Thursday, January 13, 2011

Orwall, Kline introduce foreclosure measure to level playing field for homeowners in crisis

The home foreclosure crisis shows no signs of ending soon, putting tens of thousands of Washington families at risk. Rep. Tina Orwall and Sen. Adam Kline are teaming up to address the problem.

They announced a new bill to address the problem at a press conference this afternoon. The legislation adopts a multi-pronged approach to stemming foreclosures. It:
  • Makes a more robust “meet and confer” requirement. In 2009, Senate Bill 5810 required a meeting between lender and homeowner, possibly on the telephone or in person, before residential foreclosure could proceed. The 2011 bill will strengthen that—the meeting must be in person, must assess the homeowner’s ability to pay the existing or a modified mortgage, and now applies to all residential mortgages, not just certain years.
  • Creates a foreclosure mediation requirement. If the lender and homeowner cannot reach agreement during “meet and confer,” the homeowner can request a foreclosure mediation to see if he/she is eligible for a loan modification. Foreclosure mediation with a neutral person in the room has been shown in other states to drastically reduce the number of foreclosures.
  • Funds more housing counselors. Research has shown that trained housing counselors working with homeowners have reduced the number of foreclosures.
  • Reduces barriers to foreclosure alternatives. The bill makes changes to the foreclosure process to more easily permit “cash for keys” exchanges between the bank and homeowner.
  • Provides a consumer protection act remedy for failing to comply with the foreclosure process.
Kline and Orwall’s bill is modeled after a law written in 2009 by the Nevada Assembly former speaker, Barbara Buckley. Her law created the foreclosure mediation program under which the bank or other lender is required to make a "good faith" effort in a mediation hearing to work on a new loan agreement with the borrower to avoid foreclosure.

The program is working. This past Tuesday the Las Vegas Sun reported that nearly half of the program’s participants are keeping their homes and avoiding foreclosure in nearly nine in ten cases.

Buckley says Nevada’s mediation program is showing that when people meet face-to-face, they reach agreements. And banks like Chase have said that face-to-face meetings between borrower and lender result in something other than foreclosure (such as loan modification) more than 50 percent of the time. Banks also say they don’t want to hold foreclosed properties on their books.

Housing advocates, who sponsored a special summit on foreclosures today in Olympia, consider the bill to be one of their top legislative priorities.

Orwall’s bill is expected to be heard in the House the third week of session. Kline’s identical Senate version will be heard this month as well.

Washington state foreclosure facts
  • Over 132,000 mortgages will be foreclosed between 2009 and 2012.
  • In 2009 alone, more than 30,000 families lost their homes to foreclosure.
  • By the end of 2010 about 77,000 families had lost their homes.
  • More than 115,000 families are past due on their mortgages.
  • Between 2009 and 2012, 2,104,655 homes will experience a foreclosure-related decline in value totaling $19.5 billion in lost home equity—that’s $9,259 per home in the state.
Communities of color have experienced a disproportionate burden of foreclosures. 8% of African Americans and Latinos have lost their homes compared to 4.5% of whites. It’s estimated that 21.6% of African Americans, 21.4% of Hispanics, 18.6% of Pacific Islanders, 16.5% of American Indians, 15.7% of Asians, and 14.8% of whites are in imminent danger of foreclosure nationwide.

"A calendar resembling a Tetris game..."

Anacortes Now catches up with newly elected representative Kristine Lytton from the 40th district, on her first week in the Legislature, and her goals for the session: "...Balancing the state budget while doing as little harm as possible to the services many in the district rely on these days."

From the story:
Kris represents the 40th District, which includes San Juan County and parts of Skagit and Whatcom Counties. “The region I’m honored to represent has some unique qualities that set it apart from many others around the state,” said Lytton. “Despite being hit hard by the recession, our region has so much potential, and so much to offer the rest of the state and nation, as well as our trading partners. It’ll take some time, but I’m confident we’ll bounce back from this downturn stronger than before.”

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Revenue predictions holding up

"Major General Fund-State (GF-S) revenues for the December 11, 2010 – January 10, 2011 collection period were $36.9 million (3.4%) higher than our November forecast, but most of the positive variance is estimated to have been due to a change in the payment pattern of Revenue Act taxes. When the change is taken into account, cumulative revenue collections are close to our November forecast."

That's the report from Arun Raha, our state's chief economist who yesterday released the latest monthly economic and revenue update that tells lawmakers if revenues are coming in as predicted (the last forecast was in November, the next won't be until March).

This is decent news for legislators. If reports were to show we're collecting less than what was forecasted, it would mean legislators would have to cut that much more out of a budget already heading $4.6 billion in the red.

Balancing with the stars

Well, legislators might not exactly be "stars" but they will be making big headlines for the many difficult choices required to balance a $4.6 billion shortfall.

Our friends at the League of Education Voters have put together a very interesting online budget-balancing tool so you can get a sense of the scale and difficulty of the problem.

There are, of course, far more budget line items than what you'll see on their site, so you can also visit the Governor's budget page for additional details on her proposals and potential budget reductions.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

History made in the Legislature today

History was made in Olympia on Jan. 10 when Sen. Paull Shin, representing the 21st District, welcomed newly-elected state Rep. Cindy Ryu, representing the 32nd District, to the Washington State Legislature.

Ryu is the first Korean-American woman ever elected to the Legislature. Shin was the first Korean-American to be elected to the Legislature. He became a state representative in 1992 and a senator in 1998.

This is the second time Ryu has set a political milestone. In 2006, she became the first female Korean-American mayor in the United States when she was elected mayor of Shoreline, Washington.

Quick Take: Liias on transit funding

Funding for transit is just one of many local government budget casualties families are facing right now. The cuts come at a bad time for families looking to save money by utilizing transit, and Liias predicts action will need to be made this session or the ongoing effects will be devastating.

“Communities are strengthened by the availability of quality transportation choices. Transit and other options, like biking and walking, reduce pollution and congestion, helps our economy, and improves everyone’s quality of life. We must maintain committed to transit and improving our community.”

In the news:
Everett Herald (July 6) - Community Transit hopes to restore some bus services

Seattle Transit Blog (Jan 7) - Op-ed: I Am Pro-Choice, Transportation and Otherwise

Additional resources:
Community Transit

Monday, January 10, 2011

Speaker Chopp's opening day remarks

Today, the House re-elected Rep. Frank Chopp to serve as Speaker of the House. Here are his remarks:

Thank you Christine [Rolfes], for your kind remarks.

Congratulations Pat [Sullivan], on your new post as Majority Leader.

Congratulations Richard [DeBolt], on your election as Republican Leader.

And congratulations to all the new and returning members.


As we represent the people, let’s remember the best traditions of our nation.

In America, we honor those who have gone before us, who sacrificed for us, and who faced far greater hardships than we do today.

Years ago, sitting at the kitchen table with my parents, hearing their stories of living through the Great Depression, I never thought that this nation would ever again see such financial hard times.

While times are indeed tough, we need to remember that we are very fortunate compared to those who went before us.

In America, we embrace change… and innovation…. and reform….. and energy….. and action!

Democracy is designed to continually re-generate and re-new our government.

Given our financial challenges, that renewal must move faster.

For every important challenge we face, we must find a real solution.

We can be inspired by positive ideals, but we must also be prepared with creative ideas, and ready for sustained, hard work over time.

In America, ---- we care for one another. We recognize our common humanity.

The notion of people looking out for one another is fundamental to being American.

If we carelessly decimate the safety and security of our most vulnerable citizens, we make all of us less safe ---- less secure.

Instead, we must thoughtfully dedicate ourselves to reform and recharge the lifelines, for those among us who need our help.

In America, we mobilize to meet the challenges before us ----- to get the job done.

At our core, we are an optimistic people.

In America, we believe in a better future for our kids.

We cannot let the excess of Wall Street become an excuse for not making sure that every child is healthy, ready to learn, and has the opportunity to get a great education.

It is the best hope for their future, and for our future.

We, the representatives of the people, can be part of these American traditions.

And so, every one of us must do our part to help create a better future for all.

We must do our part to help turn the Great Recession into the Great Recovery.

We can do this ---- if we work together -----and look beyond the current state of affairs ---- if we stay focused on the possibilities of new ways to solve old problems.

We can rise to the occasion.

We owe it to our parents, and to our children.

This is America after all!

Thank you.

House Democrats launch new web site

As the 2011 Legislative Session gets off the ground today, the House Democrats' web site is also sporting a new look.

Although the address for the site remains the same (, certain links within the site may have changed, so whether you are a constituent, a member of the media, or just a visitor who likes to follow our site, be sure to update any links you may have bookmarked from the former site.

The House Hot Sheet can now be found here, the Daily Eclips are here, and a link to the roster of state representatives is here.

Note that the newly-debuted site is still a work-in-progress, and legislators both new and returning will be adding content to their individual pages over the coming days and weeks. The home page has a link to contact the webmaster if you notice a problem with the site, such as a nonworking link. We hope you'll check the site often for news and information about what House Democrats are doing in Olympia this session.