TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — For the second year in a row, Florida lawmakers on Wednesday debated a proposal to speed up the state's residential mortgage foreclosure process and make it fairer to homeowners.
But critics on the panel and in the audience, including former Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, raised alarms about a provision that would allow notices of sale of foreclosed homes to be published only on the Internet.
Advocates for newspapers and senior citizens, among others, said that would reduce the chance of such notices being seen.
Nonetheless, the Senate's Banking and Insurance committee cleared the bill (SB 1666) by an 8-2 vote.
The collapse in the real estate market that began in 2008 resulted in millions of foreclosures across the country. Those cases quickly swamped an already overworked court system. Florida still has about a quarter of the nation's foreclosures, according to surveys.
More problems arose when it was learned that paperwork in many foreclosures was the product of "robo-signers," people hired to sign documents in assembly-line fashion, often without knowing what's in them. Such documents included affidavits that a bank actually owns the mortgage on a property being foreclosed when the original paperwork can't be found. Many cases of mistaken and outright fraudulent filings were then found.
Sen. Gwen Margolis, a Miami Democrat, expressed surprise about the Internet-only provision to the bill's sponsor, Sen. Jack Latvala, a Republican from Clearwater.
She wanted to know why he wasn't "willing to compromise on ... issues that are important to the people and really have created quite a stir here today."
Latvala responded that he'd continue to work on it, insisting more people use the Internet than read newspapers. But, referring to newspapers, he added, "Do we need to ... keep an industry alive that's having problems? Is that our place? I don't know."
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