Senator Udall Urges Support to Stop the Student Loan Interest Hike and Calls for Senate Rules Reform

Yesterday, Sen. Udall went to the Senate floor to voice his support for the Stop Student Loan Interest Rate Hike Act of 2012 and to urge Senate filibuster reform. The Republican filibuster of legislation to prevent the college loan interest rate hike is yet another example of the need to review the rules of the chamber.

“The other side says they care about our nation’s students too. Perhaps. But, there is caring, and then there is devotion. And once again, their devotion is for the wealthiest among us. It is not for the 7 million students worried about how they will pay for their education,” he said.

“Yesterday’s vote on the student loan bill was a prime example. We can’t even get onto the bill. Fifty-two Senators voted to move forward, but 45 Senators chose to filibuster. Once again, minority obstruction prevents majority rule. That’s not democratic, and it is not how our founders intended the Senate to operate” Senator Tom Udall said.

LULAC Applauds President Obama on Equality

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the largest and oldest Hispanic membership organization in the United States, expressed its support of President Obama’s statement yesterday on marriage equality. LULAC has long supported equal rights for LGBT individuals.

“Family unity has been one the greatest strengths of Latino communities in the United States,” stated Margaret Moran, LULAC National President.

According to a 2010 Bendixen & Amandi poll, Latinos are broadly supportive of equality for LGBT people. LULAC has long welcomed LGBT individuals into our membership. In 2006, the first LGBT LULAC Council was established in Dallas, Texas to foster dialogue between Latino and LGBT communities. In fact, 80% of Latinos believe that LGBT individuals often face discrimination.

“We have witnessed firsthand how painful it can be when LGBT partners are denied the rights and benefits of marriage,” stated LULAC National Executive Director Brent Wilkes. “From hospital visitation rights to spousal benefits, too many of our LGBT members have been treated unfairly and we welcome the President’s efforts to address this.”

Did you see: Marriage Equality in the News

President Obama became the first sitting president to express his support for same-sex marriage yesterday—and the nation took notice. Here’s what some of this morning’s editorials had to say:

“It has always taken strong national leadership to expand equal rights in this country, and it has long been obvious that marriage rights are no exception. President Obama offered some of that leadership on Wednesday.” — The New York Times 

“This development is symbolically important and enormously cheering. The nation has moved swiftly, in historical terms, from cruel and almost unthinking bigotry against gay men and lesbians to recognition that such prejudice is unacceptable.” — The Washington Post

“President Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage was both substantively important and politically brave. And he deserves enormous credit for it.” — The New Republic

 “Symbolically, Obama’s Comment To ABC News That ‘Same-Sex Couples Should Be Able To Get Married’ Is An Important, Even Historic, Marker Of How Far Public Opinion Has Shifted.” — USA Today

“President Obama’s Support For Gay Marriage Marks The End Of An Evolution For The President And, To An Extent, For The Country. Obama Based His Change Of Heart On Simple Fairness… His Commitment To Gay Marriage Puts Him On The Right Side Of History, And Demonstrates His Willingness To Embrace The Future.”  —  The Boston Globe

“In A National Conversation That Has Moved With Unprecedented Speed, Wednesday Was A Landmark: President Obama Pronounced Himself Personally Supportive Of Gay Marriage… Obama’s Statement, Personal Though It Is, May Move The Conversation Further.—  New York Daily News

“In A National Conversation That Has Moved With Unprecedented Speed, Wednesday Was A Landmark: President Obama Pronounced Himself Personally Supportive Of Gay Marriage….The Time Is Clearly Turning. And For The First Time, The Millions Of Gay And Lesbian Americans Who Want Nothing Less Than The Full Privileges Of Citizenship Can Claim The President Of The United States As An Ally.” —   Kansas City Star

“President Barack Obama’s Announcement That He Supports Gay Marriage Is A Heartening Development In The Campaign For Equality, And It Is Commendable That He Made His View Public Before The November Election Rather Than Afterward.” —   Baltimore Sun

Senator Udall Announces almost $35,000 to Farmers Markets for SNAP Families

U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) has announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will award approximately $34,700 to New Mexico farmers markets to help give financially struggling families access to healthy, fresh food. These funds are part of a $4 million award to provide wireless Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) systems for the 7,100 farmers markets nationwide.

Currently, Farmers markets, which usually do not have access to phone lines or electricity, have difficulty redeeming Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits through the EBT system. The wireless EBT system will allow SNAP participants to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables while supporting local farmers and communities.

In 2011, Udall sent a letter to the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee urging them to allocate the needed $4 million in funding.

There are currently over 1,500 farmers markets using EBT technology. Since 2008, SNAP expenditures at farmers markets have risen by 400 percent.

New HAMP Enhancements Will Help Military Homeowners

Our military families make many sacrifices for our nation, and not just when a servicemember goes into combat. Military families also face challenges when a servicemember receives orders for a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move to another base, and the family has to decide whether to go along or live apart. Unfortunately, for many military families, this challenge has become more difficult in the wake of the housing market downturn.This is because like other Americans, many military homeowners are currently underwater on their mortgage. Because their home’s value has decreased since they purchased it, these servicemembers may not be able to sell their home at a price that will pay off their mortgage, and they may not be able to rent out their home at a price that will cover their monthly mortgage payments.  These military homeowners also may get a lower housing allowance at their new duty station, and may face additional loss of income while their spouse looks for a new job.Suddenly, military homeowners who have been faithfully paying their mortgage on time face a real risk of falling behind.

In the last few weeks, Treasury and the Office of Servicemember Affairs at the CFPB have worked together to address this issue. And, as a result, Treasury is making important changes to its Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) that will provide more opportunities for mortgage assistance to military homeowners.

Many underwater military homeowners have looked for help from mortgage assistance programs to no avail. If they move, they may be told that they are not eligible to modify the mortgage on their home because it’s no longer their primary residence.  And they may not qualify for assistance because they are still current on their mortgage or their income has not changed, so they are not considered to have a “verifiable financial hardship,” despite the fact that they now have to pay for housing in two locations.  The financial difficulties are stressful enough, but for military homeowners, becoming delinquent on their mortgage can also put their security clearance at risk. If they show a negative change to their credit rating, it not only hurts their ability to get credit, but can actually cause them to lose the security clearance they must have to do their job.

Under recently announced changes to HAMP, which will go into effect June 1, military homeowners and other families who are permanently displaced by a job-related move may still qualify as owner-occupants, which means they may still qualify for a HAMP mortgage modification. The new criteria states that a borrower may qualify if he or she:

  • Is displaced due to an out-of-area job transfer such as PCS orders and was occupying the home as a principal residence immediately prior to the displacement;
  • Intends to return to the home at some point in the future; and
  • Does not own any other single-family real estate.

Military and other families who do own other residential properties may still qualify for a HAMP modification under expanded opportunities available for rental properties announced by Treasury in January. They also may qualify for a short sale through Treasury’s Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives Program (HAFA).

Our servicemembers deserve our full support.  We don’t want any member of our military to be forced by financial challenges to leave their family behind. This would be a heartbreaking decision for any family, but it’s especially tough for military families, who often face long periods of separation during deployment.These changes to HAMP are one way Treasury and the CFPB are working together to support military families and the many other hardworking families struggling to maintain homeownership.

2012 Doña Ana County Voting Information

All voters should also be aware that 39 Voting Convenience Centers will replace traditional precinct polling places for the 2012 Primary on Tuesday, June 5, and again on Tuesday, November 6, 2012 for the General Election. Doña Ana County voters may cast ballots at any of the Voting Convenience Centers. Read more about the new Convenience Centers…

Doña Ana County Voter Convenience Centers

Doña Ana County has opened 39 Voting Convenience Centers for the 2012 Primary and General Elections. These centers are different than the traditional polling places locations in that registered voters can vote at any of these locations. Polls are open 7:00 am to 7:00 pm. Note that former polling places may not be included in the list of new voting centers.

Click for list of locations of all the Voter Convenience Centers open for the June 5, 2012 Primary and November 6, 2012 General Elections.