Democratic leadership stalls anti-foreclosure bill pending bank lobbyist approval
St. Paul, MN – The Homeowners Bill of Rights, a bill designed to reduce abusive bank practices that lead to foreclosures, was introduced with a vigorous coalition and support from legislators in the newly empowered Democratic Farmer-Labor Party at the start of the state’s 2013 legislative session. But the bill may die this week, denied a hearing Senate Commerce Committee Chair James Metzen a recently retired bank executive, who told advocates this week he will not allow the bill to come to a vote until bank lobbyists have pre-approved it.
“Senator Metzen’s position—that laws against bank abuses must be pre-cleared by big bank lobbyists—flies in the face of common sense and democracy,” said Kevin Whelan, the Minnesota-based Campaign Coordinator for the Home Defenders League, a national coalition of homeowners fighting against abusive foreclosure policies. “The questions for the State Senate’s Democratic leadership are profound: Is Senator Metzen doing special favors for fellow bankers? Or do well-heeled lobbyists get to veto other pro-consumer legislation? Philosophers might ask which is worse, but Minnesota families facing bank abuses just need their rights protected.”
As a crucial March 13th meeting of the Commerce Committee approached, tempers at Sen. Metzen’s office grew more heated as homeowners facing foreclosure and supporters from Occupy Homes MN and Minnesota Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (MN NOC) were removed from Sen. Metzen’s office under threat of arrest after the Senator and his staff refused to set a meeting to discuss the Homeowners Bill of Rights, authored by Sen. Patricia Torres Ray.
Senator Metzen’s staff detailed the requirement that bank lobbyists pre-approve any legislation designed to prevent bank abuses in a meeting with constituents organized by the faith group ISAIAH, filmed and reported by The Uptake.org. The Senator declined to attend the meeting and ISAIAH has launched an online petition and staged prayer vigils outside his office to ask that he allow a vote on the bill.
Metzen wants “everyone to just get along and work together,” Rev. Johnathan Zielske, pastor of Hope Lutheran Church in St. Paul told the Uptake.org after the meeting. “Yet power concedes nothing unless forced to, and for much too long the big banks have held all the power. We need to give homeowners some basic rights to deal with the banks when they do not play fair.”
The Minnesota Homeowners Bill of Rights is patterned after a similar law in California that gives homeowners access to relief when banks engage in abuses such as “dual-tracking” (proceeding with foreclosure while purporting to consider a mortgage modification). The law has successfully reduced foreclosures in California and similar measures are being considered in states including Colorado, Nevada, and Washington. The Minnesota bill also allows for mortgage mediation, a face to face meeting between a homeowner and bank representative to work out a payment plan—a policy that has worked successfully in a number of other cities and states.
The Minnesota Homeowners Bill or Rights would address the high costs of foreclosures to Minnesota families, taxpayers, and communities recently documented in The Wall Street Wrecking Ball: What Foreclosures Are Costing Minnesotans and What We Can Do About It.
For more information contact: Kevin Whelan; Kevin@homedefendersleague.org