LePage vetoes bill aimed at protecting homeowners during foreclosures

A foreclosure sign stands in front of a home in Oregon in 2011.
Don Ryan | AP
A foreclosure sign stands in front of a home in Oregon in 2011.
Posted March 30, 2012, at 1:54 p.m.
Last modified March 30, 2012, at 5:48 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage on Friday vetoed a Democratic-backed bill that sought to give homeowners more protection in foreclosure proceedings.

The bill received bipartisan support in both the Maine House (90-54) and Senate (32-2), but the governor said the title of the bill — “An Act to Clarify and Streamline Foreclosure Proceedings” — doesn’t match its substance.

“This law would not do anything to shorten the foreclosure process in the state of Maine,” he wrote in his veto letter to the Legislature. “Instead, it would add a new burden on our lenders to produce original copies of documents or swear under penalty of perjury why they are not able to.

“This will simply create more paperwork in the foreclosure process with little benefit for Maine people,” he added.

The title of the bill actually had been changed to “An Act To Protect Homeowners Subject to Foreclosure by Requiring the Foreclosing Entity To Provide the Court with Original Documents.”

The bill had been carried over from the first Legislative session and has been reworked considerably by lawmakers.

Its sponsor, Rep. Bobbi Beavers, D-South Berwick, accused the governor of putting big banks ahead of struggling middle-class families.

“This simple bill would have protected Maine homeowners in foreclosure from the widely reported abuses of the national mortgage companies,” she said. “Maine families are struggling to make ends meet and keep a roof over their heads.”

The bill would prevent large mortgage companies from foreclosing on homes on which they might not have legal ownership. It further would require banks to present the original mortgage note or proof of ownership before court proceedings.

LePage said he agreed with the intent of the bill, but would have liked to see increased penalties for bad lenders, not draw out the process.

South Portland attorney Thomas Cox, who worked for the banking industry for 30 years, said the governor’s reasoning was flawed.

“It doesn’t delay foreclosures at all. That’s just wrong and misleading,” said Cox.

Cox was at the center of a landmark legal that uncovered a rash of mishandled foreclosures by some of the country’s biggest lenders. In several cases, flawed paperwork led to a pattern in which thousands of foreclosures were approved by bank employees who didn’t fully read the documents.

The attorney also said he and Rep. Beavers requested a meeting with the governor a couple weeks ago after the bill passed through the Legislature but were denied.

“It’s clear that he doesn’t even understand what he’s talking about, but he didn’t give us a chance to talk him,” Cox said.

Lawmakers could overturn the veto with a two-thirds vote, but that hasn’t happened once since LePage took office.

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