House Passes Short-term Ch. 12 Extension Sets Date for Further Conference on Omnibus Bill
On April 16, the House of Representatives passed a temporary extension of chapter 12 until May 31, retroactive to Oct. 1, 2001. The action came as House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) urged conferees on the farm bill to strike a Senate-passed provision that would permanently extend the law. Sensenbrenner, who chairs the conference committee on H.R. 333, the "Bankruptcy Abuse and Consumer Protection Act," is still seeking to complete action on the omnibus bill.
Chapter 12 expired at the end of September 2001.
H.R. 333 permanently extends chapter 12 while containing several other "farmer friendly" provisions, such as a doubling of the debt eligibility limit to $3 million (and indexed for inflation), a lowering of income required to be derived from farming to make more farmers eligible and an expansion of the law to family fishermen. The con-ference on the omnibus bill has been at a stalemate over unrelated provisions dealing with the scope of the homestead exemption and other issues.
Final action on the farm bill has also been delayed, with conferees unable to reach an agreement at press time. Senators added the chapter 12 amendment believing the farm bill would be a faster vehicle to a permanent enactment of farm bankruptcy protections.
Sensenbrenner set a meeting of the conference for April 23 and stated that he hoped to complete final action by the Memorial Day recess. Sensenbrenner said he has been frustrated by the Senate conferees' lack of response to his offer to resolve the "handful" of outstanding differences on the omnibus bill, telling the House that this group "hasn't been constructive." Senate Democratic conferees are much less optimistic about resolving the remaining differences.