Bankruptcy Bill Conference Reaches Critical Stage
ouse and Senate Judiciary Committee members negotiating the shape of the bankruptcy
bill are nearing a final agreement that would clear the bill for final action this
summer. However, the final issuehow to make non-dischargeable debts arising from
violent conduct at or near abortion clinicscontinues to be difficult to resolve. The
Senate-passed bill includes broad language that is opposed by House conferees.
At press time, conference committee members were scheduled to meet on May 22
to attempt to reach a resolution of the stalemate. Staff members for the principals
in the abortion issue debateSen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Henry Hyde
(R-Ill.)continue to trade alternative language. Sen. Schumer has been quoted as
saying that if an agreement is not reached by Memorial Day, "it's not going to
happen." The conference committee chairman, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.),
disputed an arbitrary deadline short of final adjournment this fall. If an agreement
is reached, the conference report must be re-passed by both the House and Senate.
This is usually a formality, clearing the bill for the president's expected signature.
Most of the bill's provisions would become effective 180 days after enactment.
Bankruptcy Filings Hit New Record (Again)
Bankruptcy filings broke the record for any 12-month period, rising 15.1
percent in the period ending March 31, 2002. Filings surged past 1.5 million
for the first time ever, reaching 1,504,806. The quarterly figure of
379,012 new cases (for the period ending March 31) is the highest first
quarter ever and the second highest three-month period in history (trailing only the
400,394 new cases filed in the second quarter last year). Filings rose in all
chapters. More than 97 percent of the cases are non-business cases; 70 percent
of the cases are filed under chapter 7.
Chapter 12 Extended Through 2002
President Bush's signature on the omnibus farm bill (P.L. 107-171) in
early May extends farm bankruptcy protection through Dec. 31, 2002. An earlier
law (P.L. 107-170) retroactively reenacted chapter 12, which had expired in
September 2001. A permanent extension and expansion of the law's provisions is tied
up in the omnibus bankruptcy bill (H.R. 333), now pending in a House-Senate
conference committee. The authority to file under chapter 12 expired on July 1,
2000, but was reenacted retroactively and extended through May 2001 by P.L.
107-8. It was then extended through September 2001 by 107-17 before the
most recent action.