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2005-01-25—Kohl—election day, class action suits, nurses

Harrison Weblog

2005 blog


Keeping up with Jewish officeholders

Kohl seeks changes for election day,
patient care, and class action suits
,  Jan. 25, 2005

U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis) introduced a package of bills in the Senate today (Tuesday, Jan. 25) including proposals to have federal elections conducted on weekends, to set up a system to screen caregivers who work with the elderly and the disabled, and to prevent class-action lawyers from cheating plaintiffs in successful suits.

The national elections bill would move federal elections "to the first weekend in November and open polling places for uniform hours over the two days," Kohl said, adding that a switch from the first Tuesday in November is necessary to address changes in the way Americans vote. "Voters increasingly opt to vote absentee or early because of increased crowding at the polls," he said.

The "Patient Abuse Prevention Act" will establish a "national background check system for workers who care for the elderly and disabled to weed out known abusers and people with violent criminal backgrounds," he said. "Current state and national safeguards have been inadequate to prevent abuse of patients by those who are supposed to care for them. All states are required to have nurse aide registries, but these registries are not efficiently maintained. Additionally many states limit their registries to nursing home aides, failing to cover home health and hospice aides."

The "Class Action Fairness Act," which Kohl is co-introducing with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is intended to "stop unfair and abusive class action settlements that ignore the best interests of plaintiffs." He said the legislation came in the wake of a case in Baraboo, Wis., in which plaintiff Martha Preston was an unnamed member of a class action suit against her mortgage company.  Lawyers took $80 from her escrow account, but only paid her back $4 after they themselves collected $8 million in expenses and fees. 

Kohl said his legislation "makes it easier to move class action cases to federal court, where the judges are much more experienced and there are greater resources to deal with these very large cases." Furthermore, he said, "the bill also adds an extra layer of review for the class action settlements by permitting the Attorney General of a state whose constituents are affected to review and object, if necessary, to the settlement before the judge approves it."
 —Donald H. Harrison