O'Malley Urged to Veto Bills
Consumer groups are urging Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) to veto a bill that would allow a Columbia-based, for-profit credit counseling firm whose business practices are under review in multiple states to be licensed in Maryland.
The legislation, approved by the General Assembly during the recent legislative session, would allow AscendOne and businesses like it to operate in Maryland just as nonprofit debt counselors do. Supporters say for-profit counseling firms have helped many homeowners find financial security. But opponents who have fought the bill for two years say the for-profit firms are predators cashing in on vulnerable homeowners hit by the foreclosure crisis.
A veto would need to come by Thursday, when the governor is scheduled to sign a final batch of bills approved during the legislature's annual 90-day session.
"We ask you to pursue a leadership role and veto" the bill, leaders of the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition and Maryland Public Interest Research Group wrote O'Malley (D). "Otherwise, this legislation will ensure that the most vulnerable in our communities will provide the '"profit'" to the for-profit businesses in this industry. The empty pockets of credit-challenged individuals is not the proper foundation for business success."
O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese said the governor has not made a final decision on the bill. "There are a number of requests in for us to sign the legislation and to veto it," Abbruzzese said. "He's going through those."
Another controversial measure before the governor is one he was set to sign last month but pulled from the list after a last-minute push by public health advocates. That bill would classify as beer the popular fruity malt liquor drinks dubbed "alcopops" by detractors.
When they passed the bill, lawmakers overrode a recent opinion from Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D), who said the drinks are distilled spirits that should be taxed as liquor and sold only in liquor stores. Abbruzzese said the governor is still weighing whether to sign the bill.
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