Voters in Arizona yesterday approved a measure that will increase the amounts that consumers can shield from garnishments to pay medical debts while also lowering judgment interest rates in a move that is expected to be taken up in other states across the country, while a state Attorney General who is very well-known to the accounts receivable management industry was elected governor as part of yesterday’s mid-term elections. Those, along with several other political races and ballot measures that have ties to the ARM industry were part of a wild night that will spill over into today and the rest of the week as a number of close races will ultimately determine whether Republicans will wrestle power away from Democrats in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
With 59% of the ballots counted, 72% of voters in Arizona approved Proposition 209, more than enough for the measure to be proclaimed as passed. Nearly 1.2 million residents in the state voted to approve the measure, compared with 462,000 who voted against it. Members of the ARM industry, especially Amber Russo of Kino Financial, fought hard to educate voters about the specifics of the bill and the consequences of what would happen if enacted, but were ultimately unsuccessful. The newly enacted law is expected to eliminate up to 70% of garnishments in the state. It raises the homestead exemption to $400,000 from $150,000, bans garnishing the wages of anyone earning less than $50,000 per year — with annual increases, and raises the exemption threshold in bank accounts to $5,000 from $300. Judgment interest rates on unpaid medical debts will be capped at 3%.
Maura Healey, who has been Attorney General of Massachusetts for the past seven years and who has frequently taken actions against companies in the ARM industry, has been proclaimed the Commonwealth’s next Governor. Healey had 63% of the vote, nearly twice as much as Republican Geoff Diehl. It was Healey, you may remember, who tried at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to tried to enact emergency regulations that, among other things, barred collectors from initiating phone conversations with individuals who had unpaid debts. The industry sued the AG and obtained a restraining order blocking the regulations from enacting the regulations. The AG’s office, under Healey, has engaged in more than a dozen enforcement actions against companies in the ARM industry during the past two years.
A ballot measure that would create a constitutional right to health care for all Oregonians was still too close to call in the hours after the polls closed in the state. With 64% of the votes in, the vote was 50.48% to 49.52% in favor of opposing the measure, which would create a constitutional obligation to provide access to affordable healthcare for all residents, similar to the requirement that everyone has access to public education. If enacted, the state legislature would have to define what access to affordable healthcare actually means and how it will meet the obligation of providing it to every resident of the state.