at its worst. More from wonkroom.