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Subcommittee Approves Bills On Homeless Veterans, Home Warranties and Insurance Regulations

Washington, December 8, 2011 - The Insurance, Housing, and Community Opportunity Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Judy Biggert, approved three bills on Thursday regarding data collection regulations on insurance companies, home warranties and homeless veterans.

The bills approved by the Subcommittee are:

H.R. 3559, Insurance Data Protection Act, sponsored by Rep. Steve Stivers
This bill addresses concerns raised at three earlier Subcommittee hearings about the broad subpoena power granted to the Federal Insurance Office (FIO) and the Office of Financial Research (OFR), two new government entities created by the Dodd-Frank Act. 

Witnesses at those hearings testified that this broad subpoena power would impose substantial compliance costs on insurance companies and duplicate data collection already undertaken by state regulators and other federal agencies.  In addition, the bill aims to ensure that nonpublic information about consumers and businesses is not leaked by a federal regulator or entity.

“Every job creator in America understands that burdensome and duplicative regulations cost consumers and cost jobs.  This bill will cut red tape and protect consumer privacy,” said Rep. Stivers.  “For nearly 150 years, state insurance regulators and laws have regulated insurance companies.  Consumer protections for insurance consumers fall within this existing state regulatory regime.  The bill we approved today would not change these important consumer protections but enhance them.”

H.R. 3559 would revoke the subpoena authority granted to FIO and OFR to collect data directly from insurers.  Instead, the bill requires that such data be obtained through the insurance company’s state regulator, another federal agency, or a public source.  The bill also requires that FIO and OFR, as well as state regulators, maintain the confidentiality of nonpublic data obtained from or shared with other federal and state regulators.

“These bills are important components of our overall effort to reduce regulatory uncertainty and unnecessary costs,” said Subcommittee Chairman Biggert.  “The legislation offered by Representative Stivers will protect private data and preserve state regulation in the insurance market.”

The Stivers bill was approved by a vote of 7 to 5.

H.R. 2446, RESPA Home Warranty Clarification Act of 2011, sponsored by Rep. Judy Biggert
H.R. 2446 provides clarity to existing law that home warranties are not subject to the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA). The bill also requires that homeowners receive a specific written notice about the payment arrangement for any individual selling, advertising or performing a homeowner warranty inspection for the repair or replacement of home system components or appliances.

“This bill clarifies the scope of RESPA and gives consumers clear notice that their real estate agent could receive a referral fee for selling them a home warranty,” said Subcommittee Chairman Biggert.  “Home warranties should not be subjected to these RESPA regulations because the sale of home warranties is outside the scope of RESPA.”

The legislation was approved by voice vote.

H.R. 3298, Homes For Heroes Act of 2011, sponsored by Rep. Al Green
H.R. 3298 establishes the position of Special Assistant for Veterans Affairs within the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to coordinate services provided to homeless veterans.  The new Special Assistant for Veterans Affairs would also serve as HUD’s liaison to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, state and local officials, and nonprofit service organizations.

“The Homes for Heroes Act will help foster a better understanding of veterans’ issues and build a closer working relationship between HUD and the VA.  The result will be better care and services for these national heroes who face such trying circumstances,” said Subcommittee Chairman Biggert.

The bill is similar to other legislation passed by the House of Representatives in 2008 and 2009.   

The Subcommittee approved H.R. 3298 by voice vote.

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