Legislators neither killed nor endorsed House Bill 370.

sLawmakers in Virginia continued to approach efforts to regulate commercial credit reporting agencies with ambivalence this week, as a House of Delegates subcommittee voted to continue House Bill 370 to 2015.

Essentially, lawmakers in the second subcommittee of the House Committee on Commerce and Labor, where HB 370 had previously been referred, chose to neither kill nor endorse the legislation. HB 370’s continuance means that the bill can potentially be reconsidered later, but that failing any efforts by delegates to do so, it will be delayed until next year.

The Virginia Small Business Commission, a code-created legislative entity comprised of delegates, state senators and civilians, took similar action last year on House Bill 2198 when it made no recommendation on that legislation. After failing to receive an endorsement, HB 2198 was then amended to weaken some of the most controversial restrictions it would have placed on commercial credit reporting. The resulting bill was introduced as HB 370 earlier this month.

Staff in the Commerce and Labor Committee noted that, similar to the Virginia Small Business Commission, subcommittees can only make recommendations on bills rather than take binding legal action for or against legislation, meaning that almost any bill can be brought back up for reconsideration either at the full committee level or in the full House of Delegates. Continuing a bill to the following year typically suggests that lawmakers believe the legislation needs to be tweaked before they determine how to proceed.

NACM opposed HB 2198 throughout 2013 primarily for the bill’s identification provisions, which would have required commercial credit reporting agencies to identify the source of so-called “negative information” to the subject of a commercial credit report. HB 370 boiled HB 2198 down to two major provisions that require commercial credit reporting agencies to provide the subject company a free copy of their commercial credit report, less any information that’s deemed proprietary, and provide the subject of a report with further recourse to challenge an “inaccurate statement of fact” on their credit report beyond a commercial credit reporting agency’s standard means of dispute resolution.

HB 370 still could have implications for the commercial credit reporting industry, and concerns linger about how its provisions could potentially weaken the strength and value of commercial credit reports on Virginia businesses.  NACM will continue to monitor the legislation throughout 2014 and beyond.

Courtesy Jacob Barron, CICP, NACM staff writer