Freshman legislator gets consumer protection bills through House

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Slightly past the mid-point of this year’s legislative session, three bills that protect consumers — sponsored by 1st District Rep. Derek Stanford, who represents part of Edmonds — got the unanimous approval of the state’s House of Representatives.

“Each one of these bills demonstrates good public policy,” said Stanford, a newly elected Democrat from Bothell. “They advance our commitment to protect consumers in Washington by requiring fairer practices from debt collection agencies, making sure that insurance companies are following sound investment strategies, and implementing the federal Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.”

Stanford was prompted to write HB 1864 when he read about a woman who was taken to jail for not paying her son’s medical bill, which she didn’t even know she owed in the first place.

“If I received a letter in the mail saying I owe money to someone and I didn’t recognize who it came from, I would probably think it was junk mail or a scam,” Stanford said about his measure that aims to reform the way collection agencies carry out their business. “My bill makes debt notices clearer and more informative, and it will help stop the practice of jailing people who are having problems with their debt.”

HB 1257 protects consumers by updating the regulations that domestic insurers must comply with regarding the ways they manage their investments.

“In recent years the people of our great state have suffered through a terrible recession, they have lost their homes, life savings, jobs and entire businesses, all through no fault of their own, but rather due to the unregulated excesses of Wall Street,” Stanford  said. “This measure fixes part of that problem by doing away with high-risk investments by insurance companies.”

Stanford’s bill replaces an outdated regulatory structure by a set of new standards aimed at increasing financial solvency and reducing investment risk.  The current law for insurer investments has not been updated in over 60 years.

“By safeguarding our financial system, this common-sense reform will preserve opportunity for families and businesses,” he said.

The third bill in Stanford’s consumer protection package, HB 1694, updates and streamlines many of the state’s insurance regulations, and it brings Washington State into compliance with the Federal Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

Stanford’s work on these bills earned praise from Rep. Steve Kirby (D-Tacoma), the chair of the Business and Financial Services Committee. “Representative Stanford has demonstrated a remarkable ability to navigate the waters of this difficult process.  These bills are some of the best consumer legislation to pass the Business and Financial Services Committee, and I’m grateful for all his hard work” Kirby said.

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