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Senate backs foreclosure delay

ST. PAUL - Senators said they were responding Monday to reckless residential mortgage lending practices when they approved a plan giving some homeowners facing foreclosure temporary reprieve.

The Minnesota Senate passed 34-29 a bill allowing some mortgage borrowers on the verge of foreclosure a delay making payments of up to one year. The delay is meant to give them time to negotiate new mortgage terms and avoid foreclosure.

"We are in a crisis the likes of which we have not seen since the Great Depression," said bill author Sen. Ellen Anderson, DFL-St. Paul, blaming the crisis largely on bad lending practices. "We're just trying to deal with predatory loans."

Anderson said the bill could help up to 12,000 homeowners.

Critics said the bill is too broad, not targeted to victims of foreclosure fraud and would permit the state to intervene in private contracts.

Sen. Dan Skogen, DFL-Hewitt, said the Legislature already has approved more than six bills addressing the foreclosure crisis.

"Let's let the pieces that we've passed do their job," Skogen said. "I think we've gone far enough."

Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, looked at the terms for who could qualify and said the mortgages are not "high-cost loans." Skoe said the bill is "much too wide and much too broad."

The bill still faces hurdles. It awaits a House vote before it could go to Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who has objected to the proposal.