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WASHINGTON- Though Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) did not introduce bankruptcy reform legislation in late January as initially anticipated, proponents of the bill did not have to wait too long for a bill to come out. Grassley doubled up his Groundhog Day celebrations last week with the introduction of the bill. He, along with Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), introduced the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (S. 256) Feb. 2. The Senate bill mirrored the language from the House-passed version last year, which does not include the abortion clinic violence amendment that has been a major hold up in the Senate with some minor technical changes, according to CUNA Vice President of Legislative Affairs and Senior Legislative Counsel Gary Kohn. The bill does contain the three credit union-backed provisions: means testing for Chapter 7 filers, mandatory financial education before filing, and voluntary reaffirmations for credit union members. The House, which has historically led the way on this legislation, was reportedly waiting on the Senate to move first on the bill this Congress. Though procedures are not firmed up yet, Kohn said, “There is a commitment to put it on the Senate floor as one of the earliest items this year.” He met this morning with House Judiciary Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) who told him the House may not necessarily wait until the Senate has entirely passed the legislation that has been in the works for nearly a decade. The bill was expected to be introduced a bit earlier in the legislative session, but CUNA Vice President of Legislative Affairs and Senior Legislative Counsel Gary Kohn explained, “[S]ome of that had to do with the leadership and the Judiciary Committee just trying to figure out whether this bill was going to go to the floor first, whether it was going to go to the committee first, if it goes to the committee first, will there be hearings or not or will they just go to markup,” he said. Additionally, there were efforts going on behind the scenes to increase the number of original sponsors to the bill. “If you look at what they’re doing on the class action bill that has gone to the committee, it will not have hearings,” Kohn added. “It will go straight to a markup and then to the floor probably a week after the markup so that may be a model. It may not be a model.” Grassley is also sponsoring the legislation to reform class action lawsuits, which is under the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committee, just as bankruptcy reform is. “Sen. Grassley’s bold move today introducing bankruptcy reform legislation is welcome news to credit unions across the nation, who have been calling for and working for an updated and improved bankruptcy code for so many years,” CUNA President and CEO Dan Mica stated. “Credit unions will work closely with Sen. Grassley as well as the other original co-sponsors, to help push this important legislation through the Senate and toward prompt consideration in the House.” NAFCU President and CEO Fred Becker agreed. “The introduction of bankruptcy reform in the Senate is an important starting point to bringing changes in the bankruptcy system that would strike an equitable balance between the interests of debtors and lenders in connection with debt relief,” he said. “NAFCU will work diligently, as we have in the past, with key Members of Congress and their staffs who have a direct impact on bringing meaningful bankruptcy reform to fruition in the 109th Congress. We will pay particular attention to ensuring that any bankruptcy reform that reaches the President’s desk has means testing, mandatory education and voluntary reaffirmation. Credit union lobbyists have been assured that the bankruptcy reform legislation is a top priority in the new Congress. [email protected]

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