Consumer Bankruptcy Journal Fall 2015 - Page 8

LEGISLATIVE REPORT By Maureen Thompson NACBA Legislative Director W e have been reporting for some time now that the dysfunctional Congress prevents action on a number of major issues that, in ordinary times, would result in legislative action. Despite this, NACBA has been active both in Congress and in supporting members seeking an update in state laws. Student loans continue to dominate interest in Congress and members continue to introduce bills designed to alleviate the crushing student loan debt facing Americans of all ages. By my count, there are no fewer than 19 bills that have been introduced in the House of Representatives and 11 bills introduced in the Senate that address student loan debt in one way or another. In the House, three of those bills directly address the student loans and bankruptcy: H.R. 449, the “Discharge Student Loans in Bankruptcy Act,”(11 cosponsors, including one Republican) introduced by Rep. John Daleny (D-MD), would make all student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy; H.R. 1674, the “Private Student Loan Bankruptcy Fairness Act,”(39 Democratic co-sponsors) introduced by Rep. Cohen (D-TN) would restore bankruptcy discharge for private student loans; and, now H.R. 3451, the “Student Loan Bankruptcy Parity Act,” 8 CONSUMER BANKRUPTCY JOURNAL introduced in early September by Rep. Kildee (D-MI), which would all student loans to be discharged in bankruptcy. What is interesting about the House bills is that the broader bills that would restore bankruptcy protection for all student loans, including government loans, were introduced by “moderate” Democrats. As we know from the BAPCPA fight, the moderate, more business friendly Democrats typically were skeptical of bankruptcy. So, perhaps we are starting to realize the beginnings of a fresh look at how it is that bankruptcy is perceived by elected officials. Certainly, we shouldn’t read too much into it; but we should use this to chip away at illinformed perceptions of bankruptcy. As you know, over the last several years, a primary objective of NACBA’s advocacy program has been to dispel the lingering misperceptions about bankruptcy, bankruptcy attorneys, and debtors that the credit industry painted during the years fighting over BAPCPA. The economic downturn and stubbornly slow recovery has g