"We made a lot of progress on some really critical issues," says Marceline White, executive director of the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition. "But there is a lot of work left to do and in some places we had some setbacks."
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Still, some bills will appeal to consumers, especially one that would give parents a new tool to protect children from identity theft.
Of course, the bills need Gov. Martin O'Malley to sign them into law. With the possibility of a special session, the budget secretary has advised the governor to postpone signing any legislation that has fiscal consequences, spokeswoman Takirra Winfield says.
Still, advocates are optimistic the governor will sign these consumer-friendly bills:
Child credit protection Kids aren't supposed to have a credit report because they're too young to get loans and credit cards. But if someone steals their identity, the thief can open credit in their name and the crime might go undetected for years.
Under legislation that had wide support, Maryland would become the first state to allow a parent or guardian to create a credit report for a child and then immediately freeze it. This would prevent new creditors from seeing the report so they wouldn't extend credit to anyone using the child's information.
The legislation would take effect in January, giving the major credit reporting agencies time to gear up, says Steve Sakamoto-Wengel, deputy chief of Maryland's Consumer Protection Division.
If parents discover now that their youngster has a credit report, the reporting agencies have said they would freeze the report before the law takes effect, he says.
Early mediation Maryland law two years ago gave homeowners the right to request mediation by the state's Office of Administrative Hearings after a foreclosure case had been filed against them.
Under legislation passed this year, homeowners could opt for mediation before their problems reached the foreclosure stage. The lender or loan servicer, however, would have to agree to this.
Proponents say the measure would encourage problem-solving before homeowners' woes become too severe to be fixed. Early mediation also would save companies money.
"It's another step forward," says Anne Balcer Norton, deputy commissioner of the Office of the Commissioner of Financial Regulation.
The legislation also requires the office to come up with a best-practices checklist for mediation, which would spell out a homeowner's options and the consequences, Balcer Norton says.
"Most homeowners aren't represented in mediation," she says. "We want to level the playing field."
This legislation would take effect in October.
Tax relief on forgiven debt The housing crisis highlighted an onerous federal tax: If a lender forgave all or some of your mortgage debt, that relief was considered taxable income.
Given the rise in foreclosures, Uncle Sam cut troubled homeowners a break a few years ago by not taxing as much as $2 million of forgiven debt on primary residences. This tax break is set to disappear at the end of the year and it's unclear whether Congress will extend it.