The House Democrat Review is a weekly feature that gives Tennesseans an in-depth look at what our Democratic state legislators have been working on this week, and a glimpse into what’s planned for the coming week at our state house.
House Passes Property Tax Relief Increase for Disabled
Representatives also tackle predatory mortgage lenders & long-term care
NASHVILLE (April 17) – On Monday the House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation to expand the availability of Tennessee property tax relief to more homeowners who are totally and permanently disabled.
“During these tough economic times many people are struggling just to keep food on the table, and have little to no money left over,” said Finance Chairman Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley). “By raising the maximum income requirement, more people will be able to take advantage of this tax relief opportunity and hopefully be able to utilize that money for more immediate needs.”
Under the new legislation, the maximum allowable income for determining eligibility to participate in the state’s tax relief program for homeowners who are totally and permanently disabled is increased to $24,000 a year. This program compliments additional tax relief programs already in place for people over 65 year of age as well as those who have been injured while serving in the military.
“Anytime you can lessen the economic burden on those who already have more than their fair share of burdens, you do it,” said Fitzhugh.
New Legislation Combats Current Crisis of Predatory Mortgage Lenders
Also on Monday, House Members voted overwhelmingly to allow Tennessee to participate in a program designed to provide consumers a central location to review state licensed & registered mortgage companies with whom they want to do business. This nationwide mortgage licensing system is known as “The System.”
“Our current economic crisis is thanks, in large part, to predatory mortgage companies offering unreasonable loans to people who could not afford to make the payments,” said State Representative Curt Cobb (D-Shelbyville). “We must take steps to protect consumers from greedy lenders who think nothing of the long-term consequences, both to the individual as well as the community.”
Tennessee now becomes the 39th state to enter into the The System and joins 42 other state agencies, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico participating in the program. The System is expected to save Tennessee significant resources by automating and streamlining agency processing of mortgage licensing/registration applications and renewals. The System will also improve Tennessee regulators’ ability to supervise mortgage lending and brokering and enhance the ability to take enforcement actions against corrupt individuals.
“We cannot simply turn a blind eye to the disaster that has become the housing market,” said Cobb. “Working people are losing their homes because someone decided to take advantage of the system and we must do all that we can to not let that happen again.”
The bill now heads to Governor Bredesen for his signature.
New Requirements Passed to Protect Seniors in Long-Term Care Insurance Agreements
On Thursday House Members unanimously passed a bill protecting seniors looking to buy long-term care insurance. House Bill 4206 modernizes current regulation of long-term care insurance and provides better protections from non-forfeiture benefits, incontestability periods and insurance producer education.
“Our greatest generation deserves to have the best long-term care benefits possible, and our boomer generation will be there soon enough,” said State Representative Eddie Yokley (D-Greeneville). “We must protect our seniors and give them every opportunity to have the benefits and resources they need to live out their remaining years without the stress of financial uncertainty.”
Under the new legislation, long-term care producers are now required to receive an additional eight hours of training on the sale of long-term care insurance. It also revises state law to meet with Congressional requirements so that Tennessee may participate in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, which includes the Long-Term Care Partnership Program.
“We continue to work at long-term care in Tennessee and it is my hope that residents will see significant improvements in Tennessee’s long-term care options in the near future,” said Yokley.
The bill is expected to be taken up on the Senate floor later this month.