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Attorney general pushes breathing-room bill for service members

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller stood in the Allen County Courthouse rotunda Thursday to tout a bill he unveiled this month.

The soon-to-be-proposed bill, called the Indiana Service Members Civil Relief Act, mirrors a federal act with the same name. Zoeller has tweaked the bill a bit, though, extending protection for service members not only on issues such as mortgages but also for cellphone contracts and payday lenders.

The bill would protect deployed service members from civil action against them in these areas, allowing them to finish their deployments before having to deal with obligations such as debt collections, foreclosures, evictions, judicial and administrative proceedings, and certain lease or service terminations, according to a news release.

The bill would not forgive the debts, but rather would provide breath­ing room for service members and their families.

“It protects men and women who are called up to service,” Zoeller said. “We can protect the men and women while they are away.”

Flanked by Rep. Dennis Zent, R-Angola, and Rep. Martin Carbaugh, R-Fort Wayne, Zoeller said the proposed bill provides for easier enforcement of such protections than the federal version of the law, which has not been enforced often.

He said he is working with Maj. Gen. R. Martin Umbarger, Indiana’s adjutant general, on the issue and plans to use family readiness groups as a way to communicate information about the bill if it is enacted.

Both legislators said they wholeheartedly support the bill and expect it would meet little resistance in the Statehouse. Zoeller said that if it passes, he will ask that it be enacted as an emergency bill, taking effect with the signature of the governor.