State House wrap-up: Foreclosure ‘rescues’ targeted

The New Hampshire Senate has decided not to study mortgage foreclosure “rescue scams” but to do something about it.

In a 23-0 vote, the Senate passed a bill May 31 that would regulate mortgage foreclosure consultants, some of whom offer to “help” those facing foreclosure by getting them to sign over the deed of their house for a rental purchase agreement. Theoretically under such agreements, the homeowner would be able to gain the equity back while living at the home, but because of undisclosed terms, the victim could end up losing the house anyway — and go deeper in the hole as well.

As amended in the Senate – at the request of the Banking Department — House Bill 365 would increase disclosure requirements, allow cancellation requirements and implement civil and criminal penalties, including forcing violators to repay equity to the homeowner.

“With these critical consumer protections from predatory practices, the New Hampshire foreclosure process would remain fair,” said Sen. David Gottesman, D-Nashua.

In other business, the Senate:

• Passed a $2.1 million subsidy to provide price supports to farmers if the federal government doesn’t come to the rescue. The money, which would be available this year only, will have to reconciled with the House version, which would provide as much as $3 million in subsidies for price supports, as well as institute a 2.5-cent-a-gallon milk tax to purchase agricultural easements.

• Passed a bill proposed by Sen. Harold Janeway, D-Webster, that would require oil distributors either post a bond, get a letter of credit or set up a futures contract either before, or immediately after, setting up a customer’s pre-buy contract. It also would require consumer protection disclosures.

• Passed a measure doubling the total amount households and businesses can “net-meter” – that is, generate their own energy and sell it to utility companies on the grid. Previously, net-metering was limited to a half-percent of capacity. The limit would be increased to 1 percent.

• Passed a drug discount and rebate program for people without health insurance. Pharmacists would sell the drugs at the discount and then receive a rebate from the state.

• Passed bills requiring the posting of rules concerning independent contractors and raising the penalties and enforcement for those who violate them. While the posting bill goes to the governor, the fine and enforcement bills are amended and have to go back to the House for their approval.

• Killed a bill that would force employers to pay workers for a minimum of three hours of work (as opposed to two hours as now required) if they are called into work. While supporters said the rising price of gas necessitates the change, opponents said it would hurt the ski industry, which often calls up people or sends them home early because of the weather.

Meanwhile, the House sent the following measures to the governor for his signature:

• A bill requiring businesses that offer family coverage to include dependents 25 and under, whether they are students or not.

• A bill that would allow the insurance commissioner to conduct investigations and hold hearings regarding whether additional premium charges should be paid by an employer for workers’ compensation insurance.

• A bill that would set minimum standards for cable television in manufactured housing parks, enabling them to get local access channels as well as high-speed Internet.

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