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WASHINGTON-The long-awaited bankruptcy conference is expected to begin November 14, according to credit union lobbyists. It was originally scheduled for September 12 and rescheduled for the November 12, after the September 11 attacks, but delayed again. The bill has moved slowly but steadily through Congress this session and was most recently hung up in light of the terrorist attacks and Congress’ focus on national security issues. CUNA Senior Vice President of Governmental Affairs John McKechnie observed, “The [House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim] Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) people felt it was important to send a signal to have this bill alive and well.” The conference committee’s 31 members were named in July. Differences still need to be ironed out between the Republican-controlled House and Democrat-controlled Senate versions of the legislation, including the homestead exemption and bankruptcy protection in connection with clinic violence fines, according to NAFCU Director of Legislative and Political Affairs Charlie Frohman. It is unclear whether an attempt will be made to pass the bill this year or wait until the beginning of next year. However, bankruptcy reform opponents say now, following the attacks, would be the worst possible time to pass a bill targeting those seeking debt relief. Lobbyists are hopeful the meeting will lay the groundwork for the next congressional session. Credit union lobby groups have been working hard to keep three key provisions in the bill, including Chapter 7 means testing, mandatory financial education before filing, and preserving voluntary reaffirmations for credit union members.

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