31 March 2013

Let School Officials Carry Guns in Schools? NO!

This St. Petersburg Times editorial is shocking:  School officials (such as your child's school principal) being allowed to carry guns on campus.
Sound scary?  Keep reading.
Well, if legislation which has been approved by the Education Subcommittee of the Florida House of Representatives makes it through the Florida Legislature, it would authorize school principals to authorize someone to carry a gun on campus.  But who would that authorized person be?  The principal him/herself?  An assistant principal?  A teacher?
In other words, if this bill passes, in a nutshell it would allow school officials such as a school principal to declare open season on students.  Why?  A teacher who would be authorized by law could pull out a weapon on students as a form of classroom control, among other things.
If you think this is scary, here is another St. Petersburg Times article about several eighth graders at Osceola Middle School who were terrorized at the hands of a toxic bully teacher, Shawn Siede.  According to that article, Mr. Siede quit rather than suffer the full wrath of the Office of Professional Standards of the Pinellas County School District.  Just think for a moment:  If this proposed law on school officials being allowed to carry guns on campus was already law in the State of Florida, God knows what would happen to your child in school?
The answer is very simple:  WE CANNOT LET THIS HAPPEN!!!
Schools are supposed to be a safe place for learning for your child.  Schools are not supposed to be state penitentiaries nor Chinese Reeducation Through Labor camps nor closed mini-North Koreas (does Virgil Mills Elementary in Ellenton (Manatee County) and Sand Pine Elementary in Wesley Chapel (Pasco County) and their tyrannical anti-parental rights principals, Mike Rio and Todd Cluff respectively, ring a bell here?) for that matter.
Furthermore, Florida has statutes on the books that make it loud and clear:  Absolutely no weapons on school campuses, period.  This is one part of the Florida Statutes that should not be changed at all.
Call, email or write your legislators today.  Let them know that you vehemently oppose House Bill HB 1097 sponsored by Representative Greg Steube of Sarasota and that you support keeping our public schools safe.  After all, allowing school administrators to carry weapons on campus is not the answer, neither is turning our public schools into correctional facilities for that matter.

29 March 2013

Day Out With Thomas 2013

Recently the Florida Railroad Museum proudly hosted a Day Out With Thomas for two weekends in March 2013.  As a proud member of the Florida Railroad Museum, I volunteered for the event over the two weekends performing a number of duties ranging from crowd control to checking tickets and issuing wristbands for the many people that attended.

After all, membership in the Florida Railroad Museum has a lot of benefits.  The one major benefit, free train rides on regular ride weekends, is an excellent justification for me to go out and about rather than spend all day at home and sitting on the couch or comfy chair watching TV or YouTube.

After all, volunteers are the lifeblood of the Florida Railroad Museum.  When there is a special event taking place such as a Day Out With Thomas, the museum does everything it can do to recruit volunteers from all walks of life, including this experienced Interstate 275 Florida roadgeek and railfan in training.

In fact, the museum gave us volunteers a free train ride on the last train of the day as a token of appreciation for our hard working and dedicated service over the two weekends the event was held.  While on the train, which was a ride to just south of Dickey Road in Manatee County and back to Parrish, I happened to enjoy the continuous Thomas and Friends music including the main Thomas theme; right after I disembarked from the train I went to the gift shop and bought me a CD called Thomas and Friends All Star Tracks; I was enjoying some Thomas tunes including Go Go Thomas, Roll Call (which is also the main Thomas theme), Misty Island Rescue, What Makes An Engine Happy and the others that were on the CD for the ride on northbound Interstate 75 through Tampa and back to Interstate 275 and St. Petersburg.

While I was in the gift shop, I noticed that the other Thomas and Friends CDs (not the one I bought) were on the Koch International label.  This rang a bell:  I have a 2 CD Avsenik Ensemble album on the same Koch International label in my increasingly expanding Slovene music collection.

Now I would like to share with you some photos that I took of the Day Out With Thomas event over the two weekends in March 2013 it was held at the Florida Railroad Museum in Parrish:


Here's a link to the set of photos that I have over at Flickr on my Flickr account, Interstate275Fla.  There you can view the photos and their descriptions if you so desire.

Sometimes I will use Google Picasa for photos on this blog if there is not too many.  As I took so many photos at the Day Out With Thomas event, I decided to use Flickr as it has better photo gallery capabilities, but I am trying out a photo gallery program for EdwardRingwald.com as described below.

Have you also visited my new Florida Railroad Museum page over at my website?  You ought to come by and check it out - in fact, I have a gallery of photos which I have organized using a new photo gallery software called Galleria.  I am still trying to get the captions to show up despite coding them properly in the HTML code, so just bear with me as I continue to introduce newer web design related features in order to make EdwardRingwald.com a better website.

For more information on the Florida Railroad Museum, head on over to their website.  There you can get the latest information on the regular train rides plus the themed train rides that are scheduled throughout the year, including the annual Day Out With Thomas event.

What I enjoyed very much is the smiles I have seen on the children when they enter the event, especially when I hand them a map that features Thomas prominently in the center.  Believe me, it was the best two weekends in March 2013 that I will remember.

23 March 2013

Spring Breakers: A Black Eye for the Tampa Bay Region?

On Friday, 22 March 2013 I had the opportunity to watch the premiere of the movie Spring Breakers, which was filmed in a lot of St. Petersburg area locations.  The Sunshine Skyway Bridge was featured significantly in the movie as well as St. Pete Beach, not to mention night scenes of St. Petersburg's 34th Street North (which we also know as US 19) from 13th Avenue North to 5th Avenue North.
Now here is my impression of Spring Breakers right after I left the movie:  This movie should not have been rated R; instead, it should have been rated NC-17 for all the constant nudity and violence all throughout the movie.  In fact, Spring Breakers has cast the Tampa Bay region in a black eye, and this article by Beau Zimmer at 10 News (WTSP-TV, St. Petersburg's CBS affiliate) says it all:  "Worst movie ever".
Perhaps Spring Breakers director Harmony Korine should have thought better before picking the Tampa Bay region and the beaches of the Pinellas Suncoast for this kind of a movie.  I know, when a major motion picture comes here to our region it helps our region's economy by bringing in a lot of temporary jobs among other things; however, when it comes to the subject matter of a movie it's a different thing.
After all, the Tampa Bay region - consisting of St. Petersburg, Tampa and Clearwater - is one of the great places in Florida, in fact, the nation, to live and work.  We got mile after mile of great beaches for your family to enjoy, not to mention the many attractions we have here (in fact, the major Orlando area attractions are a 90 minute drive away on Interstate 4!).  We got a great international airport, Tampa International Airport, which is one of the best airports in the United States.  We also have the picturesque Sunshine Skyway Bridge, a part of Interstate 275, well worth the $1.50 toll.
In short, there is a lot of great things the Tampa Bay region has to offer, whether you come to visit or decide to make the Tampa Bay region your home.  Don't let what you have seen in Spring Breakers give you a negative impression of what the Tampa Bay region is all about.
And one more thing:  Don't take your children to see Spring Breakers, period.  Being rated R (which should have been NC-17 in my book), Spring Breakers is not suitable for your children.

21 March 2013

Where has Movie Theater Etiquette Gone - Part III

Now playing here at the Edward Ringwald Blog:  Where has Movie Theater Etiquette Gone, Part III.

The place:  AMC Veterans 24 Theatres, located at the Anderson Road exit on the Veterans Expressway in Tampa.

The movie:  The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, a comedy about two superstar magicians that ruled the Las Vegas Strip for many years despite facing competition from a street magician that wanted to take magical illusions to the most extreme.  I did not believe the negative reviews in the St. Petersburg Times - I read about it online on my laptop during my lunch break and I thought it was a must see.

So, I set out across the Howard Frankland Bridge and exit Interstate 275 at Exit 39, the trusty exit for not only the Veterans Expressway but for Tampa International Airport as well as FL 60.  Northbound on the Veterans Expressway (FL Toll 589) past Hillsborough Avenue and Waters Avenue to the Anderson Road Toll Plaza and the exit for Anderson Road.  Once through the toll plaza and the mandatory beep meaning that the Florida DOT took my toll, it's a right curve from the left lanes going over the northbound lanes of the Veterans Expressway and - within a minute or two - AMC Veterans 24 Theatres.

Once there, pick up tickets that I ordered online (sure beats standing in the box office line!).  Hand tickets to the ticket taker.  Head over to the concession stand and then to the auditorium for the movie.  The usual AMC Theatres stuff:  First Look, reminders from AMC about safety as well as patron conduct such as no cell phone use or texting during the movie, then trailers for upcoming movies.

After almost 15 minutes of movie trailers, the feature presentation.  Unfortunately, trouble was brewing on the horizon right after the movie started, reminiscent of an experience I had almost a year ago when I went to AMC Veterans 24 Theatres to see Bully, as I explained in Where has Movie Theater Etiquette Gone:  The Sequel.

I was enjoying every minute of the movie when a group of teenagers came in and had the nerve of chattering since the movie started, not to mention the use of an Apple iPad that I noticed.  I politely asked these teenagers to please keep the chatter down but the teenagers got more impolite and rude, even resorting to using foul language.

That was it.  I ended up stepping outside the auditorium to speak to the usher on duty as well as the manager on duty and explained the situation.  Immediately staff and security were dispatched to the auditorium in order to deal with the situation; the manager on duty offered me a refund but I wanted to go back in and see the rest of the movie.  When I got back in I noticed that the noisy teenagers were gone - and I was able to enjoy The Incredible Burt Wonderstone without any distractions.

Needless to say, I ended up seeing the movie again the next day because of my having to step out of the auditorium to deal with a noisy patron issue at my expense.  After all, you pay for a movie and you are entitled to see the movie you paid admission for without any distractions whatsoever.  I still remembered what happened to the man who was serving in the United States Marines, Federico Freire, coming back from a tour of duty in Iraq when he and his wife, Kalyn, went to a Bradenton area movie theater in December 2010 and encountered a group of teenagers inside who insisted on chattering throughout the movie and both asked the teenagers to be quiet, only to be met with retaliation from the teenagers once outside the theater, according to this Bay News 9 article.

At least Federico and Kalyn Freire stood up for their rights to see a movie at the Royal Palm 20 Theatres in Bradenton without any distractions.  I agree with you 150 percent on that.

I got to admit it, the staff and management at AMC Veterans 24 Theatres in Tampa will go out of their way to make your movie going experience more enjoyable.  That being said, AMC Veterans 24 Theatres needs to be commended - from the staff and management all the way to the on duty security staff - for taking the appropriate action promptly when it comes to patron conduct, especially conduct when the movie is playing.  Speaking of the security presence, it makes going to the movies much more safer and enjoyable.

Unfortunately there are a lot of people in today's world that do not have any manners whatsoever.  Contrast this to the era in which I was raised in a better mannered and civilized world, an era before American Idol, instant gratification, Facebook and cell phones.

As I mentioned in Where has Movie Theater Etiquette Gone:  The Sequel, more needs to be done to address the issue of people who do not observe proper movie theater etiquette besides the individual theater manager who is ultimately responsible for the so many patrons that come to attend a movie and make the moviegoing experience to its fullest. Here in Florida I feel that our legislators need to enact laws dealing with the deliberate disruption of a movie theater when a movie is in progress, and I don't care if this sounds like governmental intrusion:

On the first violation, a civil infraction on the first offense with a $100 penalty.

On a subsequent violation within one year it should be a criminal misdemeanor of the second degree carrying a penalty of $500 and/or jail time of up to 6 months in the county jail, plus a ban on attending any - and I mean any - movie theater in the state for up to one year which is imposed by the judge. That ban would start from the moment the person is released from jail and/or released from probation, much like the mandatory 10 day impoundment of a motor vehicle for conviction of a DUI charge, which starts after release. Moreover, the judge can also impose mandatory restitution to a movie theater that has had to refund or issue readmission passes to patrons that have had to jump ship from the movie theater due to misconduct.

Like I mentioned previously, if you want to bring back civility and respect to movie theaters, please make it known to the general manager at the movie theater you go to, especially one you go to on a regular basis. Additionally, write your legislators in Tallahassee and demand better laws on enforcement of proper etiquette in movie theaters (and I mean laws that better deal with the subject, not the use of existing turn-good-people-into-second-class-citizen laws on the books such as Florida's Section 810.09, Florida's Trespassing Law).

Want proof on criminal laws that deal with a specific subject?  Look at Section 871.01 of the Florida Statutes - this law deals with disruption of a church service.  The same thing can be applied to movie theaters as far as disruption during the movie by chattering patrons is concerned.

Now that we're on the subject of movie theater etiquette, here are a few pointers that are good to know when you go to the movies, whether it's the multiplexes of AMC Theatres and AMC's Veterans 24 in Tampa or the one to two screen walk in theater in your area:

1.  Turn off that cell phone, BlackBerry, iPad, Droid or whatever when you enter the theater auditorium.  Better yet, lock up that cell phone in your vehicle out of sight.

2.  Your ticket only allows you to see a movie at a particular time and only within a particular auditorium.  This information is printed on your ticket when you obtain it from the box office or the ticket kiosk.  Your ticket does not allow you to hop from auditorium to auditorium; if you want to see another movie the same day at the theater be sure to purchase a ticket for the other movie too.  Auditorium hopping is grounds for exclusion from a theater without refund.

3.  When the movie starts, please observe silence during the feature presentation.  Your fellow movie goers will thank you.  Like AMC Theatres says, it's movie time, not cell phone or texting time or whatever.

4.  If you have a group of people that want to attend a movie, call ahead of time and find out if your theater will make arrangements so that your group can sit together during the show.  Please, don't show up with your little group right when the movie starts and chase other people out of their seats.  Unless told to do so by someone in authority at the movie theater such as an uniformed usher, I will not yield my seat to your group that decides to show up at the very last minute.

Now there is a meaning to come early to get a good seat.  In fact, if you buy your movie tickets on Fandango or MovieTickets.com you are advised to show up well in advance to get a good seat.

If everyone can follow these simple tips I presented above for going to the movies then everyone will be happy and at the same time everyone will get their money's worth for the price of admission.

09 March 2013

My Opinion on Employer Sponsored Wellness Programs

By now you've heard about them at work.  It's those so-called employee wellness programs that are put on by your employer so that you can stay healthy; after all, your employer wants to maintain a healthy workplace so to speak.

The purpose of those employee wellness programs is simple:  Your employer's Human Resources Department (HR for short) more than likely has on staff a wellness coordinator to oversee the wellness activities within your workplace.  The job of the wellness coordinator - as well as the purpose of these wellness programs - is to lure you, the employee, into a conference room conveniently located to where your desk or cubicle is located for a chock full of health and wellness information such as maintaining a healthy lifestyle, stuff on diabetes prevention, maintaining a healthy blood pressure, and much, much more.

In fact, some wellness events will bring in a health paraprofessional to conduct screenings for diseases such as blood pressure checks, blood glucose screenings for diabetes, and a lot more as well.  The purpose of these events is to apparently "empower" you with what you need to know to stay healthy - at your company's expense.

However, employee wellness is going much beyond the periodic wellness events conducted by your employer.  With the advent of Health Care Reform (a/k/a Obamacare) we are seeing more and more wellness programs tied into employer sponsored health insurance.  Sure, with Obamacare your insurer cannot charge you more for getting sick but there's a catch:  You can be charged more for having a risky lifestyle.

Here's a trend that is becoming more and more popular with employer sponsored health insurance:  The high deductible health plan, where you pay a significantly less premium but you have to pay more on deductibles.  However, in order to help you meet the high deductibles your employer will more than likely fund a health savings account to help you with these deductibles.

Now how much does your employer fund your health savings account?  Good question!  The following is from what I recently read on one high deductible health plan:

1.  Mere enrollment in the high deductible health plan:  $250.

2.  Complete a healthy lifestyle attestation:  $150.

3.  Complete an online health assessment:  $200.

4.  Submit yourself (and your spouse, if covered) to a biometric screening:  $250.

1 and 2 are no brainers.  However, 3 and 4 I think begin to cross the line into patient privacy, especially if someone has health issues.  With the biometric screening, in theory it can be used by your employer's health insurance company against you in that you can be charged high rates or risk getting dropped.  (I am not sure if the risk of being dropped applies to employer sponsored health care plans once Obamacare goes into full effect in 2014, but I know for sure you can't get dropped from an individual health care plan).

This is where employee wellness programs start to fit in more.  Beyond the traditional seminars and information on how to achieve a healthy lifestyle, we are seeing employee wellness programs that dabble more and more into one's private life as far as his or her health is concerned.  To me, that's none of an employer's business.

Which leads us to this question:  Do employer sponsored wellness programs give helpful information and advice on maintaining a healthy lifestyle or do these wellness programs go way too far and overreaching?

Well, here's my opinion on employer sponsored wellness programs:

These wellness programs should be renamed as employer sponsored sickness programs.  After all, these programs are designed to diagnose what your ailment is and to get you into a program in order to ameliorate your ailment or condition - usually an eight to ten week program held at a hospital or health care center somewhere.

More than likely you can't attend that eight to ten week program.  It's because of family commitments, not to mention the long commute you got to and from work daily.

Besides, there is no immediate cost savings realized from these employer sponsored wellness programs, according to a study published in the journal Health Affairs, as mentioned in this ABC Action News (WFTS-TV, the ABC affiliate here in Tampa) article.  The study followed a wellness program at a St. Louis hospital for two years.

According to the study, hospitalizations have decreased for six major conditions.  Unfortunately, the downside is that the savings, if any, were erased by increased outpatient costs.

Further, these employer sponsored wellness programs do dabble into one's medical history above and beyond the information and seminars presented.  According to the Health Affairs study, anyone wanting to sign up for the employer's most generous of their health insurance program are asked to submit to a privacy invading wellness program which included taking a person's height, weight, blood pressure, blood sugar and much more.

Yeah right.  These wellness screenings can be used against you by either your employer or your employer's health insurance company.  Does the Medical Information Bureau ring a bell?  And if you are filling a prescription and your employer's health insurance is covering you, chances are this information is being reported to a third party such as Ingenix.

And we can't forget one more privacy invading service:  The FICO Medication Adherance Score, courtesy of the same people that give you your credit score.  It is a record of how you adhere to your doctor's prescriptions.  In theory, this so-called medication adherance score can be used against you or even your loved one, especially if a petition for guardianship is ever filed:  During the inqusition of you or your loved one's personal affairs by the court appointed examining committee, your FICO Medication Adherance Score can be obtained by court order.  I know, the brief discussion on guardianship is not part of this topic on employer sponsored wellness programs but I threw it in for you just to illustrate the privacy dangers you face when you submit yourself to a privacy invading wellness screening.  I can go on further on how you or your loved one's medical records can have a significant impact in a guardianship case, but I'll save that for another topic.

In short, my opinion on employer sponsored wellness programs is this:  These programs are an invasion of your medical privacy, and your doctor's office - in a private setting - is the place to discuss your medical concerns.  Besides, there is little to no cost savings or return on investment involved.

03 March 2013

The Negative Consequences of being a Helicopter Parent

NOTE:  The following is not to be considered as legal advice.  Please see an attorney who is licensed by the Florida Bar (or the bar in your own state) if you need legal advice; most attorneys will give you a consultation regarding your legal issue from a half hour to an hour for a small or no fee.

It's March already, and in another three months high school graduation ceremonies will be here for you parents out there that are excited about seeing your child graduate from high school.  After high school graduation, it's off to college for freshman year.

It's amazing to see twelve years of your child's education fly by so fast from the day your child started Kindergarten.  Then elementary school.  Then middle school.  And then the four years of high school leading up to that big day for your child.

However, do you know what happens when your child turns 18 years old?  Here in Florida, turning 18 is considered reaching the age of majority, or in other words, becoming an adult.  As such, the legal landscape changes for your child once he or she turns 18 such as:

1.  The right to register to vote.
2.  The requirement to register for Selective Service, if male.
3.  The ability to enter into contracts.
4.  The right to sue and be sued.
5.  Any criminal offenses are tried in adult court.
6.  The right to choose where one is employed.
7.  The right to manage property.
8.  No parental consent needed for a Florida driver's license.
9.  The right to make his or her own decisions.

And the list goes on and on...

However, there is one minor detail which someone who turns 18 does not get yet, and that is the right to purchase alcoholic beverages.  That does not come until 21.

With that said, there is a growing phenomenon that has been going around involving parents whose children are in college, and that is being a helicopter parent.  I know, you as a parent are worried about your child's welfare now that he or she is in college, but once your child becomes a legal adult what you can do is very limited.

In fact, there is a negative consequence of being a helicopter parent:  Being the recipient of a restraining order which can have potentially devastating effects on your future.  Just ask the parents of Aubrey Ireland, who is attending the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music, according to this Huffington Post article I found.

The negative effects of being on the receiving end of a restraining order:

1.  Inability to own or possess firearms and/or ammunition.
2.  Loss of employment opportunities.
3.  Losing your job, especially if the person who got a restraining order against you is your co-worker at the office.

And the list goes on and on...

However, if your child has special needs and you are worried about your child's future once he or she turns 18, the only way you can be involved in your child's affairs as far as the legal world is involved is to petition the Probate Court for guardianship of your child once he or she turns 18.  However, the procedures are difficult when guardianship involves someone very young as opposed to someone who is elderly (which is why our guardianship laws are not equal) and an attorney - preferably an attorney who has Florida Bar certification in Probate Law - is required, which can run into the thousands of dollars.  Then again, a total stranger working as a professional guardian can step in and exploit a loophole, finding a background issue with the parents in order to convince the court that the parents are not fit to be the proposed guardian.

So, in short:

It's normal to worry about your children when they are off to college.  However, there are limits as to what you can do for your children as far as parental involvement is concerned.  Don't let what happened to Aubrey Ireland's parents happen to you.

Besides, there is no need to be a helicopter parent.  Your child is now an adult, and there is a time when you have to let go.

02 March 2013

Hey TransUnion: Credit Reports are NOT Public Records!

Last year about this same time I posted a blog entry on the alarmingly increasing use of credit reports.  You and I know that our credit reports get pulled when we apply for a credit card, an auto loan or even a mortgage.  What I am talking about is other entities that dabble into your credit report such as prospective employers and auto insurance companies.

A few months after I published that blog entry I read about a dilemma experienced by Latoya Horton, who started a petition on the Change.org website.  According to the petition backstory, Latoya went to college to study accounting but had to take out loans to pay for her education.

After all, a good college education can run you a ballpark figure of $25,000 to $40,000, if not more.  Is the purpose of a good college education a better job and a brighter future?

Latoya was offered a job in the accounting department of a well known company on a temporary basis.  Seeing that Latoya was doing a superior job the company offered her a full-time position and she was thrilled.

Unfortunately, Latoya was let go after being on the job for a few weeks.  The reason?  It was not because of Latoya's job performance; instead it was because of her credit report which had the student loan debts on there.  The official reason, according to the petition backstory:  Debt-to-credit ratio was too high.

Debt-to-credit ratio too high?  That's complete hogwash in my book.  After all, people work to pay their debts, and paying your debts is a moral obligation.

Well, there are three credit reporting agencies out there.  The first two, Equifax and Experian, specialize mainly in consumer credit reporting.  However, there is a credit reporting agency that is way more than consumer credit reporting, and that agency is TransUnion.

You got that right.  TransUnion.

A quick peek of TransUnion's website offers credit reports and credit scores.  In fact, you can even get your TransUnion credit report as part of your once a year annual free credit report but only through AnnualCreditReport.com.

But there is more to TransUnion than credit reports.  What you might know about TransUnion can shock you.

TransUnion has two products that are offered to prospective employers as well as insurance companies.  These products are called an employment score and an insurance score respectively.  What really tiffs me off is that TransUnion can sell your credit report - which is highly personal to you - to prospective employers and insurance companies, particularly auto insurance companies, for a price.  In other words, TransUnion treats your credit report like if it was a public record; all a prospective employer or insurance company has to do is pony up the cash and hand it over to TransUnion.

What does this mean to you?

First, let's say you are getting an auto insurance quote or your auto insurance renewal is just around the corner.  A good number of auto insurers, as part of the underwriting process, dabble into your credit history by electing to use TransUnion's insurance score product.  This product uses your TransUnion report - not your Equifax or Experian report - and converts elements of your report into an algorithm which is highly confidential and the resulting report is your insurance score which is sold like a public record to your insurer.

Further, TransUnion claims that their insurance score product is a predictor of how much likely a person will commit insurance fraud.  That is the most discriminatory statement I have ever heard, as TransUnion's insurance score product turns oridinary people - even people who have good credit reports - into second class citizens in the form of insurers charging exhibortantly high premiums like if you were convicted of your first DUI!

Second, let's say you got laid off from your employer due to the economic downturn, and as a result you were having difficulty paying your bills because of no fault of your own.  With the economy slowly improving, you happen to find a new job!

You are hired, and settle in and learn the routines of your new job.  While you are doing that, your new employer is dabbling into your credit history by electing to use yet another specialty product marketed by TransUnion:  TransUnion's employment score product.  Much in the same manner as TransUnion's insurance score product, the employment score product uses your TransUnion report - again, not your Equifax or Experian report - and converts elements of your report into an algorithm which is highly confidential and the resulting report is your employment score which is sold like a public record to your new employer.

Two weeks later, you get called in to the supervisor's office.  You hear the dreaded words:  "I'm sorry, but I am going to have to let you go.  The reason is that you have a bad credit profile."  You worked hard to get and keep that job, but to your new employer what appeared on that TransUnion employment score convinced the new employer that you are more than likely to commit an employment related criminal offense in the future.

Again, TransUnion claims that their employment score product is a predictor of one's job performance and/or likelihood to commit fraud in the future, despite a statement to the contrary when TransUnion admitted in one leglslative debate when it comes to credit history being a predictor of job performance.  Like the insurance score product, this is the most blatant discriminatory statement I have ever heard from a credit reporting agency!

After all, credit checks - especially when TransUnion is used as the credit reporting agency to check using one of their speciality products - create a fundamental "Catch-22" for people looking for better rates for auto insurance or for job applicants.  You got laid off and you had difficulty paying the bills, and you are rewarded with an extremely high insurance rate quote like if you had a DUI or shut out of a job opportunity.

Moreover, credit checks when they are not used for a legitimate purpose (such as applying for a loan or a mortgage) have a great potential for being discriminatory, especially members of a protected class. 

Besides, information in credit reports is inaccurate at best.  Let's say, for instance, that you have all your loan business concentrated at a credit union, and that credit union uses Equifax to make reports.  Contrary to popular belief, information reported to one credit reporting agency is not shared with the two other agencies.  In this case, your Equifax report may be the most accurate but your Experian and TransUnion reports may not be so accurate.

In short:

What TransUnion is doing is helping to destroy America's slowly recovering economy.  TransUnion is doing this by selling credit reports in the form of specialty reports to anyone who ponies up the cash and TransUnion treats credit reports maintained on you like if it was a public record.

What can be done to derail TransUnion's efforts to help destroy America's slowly recovering economy?

First, TransUnion - which I understand has been purchased by Goldman Sachs & Co. - needs to discontinue and throw into the shredder their employment score product and their insurance score product.  TransUnion needs to stay focused on its core business, which is maintaining consumer credit reports and being competitive with Equifax and Experian.

Second, Congress needs to enact legislation on the federal level that would outlaw the use of credit reports for employment purposes, save for certain positions of trust.

Third, the Florida Legislature needs to enact legislation, which can complement legislation on the federal level if so enacted, that would also outlaw the use of credit reports for employment purposes as well.

Fourth, the Florida Legislature - as well as the legislatures of the 49 states of the Union - needs to enact legislation that would outlaw the use of credit reports and/or scores for the purpose of setting a premium for auto insurance.

And something is being done right here in Florida on the use of credit reports for employment front.  A bill sponsored by Florida State Senator Nancy Detert of Venice (a community just south of Sarasota), SB 100, would outlaw this practice.  However, this is just the tip of the iceberg:  SB 100 should be expanded to outlaw any use of a credit report for employment or insurance purposes, with one obvious exception being if you are applying for employment in a position of trust such as a law enforcement officer, for example.

I wrote an email to the Florida State Senator who resides in my district, Jeff Brandes, my support for SB 100 plus amendments to SB 100 to outlaw the use of credit reports for insurance purposes.  Here is the email that I would like to share with you:

I am writing to express my support for SB 100 by Senator Nancy Detert of Venice. SB 100 as I understand would forbid the checking of credit reports by prospective employers as a condition of employment save for certain employment situations which I feel is appropriate.

Way too many Floridians have been impacted by the recent Great Recession in that Floridians have lost their jobs because of no fault of their own. Consequently, for Floridians that are out of work the tremendous financial difficulties as a result of unemployment has resulted in the temporary inability to pay monthly financial obligations such as a mortgage or a credit card payment. When this happens, it is reflected negatively on an individual’s credit report. The end result is that someone is denied an opportunity for a new job due to what is on a person’s credit report.

Further, I feel that employers should not be checking credit reports of prospective applicants for employment as part of a routine procedure because in most cases there is no legitimate need. However, as proposed in SB 100 exemptions to the proposed law would be for anyone applying for a managerial related position as well as a position of trust such as a law enforcement officer, and I would totally agree with that. The only time a credit report should be checked is if one is applying for a loan, a credit card or even a mortgage, and I do support that as well.

The passage of SB 100 is the beginning of a step in the right direction for all Floridians, especially job seeking Floridians who are being shut out of the employment process due to a negative credit report. However, I feel that we need to take this proposed credit report restriction a step further and ban the checking of credit reports by insurance companies in determining what premium is paid for insurance, especially auto insurance and homeowners insurance. Again, way too many Floridians have experienced tremendous financial difficulties as a result of unemployment and credit reports reflecting negatively from a temporary inability to pay monthly financial obligations to home foreclosures. Moreover, the use of credit reports by the insurance industry, especially the auto insurance industry, is prone to abuse as insurance companies want to find any way to charge exorbitant premiums on Floridians who otherwise have safe driving records.

I feel that the practice of checking credit reports - whether it may be for auto insurance, homeowners insurance or even as part of the employment process as addressed in SB 100 - needs to be banned completely in the State of Florida, with very narrow exceptions for certain situations. Being the nation's epicenter of the Great Recession and the economic and mortgage crisis which has resulted, more and more Floridians have experienced tremendous financial difficulties which have resulted in so many home foreclosures among other things. Once a negative item gets reported on a person's credit report it makes life for the person more difficult such as getting a job or getting insurance.

I imagine who will fight the passage of SB 100 to the very end:  TransUnion.  According to the petition on Change.org as I mentioned earlier regarding Latoya Horton's dilemma, TransUnion claims that "a credit report is a de facto economic passport for every individual in this country, whether you like it or not."

Well, TransUnion, a credit report being a de facto economic passport is true, but only in the sense of when one applies for a credit card, an auto loan or even a mortgage.  But what you are doing, TransUnion, is systematically destroying the American economy by labeling people who have had financial trouble through no fault of their own as potential criminals and second class citizens.  Despite federal laws to the contrary, you, TransUnion, through the use of your employment score and insurance score prpoducts, make a big fortune treating credit reports as public records.  Besides, your chairman, Penny Pritzker, prior to the sale of TransUnion to Goldman Sachs, served on the President's Jobs and Competitiveness Council whose task is advising the President on putting Americans back to work.

Besides, TransUnion's employment and insurance products do nothing more than steer people, especially people who are in financial straits due to the economic downturn, onto a one way street to major financial ruin including bankruptcy.  This is akin to a school district in Mississippi who operates a one way funnel from school into the criminal justice system for even extremely minor violations of school rules.

Now here's my take on TransUnion and their credit reports, especially their employment and insurance score products:

1.  These products serve no purpose whatsoever.

2.  These products label good, hard-working people as second class citizens and potential criminals.

3.  An auto insurance premium should be determined based on age, driving record and claim history - not a credit report.

4.  An employment decision should be determined based on the person's training and experience which qualifies him or her for the job - not a credit report.  However, as I mentioned earlier a credit report should be pulled only if it involves a position of trust or a position within a financial institution.

Bottom line:

TransUnion needs to stop the sale of credit reports through the use of their employment score and insurance score products like if the credit reports are a public record.  TransUnion needs to throw their employment score product and their insurance score product into the shredder, stop treating our credit reports like if they were public records and stop the systematic destruction of the American economy overall.

The State of Florida needs to put the brakes on TransUnion's systematic destruction of the American economy right here in the Sunshine State.  SB 100 is a step in the right direction, but it needs more teeth to prohibit the use of credit reports in employment and auto insurance premium decisions.

Now I want to hear from you!

If you have either had difficulty finding a new job or your auto insurance premium is way too high and it is thanks to a TransUnion product that drove the employer's or insurance company's decision, I would like to hear from you by simply leaving a comment.  Just one favor I have to ask, and that is to please keep the comments professional and clean.