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In the 2010 session of the Indiana General Assembly, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller has proposed or supported consumer-friendly legislation. The Attorney General’s legislative team attends committee hearings and floor votes of the Indiana House of Representatives and Indiana Senate. The team testifies at hearings and works to inform legislators about the impact on consumers that bills would have if they become law. Deputy Attorney General David Miller leads the legislative team.
Here is a summary of the major bills the Attorney General supported in the 2010 session of the Legislature that passed into law.
Bill Update: Approved on third reading in the Indiana House by a vote of 85-2 on Feb. 2 passed in the Senate Insurance and Financial Institutions on Feb. 18 by a vote of 9-0; approved 50-0 on third reading in the Senate Feb. 25. Conference committee report approved March 12 by a 50-0 vote in the Senate and by a 96-0 vote in the House; signed into law by the Governor March 25.
Legislation supported by Attorney General Greg Zoeller will make important clarifications to Indiana laws to block unscrupulous operators from committing mortgage fraud.
The Attorney General's Office has investigated numerous for-profit companies that claim to offer foreclosure-rescue services for a fee. Such offers might be fraudulent or provide minimal assistance to distressed homeowners; moreover, free mortgage assistance advice is offered through the Indiana Foreclosure Prevention Network at 1-877-GET-HOPE.
The legislation passed March 12 says any for-profit company offering foreclosure consultant services must show that it has obtained a surety bond, by filing the bond with the Attorney General's Office. Such bonds are an insurance policy in case a company defrauds a consumer. Although state law already requires credit-services organizations to carry surety bonds, they have not had to prove it by filing their bonds with the state. The legislation adds a criminal penalty for a knowing violation of the foreclosure consultant statute.
To curb other practices that could lead to abuses, the legislation says that only a financial institution or title insurance company can maintain a borrower's escrow account and it prohibits other entities from doing so. If a real-estate broker's license is suspended, then the state Real Estate Commission would take custody of the broker's trust funds, the legislation says. It adds a notice requirement to purchasers in land contracts when a property is encumbered.
The legislation also adds debt settlement companies and companies that negotiate interest-rate reductions to the Credit Services Organizations Act, and it requires all credit-service organizations to file surety bonds with the Attorney General's Office before doing business.
Bill Update: Approved on third reading in the Senate by a vote of 50-0 on Feb. 2; passed in the House Public Health Feb. 17 by a vote of 11-0; approved on third reading in the House Feb. 25 by a vote of 94-0; the Senate on March 8 concurred with House changes 38-7; signed into law by the Governor March 18.
The Attorney General’s ID Theft Unit helped prevent a data breach of patients’ personal health information in November 2009, when the Attorney General’s Office seized 21 boxes of medical records that were discovered abandoned in a South Bend office building that once housed a physicians’ practice.
Legislation supported by Attorney General Greg Zoeller would establish procedures for the attorney general to obtain and secure abandoned health records or other records with personal identifying information and destroy them or return them to their owners. Health professionals who leave such records unsecured in violation of state law would be subject to fines; the fines collected would be used to create a trust fund to pay for the costs of securing and maintaining those types of records.
In Indiana, health professionals – such as doctors and nurses – are licensed and regulated by health licensing boards. Many nonhealth professionals – such as plumbers, accountants, engineers and funeral directors – also are regulated by state professional licensing boards. Occasionally, individuals practice a profession illegally without holding a license – putting patients and consumers at risk. Under current law, board members’ options to stop an unlicensed practice are limited.
The proposal the Attorney General supports would make the law consistent and give various licensing boards the legal power to issue cease-and-desist orders and prohibit unlicensed persons from practicing – thus protecting patients and consumers.
HB 1083: Approved on third reading in the House by a vote of 93-0 on Jan. 25 passed in the Senate Commerce, Public Policy and Interstate Cooperation Committee on Feb. 17 by a vote of 8-0; approved on third reading in the Senate, 50-0, on Feb. 25, ; signed into law by the Governor March 12.
Indiana is the only state in the nation where the state Attorney General’s Office administers the Unclaimed Property program. Indiana returns millions of dollars worth of dormant bank accounts, uncashed checks lost securities and forgotten store credits to their owners or heirs.
Attorney General Greg Zoeller supports legislation to reduce from the current five years to three years the time period by which property is considered abandoned and can be reclaimed through the Unclaimed Property Program.
Bill Update: Approved on third reading in the Senate by a vote of 50-0 on Feb. 2 passed in the House Judiciary Committee Feb. 16 by a vote of 5-2; approved on third reading in the House Feb. 25 by a vote of 93-2; signed into law by the Governor March 17.
The Indiana Attorney General is the lawyer for state government agencies. If the constitutionality of a state law is challenged by a plaintiff, then the Attorney General defends that statute in court.
Attorney General Zoeller supports legislation to update state law so that local courts in the 92 counties would have to notify his office whenever a plaintiff files a lawsuit seeking to declare a law unconstitutional. It would allow him to intervene in such a lawsuit and present arguments to the court about the constitutionality of the statute.
The legislation also would permit the Attorney General to file a “friend-of-the-court” brief, also called an amicus brief, in any lawsuit in Indiana without seeking the court’s permission first. Often seen in U.S. Supreme Court cases, amicus briefs are filed by interested parties who are not participants in the lawsuit at hand but who want to make legal arguments to the court.