The issue of foreclosures is one the Colorado Progressive Coalition has remained involved with for two and a half years -- though many of its members can put that number to shame. So as House Bill 1156 nears the chamber's economic and business development committee hearing tomorrow, CPC, Moveon.org, Metro Organizations For People and Occupy Denver have launched a week of action in support of the regulations it could impose on foreclosures statewide.
At its most basic level, organizers see HB 1156 as a return to form of sorts after 2006 legislation made it easier to process a foreclosure. In that case, emphasis landed on the signature of a lawyer as a sort of overall okay that a handful of local opponents hope to refute. Fronted by Representative Beth McCann and Senator Michael Johnston, the measure would create greater transparency, requiring that financial entities provide proof that they are entitled to foreclose on a property by tracing its chain of custody.
The bill would also establish a system of judicial oversight, with judges reading the paperwork themselves before any decision is reached at a foreclosure hearing. Before 2006 legislation slimmed down the requirements, the process previously called for greater documentation.
"With all the buying and selling in our financial system, we're seeing it's really tough to provide proof of title, and there's a lot of cloudy paperwork all over the country," says Corrine Fowler, economic justice director for the Colorado Progressive Coalition. "We know that robo-signing is happening and paperwork is being pushed all over the country. In Colorado, we should see this as the opportunity to clean up that process and create a fair system."
Two weeks ago, Occupy Our Homes issued a national call for action, and the CPC's decision to answer it makes Denver one in a handful of cities across the country involved in the demonstration against foreclosure this week. House Bill 1156's progression through the legislature positioned Colorado as a prime target for local focus. With tomorrow's 1:30 p.m. hearing on 1156 expected to last several hours, the CPC is encouraging the public to attend. Although Fowler says a definitive estimate of the number of CPC members affected by some form of foreclosure is impossible, she is surprised by the frequency with which the issue arises internally.
"Since we first met with Representative McCann in July, as we've moved through this campaign, the number of people who have come forward to give definition to this issue is incredible," Fowler says. "I had no idea this issue was so rampant in our communities."
Depending on tomorrow's hearing, the next step for the legislation would be the House appropriations committee. If eventually approved, HB 1156's insistence on judicial oversight is estimated to increase the system's current workload by approximately ten minutes per case. That rate is based on the number of foreclosures filed this year, although not all of them made it to a courtroom. Because of the added costs -- an estimated $900,000 in the bill's first year -- the difference in funds would be taken from the state's judicial stabilization fund, targeted toward covering judicial fees in the case of an economic downturn.
As the national financial market stabilizes, the expectation is that the annual costs would decrease, bringing the estimated total for a potential second year under HB 1156 to $700,000.
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This morning, CPC members and supporters gathered for a session devoted to lobbying in support of the measure. For three and a half hours, the group discussed the bill internally before taking it in front of representatives and economic committee members at the Capitol. Tomorrow, the week of action targets the hearing itself, followed by street theater on Wednesday at noon, when the group will act out a people's foreclosure of Castle-Stawiarski, a law firm that works with foreclosures and supported the 2006 legislation the CPC opposes. Among the coalition's supporters is foreclosure attorney Keith Gantenbein, formerly of Castle-Stawiarski.
More from our Politics archive: "Video: Occupy Denver, Colorado Progressive Coalition protest foreclosures, interrupt auction."