In today’s “us vs. them” political environment, it is refreshing to see exceptions in the state of Utah. I saw one example of people working together in the political environment during Utah’s most recent legislative session.
Utah Representative James Dunnigan introduced a bill (HB 312), with the purpose of creating some guardrails around the Consumer Legal Funding industry. This industry helps needy consumers receive financial assistance on a pending legal claim, as they wait for their case to make its way through the legal process. This is not a service that many people know about, but it is an important one to consumers who are trying to make ends meet, while waiting for an accident claim to make its way through what is often a long and cumbersome legal process.
To his credit, Representative Dunnigan immediately brought together all of the stakeholders in the industry and crafted a bill that will not only allow this service to be available to the consumers of Utah, it also puts in place strong regulations to protect Utah consumers .
The new statute, which goes into effect on May 12, will require companies in our industry to simply register with the state, clearly disclose all fees associated with their product, and ensure that consumers and state officials have recourse against any company not following the law. In short, it will essentially eliminate what we call the “bad actors” in the industry.
HB 312, now called the “Maintenance Funding Practices Act”, is a piece of legislation that should be applauded. It took into consideration the needs both of business community, while also ensuring that Utah consumers are fully protected.
In my role as President of the Alliance for Responsible Consumer Legal Funding (ARC), I deal with legislatures all across the country. It is quite rare to see a bill sponsor start the process the way Representative Dunnigan did—hearing all sides of the issue, working to find a careful balancing, and then passing legislation with which everyone can agree.
As an industry, we appreciate both Representative Jim Dunnigan and Senator Curt Bramble (the Senate floor sponsor) for taking the time to look out for both Utah consumers as well as the business community. We applaud their collaborative approach to solving difficult issues and would love to see this “Utah Approach” to legislation take place in so many other states across the country.