Senate passes legislation that strengthens financial protections for Delaware servicemembers

Date Posted: Thursday, May 8th, 2014
Categories:  Department of Justice DOJ Press Releases

Dover – The State Senate today overwhelmingly passed legislation that broadens consumer protections for Delawareans who serve in the U.S. military and the Delaware National Guard.

SB 206 creates a state-level version of the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) and gives Attorney General Beau Biden’s office the authority to enforce the new law.  It was developed by Biden’s office and is sponsored by Sen. Bryan Townsend, D-Newark, and Rep. Earl Jaques, D-Glasgow.  Biden is an Iraq War veteran, Townsend is the chair of the Senate Banking Committee and a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and Jaques is the chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee and retired from the Delaware National Guard as a 1-star general after more than 36 years of service.

“Military servicemembers on active duty in the service of their state and country should not be distracted from their mission by worrying about legal proceedings back home,” Biden said.  “I’m proud and grateful that the Senate voted today to extend existing federal protections to servicemembers under our State law, and we’ll continue to push for final passage of this important legislation in the House.”

The federal SCRA dates back to the Civil War and protects members of the military from having to defend themselves against most civil proceedings, such as foreclosure, while they are serving their country on active duty or are forced to move because of their military service. The federal SCRA also protects servicemembers who have to break leases or contracts due to military deployment.  SB 206 incorporates these protections into a state law and extends them to members of the Delaware National Guard who are called into active military service for the State of Delaware for a period of more than 30 consecutive days. Currently, these Guard members are not covered under the federal SCRA.

Townsend, D-Newark, said the proposal gives an added level of protection to Delaware’s service members.

“The current federal law establishes important protections for our service members,” Townsend said. “The proposed legislation takes this protection a step forward, enabling Delaware’s Department of Justice itself to provide the same protection directly to Delaware service members.”

Examples of provisions of the federal SCRA that would be incorporated into State law through SB 206 include:

  • Servicemembers cannot have default judgments entered against them because there are on active duty and civil proceedings must be stayed.
  • Military men and women (who live off base) cannot have their homes foreclosed on while they’re deployed on active duty and their mortgage interest rate, if higher than 6 percent, must be lowered to 6 percent.
  • The SCRA requires the stay or vacation of execution of judgments, attachments and garnishments for deployed military members.
  •  Military personal cannot be being charged penalties, such as fines and fees, incurred under contracts due to military service.

This bill is the latest effort from Attorney General Biden to strengthen the financial protections given to military personnel and to ensure the laws providing those protections are followed. Biden’s office secured stronger consumer protections for military members and their families in a February, 2012 national settlement with five of the largest mortgage-servicing banks, has held outreach events for military personnel with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Delaware National Guard, and is preparing to hold a military consumer protection event in July.

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