AARP Utah Advocacy Director Danny Harris has been leading the charge at the State Capitol during Utah’s legislative session, which began January 23 and winds up on March 8. Issues of concern to AARP include state health care reform, payday lending regulation, funding for senior programs, voter registration bills, and funding of a task on Alzheimer’s disease.
An early victory for consumers involved the Voter Registration Amendments bill (HB 253) that would remove a voter registration record after that voter fails to vote in four general (even-year) elections and fails to respond to a notice that their record may be removed. We were successful in working with the sponsor to amend the bill. Now, voter registration records are removed only after the county clerk has received notice by mail that the voter has moved, eliminating the concern that a voter would have their record removed for lack of voting activity. It has passed the House of Representatives and looks to be likely to pass the Senate and be signed by the Governor.
Senate Bills 90 and 91, sponsored by Senator Ben McAdams, are two important financial security bills that are also on their way to become law. These bills clarify protection of those who report fraudulent activity and allow for restitution in civil cases of affinity fraud when it is shown that the violation was negligent.
We are also working with Representative Jim Dunnigan to pass his Health System Reform Amendments bill that will expand access to health insurance for families and individuals who can’t afford their premiums. It also seeks to study the need for different governance in our health insurance exchange and the need for navigators in that exchange, among other issues.
In disappointing news, the Senate Business and Labor Committee met to discuss legislation on whether or not payday lenders should be allowed to hold court hearings related to the loans in counties far from where the borrower lives. Senate Bill 110 would have allowed consumers to attend a hearing in the county where they reside. AARP Utah advocates sent nearly 3,000 messages to committee members urging them to support the bill. Unfortunately, in a 4-3 vote, the committee voted against the bill which means payday lenders can continue this unfair practice. While this decision was disheartening, we are still looking forward to other legislation that is coming that will help reign in some of the practices of this industry.
Representative Brad Daw is working on passing House Bill 66 which will create a statewide database that will monitor usage of payday loans and limit the number of loans a borrower can receive. Other states that have implemented these systems have seen dramatic decreases in the number of defaults on payday loans.
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