Consumer Bankruptcy Journal Summer 2015 - Page 6

LEGISLATIVE REPORT By Maureen Thompson NACBA Legislative Director O ver the last several years, a primary objective of NACBA’s advocacy program has been to dispel the lingering misperceptions about bankruptcy, bankruptcy attorneys, and debtors that the credit industry painted during the years fighting over BAPCPA. The economic downturn and stubbornly slow recovery – due in no small part to the fact that neither the Obama Administration nor Congress would deal seriously with the foreclosure crisis by pushing for mortgage modification in bankruptcy – has at least given us a climate in which to explain bankruptcy in the context of high unemployment, underemployment, home foreclosures, student loans, and so on. Of course, changing the perception of bankruptcy is a slow process but we try to take advantage of all opportunities – whether in Congress, the news media, or with current and new allies. We note with interest that in the first four months of the 114th Congress, 13 bills were introduced where changes to the bankruptcy code were offered as part or all of the solution to the specific issue. Four of the bills have been introduced by Republicans, which may mean a thawing on the part of the GOP’s fairly rigid opposition to anything involving bankruptcy in past years. The four bills from the Republicans include: • H.R. 1488, Protecting Gun Owners in 6 CONSUMER BANKRUPTCY JOURNAL Bankruptcy, introduced by Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY). 10 cosponsors, all Republicans. Exempts from property of the estate $3,000 in firearms. • H.R. 1196, Health Savings Act of 2015, introduced by Rep. Michael Burgess (R, TX). Would provide the same protections in bankruptcy for Health Savings Accounts as currently available for retirement savings accounts. • H.R, 2267, Protecting All College Tuition, introduced by Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY). Three cosponsors, all Republicans. The legislation would protect students, parents, and colleges against a new practice by bankruptcy trustees targeting tuition payments parents have made on their children’s behalf. • S. 194, Family Farmer Bankruptcy Clarification Act of 2015, introduced by Senator Chuck Grassley (R, IA). Two cosponsors, Senators Franken and Wicker. Hill Day at Home Recognizing that finances are tight for NACBA members in the current low filing environment, NACBA decided last year to take Hill Day to the home districts and states of federal lawmakers, thus making it easier for NACBA members to participate. The success of last year’s Hill Day at Home encouraged us to offer it again this year. meetings resulted in 21 new cosponsors of bills NACBA supports: • 8 new cosponsors signed on to S. 729, Senator Durbin’s bill to restore bankruptcy discharge for private student loans; • 10 new cosponsors signed on to H.R. 1674, Rep. Cohen’s bill to restore bankruptcy discharge for private student loans; and • 3 new cosponsors signed on to H.R. 449, Rep. Delaney’s bill to restore bankruptcy discharge for both private and government student loans. Notably, one of the new cosponsors on the Delaney bill is Rep. David Jolly, a newly elected Republican Representative from Florida. We are encouraged by Congressman Jolly’s support and are following up with key staff to further gauge his thinking on the issue. NACBA also is broadening its focus toward building support for restoring bankruptcy rights for all student loans. Hill Day at Home will remain a key component of this effort, as it is a proven success in fostering productive outreach between NACBA members and their elected officials. This year we have had 66 NACBA members participate in 81 meetings held to date. Importantly, those 81 Summer 2015 National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys