Creditcard users will be better off after new credit card laws go into effect inFebruary. (Photo by Jami Custer)

New credit card laws designed to help consumers

Creditcard users will be better off after new credit card laws go into effect inFebruary. (Photo by Jami Custer) Creditcard users will be better off after new credit card laws go into effect inFebruary. (Photo by Jami Custer)
Creditcard users will be better off after new credit card laws go into effect inFebruary. (Photo by Jami Custer)
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
11/30/2009 07:14 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – This year credit card companies and consumers were introduced to new laws designed to help protect consumers. Some laws went into effect in August, but others will not take effect until December and late February.

According to one Cherokee Nation employee, these laws have been needed for several decades because the credit card industry has gone unregulated, raising interest rates and changing terms of credit card contracts for millions of customers while they could.

“With the current economy and financial institutions being held to a stricter code of ethics and operations, reform was just a matter of time,” Deborah Vanderpool, a Self-Sufficiency supervisor with the tribe’s Commerce Group, said. “Consumers have been subject to unscrupulous credit card practices for decades, and we’ve still got a few months until we are fully protected.”

In response to the laws, many banks and credit card issuers have tightened standards for issuing cards, and most all have made it more difficult to qualify for a credit card.

“In a survey of the largest national banks, including 19 that issue credit cards, 68 percent indicated to bank examiners that they had tightened credit card lending standards during the 12-month period ending March 31, 2009,” Vanderpool said.

She said the new laws would affect people who use or will use a credit card and that benefits of these changes are huge for consumers.

In the past, credit card issuers could change account terms, including interest rates and fees, without giving much notice. Now, according to the new laws, lenders must give account holders at least 45 days advance notice of significant changes.

Other big changes include informing customers of the right to cancel an account and that cancelling does not require the users to immediately pay off the balance. Further changes include:

• Monthly credit card bills must disclose the dates by which payments must be received to avoid late penalties and the dates that late fees will be charged to the accounts.
• Card issuers must include warnings in monthly statements indicating consumers who only make minimum payments that the amount of time it will take to pay off the debt in full and the interest they will pay will increase.
• Card issuers must disclose whether interest rates will increase if one or more payments are not received on time and what the penalty interest rate will be. This notice must appear on the monthly statement near the payment due date.
• Consumers can opt out of significant changes in terms to their accounts, including interest rate hikes and increase in fees and other charges.
• Cardholders who are more than 60 days late making payments do not have the right to opt out of APR increases.
• Credit card issuers must inform card users of the right to cancel when they mail the 45-day advance notice of the change in terms.
• Opting out is not considered defaulting on the account and should not be penalized by the card issuers.
• Issuers cannot demand payment in full of the outstanding balance or charge monthly maintenance fees on closed accounts if the consumer rejects the changes in terms.
• Opting out does not include raising minimum monthly payments required as this would actually be better for the consumer and pay off the card balance earlier.

“Currently opting out of interest rate hikes is only granted at the card issuer’s discretion and is not a consumer right,” Vanderpool said. “Opting out will allow the consumer to pay the old, lower interest rate but will not allow further purchases on the card.”

She said there are three methods for repaying balances on accounts that have been closed by consumers choosing to reject changes. They are: paying the balance over at least five years, charging a minimum payment that is up to twice the percentage charged before the change in terms and using the same repayment plan used on the account at the time the consumer rejects the change in terms.

Vanderpool said retroactive interest rate hikes on existing balances are banned except when an introductory period ends, the interest rate is tied to an index and is variable, the card user completes the terms of a workout plan for debt repayment or fails to comply with a workout plan or the card user is more than 60 days late making monthly payments.

Vanderpool said consumers younger than 21 who are not authorized users on a parent’s account must show proof of income to repay credit card loan or have an adult co-signer if they want accounts in their own names.
About the Author
Reporter

Jami Murphy graduated from Locust Grove High School in 2000. She received her bachelor’s degree in mass communications in 2006 from Northeastern State University and began working at the Cherokee Phoenix in 2007.

She said the Cherokee Phoenix has allowed her the opportunity to share valuable information with the Cherokee people on a daily basis. 

Jami married Michael Murphy in 2014. They have two sons, Caden and Austin. Together they have four children, including Johnny and Chase. They also have two grandchildren, Bentley and Baylea. 

She is a Cherokee Nation citizen and said working for the Cherokee Phoenix has meant a great deal to her. 

“My great-great-great-great grandfather, John Leaf Springston, worked for the paper long ago. It’s like coming full circle. I’ve learned so much about myself, the Cherokee people and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”

Jami is a member of the Native American Journalists Association, and Investigative Reporters and Editors. You can follow her on Twitter @jamilynnmurphy or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jamimurphy2014.
jami-murphy@cherokee.org • 918-453-5560
Reporter Jami Murphy graduated from Locust Grove High School in 2000. She received her bachelor’s degree in mass communications in 2006 from Northeastern State University and began working at the Cherokee Phoenix in 2007. She said the Cherokee Phoenix has allowed her the opportunity to share valuable information with the Cherokee people on a daily basis. Jami married Michael Murphy in 2014. They have two sons, Caden and Austin. Together they have four children, including Johnny and Chase. They also have two grandchildren, Bentley and Baylea. She is a Cherokee Nation citizen and said working for the Cherokee Phoenix has meant a great deal to her. “My great-great-great-great grandfather, John Leaf Springston, worked for the paper long ago. It’s like coming full circle. I’ve learned so much about myself, the Cherokee people and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.” Jami is a member of the Native American Journalists Association, and Investigative Reporters and Editors. You can follow her on Twitter @jamilynnmurphy or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jamimurphy2014.

News

BY STAFF REPORTS
03/26/2015 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – To help with staffing, travel and community members in need, the Cherokee Nation donated $30,000 to Friends of the Murrell Home, War Pony Community Outreach and the CN Color Guard. Friends of the Murrell Home support and promote the Murrell Home Historic Site in Park Hill. The Murrell Home was built following the Trail of Tears for then CN Chief John Ross’ niece, Minerva Ross Murrell. The group uses donations to help cover museum staffing. “Without this donation from the Cherokee Nation, a Cherokee citizen who works for us in the Living History Program would be out of a job,” said Murrell Home Site Manager David Fowler. “Because of that, we’re very appreciative of the help the tribe provides.” War Pony Community Outreach is a nonprofit organization in Cherokee County dedicated to helping people across the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction with living expenses. The group plans to use the donation to buy beds, washers, stoves and other household appliances. “Whatever a community member that qualifies needs, we help provide it,” said Raymond Vann, who works with the outreach. Making appearances at public events, funerals or other venues across the country, veterans who act as cultural ambassadors for the tribe make up the CN Color Guard of Native American. The Color Guard will use the donation for travel expenses.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Senior Reporter
03/25/2015 02:00 PM
WELLING, Okla. – A non-Cherokee couple that recently tried to partake in a new master-apprentice Cherokee language course offered by the tribe’s Cultural and Community Outreach is saying they were asked to leave the course after three sessions. Doug and Judy Cotter of Welling tried to participate in the program in February after receiving a call from a participant. Doug said the pilot program pays three Cherokee speakers to interact with four students, so he said there was plenty of room in the classroom for him and his wife. “I received a call from one of the participants that knew we were interested in the Master-Apprentice Program. They stated they would like for us to come sit in just as another example of people that could learn the language because he knew we had been studying it several years over here at NSU (Northeastern State University),” Doug said. “We were tickled to death and jumped at the chance.” However, after three sessions, Doug said CCO Director Rob Daugherty called them into his office and told them they could no longer attend classes. Doug added that he and Judy never got a straight answer as to why they couldn’t attend anymore. “He (Daugherty) said ‘when my students start complaining I have to do something. This is for people who are being paid to be here. It’s for participants only, and you guys just can’t be here,’” Doug said. He said he could not imagine that he and his wife somehow disrupted the classes they attended because mainly they just sat and listened to the Cherokee speakers. The program aims to teach Cherokee Nation citizens to become second-language Cherokee speakers so that they can go into their respective communities and teach others in an effort to revitalize the language, Daugherty said. Citizens will meet eight hours per day on weekdays through this fall, according to the program. “It’s a very demanding schedule,” Daugherty said. “As CCO’s director, when it was brought to my attention by other participants that Mr. and Mrs. Cotter were attending classes regularly and not merely observing, nor were they Cherokee Nation citizens, or a member of any federally-recognized tribe that I know of, I simply explained to the couple that our program is for Cherokee Nation citizens, and we simply did not have the space, nor funding to allow them to be participants.” Daugherty said the class is taught in a small office space and participants are paid stipends. Occasionally there are visitors who observe a class, and the Cotters were allowed to observe by one of the instructors. Doug said he went in strictly as a volunteer and he and his wife did not expect to get paid. “You have to be a member of the Cherokee Nation to even be considered for payment, so I didn’t expect to get paid,” he said. “I just think it would be a privilege to get to participate.” He said he was even willing to teach the language for two years after completing the program, which is required of all students enrolled in the program. “We welcome sharing our Cherokee language, and there are other online and community Cherokee language courses that are free and open to the public that the Cotters can utilize,” Daugherty said. “Moving forward, in our application for this program, we require participants be Cherokee Nation citizens, apply, be accepted and sign a contract with CCO, in an effort to avoid any public confusion.” Doug said at first he was angry because he was invited to partake in the program and then was told he couldn’t. “I didn’t understand. You’re volunteering, and you’re not causing any problems. Why would they not want someone to learn the language? In my opinion, the more people that learn it, the better. If the language is in dire straits, and we all know it is, the more people that can learn it and share it and spread it and teach it, the better off you’re going to be,” he said.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
03/25/2015 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Election Commission, candidates and representatives of candidates drew for ballot order during a March 24 special meeting after the EC ruled on candidate eligibility a day earlier. Candidates, their respective representatives and volunteers drew from a jar containing numbered chips that determined the order in which candidates would appear on the June 27 general election ballot. This year, 36 candidates are vying for eight Tribal Council seats as well as the principal chief and deputy chief positions. Those elected take office on Aug. 14. For the principal chief seat, candidate Will Fourkiller, a representative in the state House, received the first spot. Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden drew the second ballot spot for Principal Chief Bill John Baker. Former CN Community Services Group Leader Charlie Soap drew the third spot, while former Principal Chief Chad Smith will be fourth on the ballot. For the deputy chief seat, Tribal Councilor Lee Keener drew the first spot followed by incumbent S. Joe Crittenden for the second position. Smith, Tribal Councilor Julia Coates’ representative, drew the third spot. Coates has appealed to the tribe’s Supreme Court an EC decision that states she is not eligible to run for the deputy chief seat because she did not meet residency requirements. However, the EC still drew her ballot placement in the chance the court rules in her favor. If the court rules against Coates, her name would be removed from the ballot. For the Dist. 1 Tribal Council seat, a representative drew the first spot for Rex Jordan and candidate Ryan Sierra drew the second spot. For Dist. 3, Brandon Girty got the first spot, which was drawn by his daughter. Incumbent David Walkingstick’s representative drew the second spot. Kathy Kilpatrick drew the third spot, while Brian Berry’s representative drew the forth spot. Larry Pritchett drew the last spot. For Dist. 6, Natalie Fullbright’s representative drew the first spot for her, while Bryan Warner drew the second position. B. Keith McCoy got the third slot, and Ron Goff drew the fourth. For Dist. 8, Corey Bunch drew the first spot, while a representative for Shawn Crittenden drew the second. For Dist. 12, incumbent Dick Lay drew the first spot and his opponent Dora Smith Patzkowski got the second. For Dist. 13, a representative drew the first spot for former Tribal Councilor Buel Anglen, while another representative drew the second spot for Kenneth Holloway. For Dist. 14, a representative for Keith Austin, a former Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board member, drew the first spot, while William “Bill” Pearson drew the second position. For the No. 1 At-Large seat, Wanda Hatfield drew the first spot, while Tommy Jones drew the second. Pamela Fox got the third spot, while Betsy Swimmer drew the fourth. Benjamin McKee drew the fifth spot, and Trey Brown drew the sixth. Deborah Reed got the seventh spot, while Linda Leaf-Bolin got the eighth. Former CN Supreme Court Justice Darell Matlock drew for the ninth spot, and Shane Jett got the last position on the ballot. After drawing for ballot positioning, the EC also drew for watcher names that were provided by candidates for some voting precincts. More than 40 names were drawn. Two names, if available for that precinct location, were drawn as well as an alternate, if possible. The EC also drew several watchers for the four days of in-person absentee voting in Tahlequah. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.cherokee.org/OurGovernment/Commissions/ElectionCommission.aspx" target="_blank">http://www.cherokee.org/OurGovernment/Commissions/ElectionCommission.aspx</a> or call 918-458-5899.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
03/25/2015 10:00 AM
LANCASTER, N.Y. (AP) – A western New York school district will do away with its Redskins mascot and nickname after other districts in the region turned up the pressure by boycotting games because of it. The Lancaster Central School Board voted to retire the longtime symbol Monday during a special session called after three districts with sizeable numbers of Native American students canceled lacrosse matches. The term Redskins is considered by many to be a racial slur against Native Americans. While supporters of the nickname said it was a source of pride and never meant to offend, a resolution by Superintendent Michael Vallely said it has become a "symbol of ethnic stereotyping" and that keeping it could subject students to retaliation. The unanimous vote was shouted down by Redskins supporters, many of whom wore past and present school uniforms and jackets with the Redskins logo. "All of these years we've never used it in a negative way," Lancaster High School senior Emily Koeppel said after the meeting. "It was never meant to be hurtful." Numerous high schools and universities throughout the country have dropped the term in recent years and several Native American groups have begun a "Change the Mascot" campaign to press the National Football League to remove it from the Washington, D.C., franchise. "There is no pride in having schools boycott playing our sports teams," board member Kimberly Nowak said. "There is no pride in winning by forfeit." The lacrosse boycotts by the Akron, Lake Shore and Niagara Wheatfield districts in western New York followed a March 3 public forum in Lancaster that drew more than 100 people from both sides of the issue. Several students said they would continue to wear their Redskins apparel and call themselves Redskins despite the vote by the board to begin a "student-centered" process to develop a new mascot. "This is our school. We are Redskins," student Torie Dombrowski said. The school has been leaving the Redskins name off new uniform orders for the last three to four years, and a new football field scoreboard also is without the mascot, but district leaders had said they would take their time before deciding whether to do away with it altogether. The boycotts and other pressure from the community hastened the decision, board members said. A spokesman for the Oneida Indian Nation of central New York, which is involved in the NFL campaign, said districts that have replaced their mascots, including neighboring Cooperstown, have not seen a decline in school spirit. "Not only did the school make a powerful statement to the Native American community that they no longer wanted to use a term that is a dictionary-defined slur against native people," spokesman Joel Barkin said. "But it made a statement to the kids in that school to be self-aware and have empathy and think about how the actions that you are engaging in affect other people outside of yourself." The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in 2001 called for an end to the use of Native American images and team names by non-Native schools, saying the portrayals "encourage biases and prejudices that have a negative effect on contemporary Indian people." The American Psychological Association took a similar stance in 2005, citing harmful effects "on the social identity development and self-esteem of American Indian young people." Said board member Michael Sage, "The students in this generation and those to follow need a new tradition."
BY STAFF REPORTS
03/24/2015 02:00 PM
WASHINGTON – In keeping with President Obama’s commitment to supporting Indian families and building resilient, stable and thriving tribal communities, Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn announced March 18 that the Bureau of Indian Affairs has published a proposed rule to govern the implementation of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 by state courts and child welfare agencies. The proposed rule also includes changes to current regulations that govern notice to state agencies under ICWA. “The Bureau of Indian Affairs’ proposed rule clarifies and strengthens implementation of the act’s requirements in Indian child custody proceedings to ensure that Indian families and tribal communities do not face the unwarranted removal of their youngest and most vulnerable members,” Washburn said. “I want to thank all those who attended listening sessions and provided comments and recommendations for our updated guidelines. Their contributions helped inform this proposed rule, which seeks to protect Indian children and families. We look forward to receiving more comments and feedback throughout the rulemaking process.” The Department will be conducting tribal consultations and public meetings on the proposed rule through May 2015 to facilitate input and comment on the proposed rule. Tribal consultations are open only to representatives of federally recognized Indian tribes. Public meetings are open to everyone. A public meeting is scheduled for 1-4 p.m., Thursday, May 15 at the Tulsa Marriott Southern Hills, 1902 E. 71st Street. The assistant secretary’s announcement marks the second major action the BIA has taken this year to promote implementation of ICWA. On Feb. 24, Washburn announced the issuance of revised guidelines for state courts and agencies in Indian child custody proceedings to support the full implementation and purpose of ICWA–the first such update since the guidelines were issued over 35 years ago. Protecting Indian children reflects the highest ideals of the federal government’s trust responsibility to Indian tribes, and the revised guidelines and regulations are part of this administration’s broader approach to ensuring compliance with ICWA. The proposed regulations will be published in the Federal Register and can be found at <a href="http://www.indianaffairs.gov/WhoWeAre/BIA/OIS/HumanServices/IndianChildWelfareAct/index.htm" target="_blank">http://www.indianaffairs.gov/WhoWeAre/BIA/OIS/HumanServices/IndianChildWelfareAct/index.htm</a>. Comments can be submitted via any of the following methods: by e-mail to <a href="mailto: comments@bia.gov">comments@bia.gov</a> (please include “ICWA” in the subject line of the message); by postal service or hand-delivery to Ms. Elizabeth Appel, Office of Regulatory Affairs & Collaborative Action – Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street, N.W., MS-3642-MIB, Washington, D.C. 20240; by phone by calling 202-273-4680, or at <a href="http://www.regulations.gov" target="_blank">www.regulations.gov</a>. The Office of Indian Services Division of Human Services administers the BIA’s ICWA regulations at 25 CFR Part 23 and the Guidelines for State Courts. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.indianaffairs.gov/WhoWeAre/BIA/OIS/HumanServices/IndianChildWelfareAct/index.htm" target="_blank">http://www.indianaffairs.gov/WhoWeAre/BIA/OIS/HumanServices/IndianChildWelfareAct/index.htm</a>.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
03/24/2015 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Attorney General’s Office released a statement on March 23 stating that no charges would be filed against Tribal Councilor Cara Cowan Watts or former Principal Chief Chad Smith for allegedly committing fraud. At a special March 13 Election Commission meeting, the EC announced it received five candidate challenges during the contest of candidate eligibility period of March 5-12. CN citizen Carole Richmond challenged Smith, who is running for the principal chief seat, and Cowan Watts, who had campaigned for the principal chief seat before deciding not to file for the position. In her protest against Cowan Watts, Richmond alleges fraud. “Cara Cowan Watts presented herself to the Cherokee people as a candidate for Chief for over two years,” Richmond states. “Legal action needs to be taken to return funds to donors.” In the Smith protest, Richmond states her challenge was based on fraud and unethical behavior, claiming Smith’s representation of Tribal Councilor Julia Coates in a case regarding her address and At-Large Tribal Council seat. “The legal documents demanded that the Election Commission accept the Los Angeles (address). In the 2015 election, Chad Smith wants Julia Coates to be deputy chief for him and now she lives in Tahlequah and meets the 270-day requirement for residency. It would appear if Chad Smith doesn’t get his way, he files a lawsuit,” Richmond writes. “It is my belief this is unethical, unprofessional and fraudulent behavior.” Both protests were forwarded to the Attorney General’s Office because they allege illegal activity, and the EC does not conduct criminal investigations. However, according to the Attorney General’s Office statement, “there does not appear to be sufficient evidence to prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that either Mrs. Watts or Mr. Smith committed the crime of fraud.” Robert Garcia, assistant attorney general, said even though his office has declined prosecution, the EC should review the surrounding facts and circumstances to ensure there are not any non-criminal sanctions that may apply. “Should new evidence become available, this office will certainly revisit this request,” he said. Smith said Richmond’s protest against him was baseless. “Carole Richmond filed it for political sensationalism and it was absolutely baseless.” The Cherokee Phoenix attempted to get a comment from Cowan Watts, but was unsuccessful.