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Proposed law would protect Indiana National Guard, reserve military personnel while on active duty

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For more on consumer resources for military families, go to www.IndianaConsumer.com/military or to military.ncpw.gov.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014 - 3:57 pm

Indiana residents serving in Indiana National Guard and state U.S. military reserve units would receive increased state consumer protection through a proposed Indiana Service Member's Civil Relief Act.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller stopped Thursday morning for a new conference at the Allen County Courthouse to promote the proposed bill, which he expects to be introduced when the Indiana state legislature convenes in January.

"We can protect men and women while they are away protecting us," Zoeller said.

He was joined at the news conference by two fellow Republicans who support the law, Martin Carbaugh (R-Fort Wayne) and Dennis Zent (R-Angola).

Zoeller said the Indiana Service Member's Civil Relief Act would adopt all of the protections currently offered by the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, and add a few of its own.

The federal law allows Indiana National Guard and reserve military personnel who are called to active duty to postpone or suspend debt collections, foreclosure, court appearances and termination of some lease or service contracts, Zoeller said. He also expects the Indiana law to offer protections such as suspending a service member's cell phone contract and payment requirements while on active duty and preventing check-cashing companies from suing the service member for money.

Passage of the proposed law would allow the attorney general go after violators in both state and federal courts.

Civil relief laws try to protect National Guard and reserve military personnel and their families while the service man or woman receives military pay, which typically is lower than what he or she was earning at a civilian job, Zoeller said.

Zoeller said his office will work with banks and other affected firms to make sure they know they cannot sue, cancel contracts or initiate debt collection efforts against Indiana military personnel while they are on active duty.

Indiana's law would apply only to Indiana residents, however, so members of Indiana National Guard and military reserve units who reside in other states could be sued in their state, unless it also has a similar law, Zoeller said.

He plans to ask that the bill be given emergency status. If passed by the legislature, it would take effect as soon as Gov. Mike Pence signs it, he said.