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Ind. proposed state act would boost consumer protections for military members

A proposed new state act would improve consumer protections for military service members while they are on active duty.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller and four Republican state lawmakers outlined the Indiana Service Member's Civil Relief Act on Tuesday.

Under the proposal, civil penalties would be enforced for violations of the existing federal Service Member's Civil Relief Act. This law allows current serving National Guardsmen and Reservists to suspend or postpone certain obligations, such as debt collections, foreclosures, evictions, judicial and administrative proceedings, and certain lease or service terminations. The state act also would cover state-specific obligations of service members not covered by the federal law.

"When Hoosier military members are in the line of duty, they should not have to worry about these complicated, time-consuming and often expensive obligations that would have life-altering consequences," Zoeller said in a statement.

He said expanding the relief act at the state level will allow service men and women to devote their full attention to military duties and relieve stress on family members.

The Republican lawmakers backing the proposal are Reps. Jim Baird, Greencastle; Greg Beumer, Modoc; Cindy Kirchhofer, Beech Grove; and Sen. Sue Glick, LaGrange.

Many states, including Illinois and Kentucky, already have laws in place that complement the federal relief act.

Zoeller said the proposed law would also guard against companies trying to scam military members. In July, Zoeller and other 12 attorneys general took action against Rome Finance Co., which was offering false and misleading credit options to military members.

The company now has to pay back nearly $92 million in debt relief to military members nationally. Almost $1.5 million will be paid to 261 Hoosier service members, according to Zoeller.

The proposed act must be approved by the Indiana General Assembly, which convenes in January, in order to become law.

©2014 The Indianapolis Star. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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