Maryland lawmakers are offering state tax relief if the federal tax break isn't renewed. Maryland would not collect state income tax on up to $1 million of forgiven mortgage debt for singles, and up to $2 million for joint filers. This would apply for the 2013 tax year.

This is one of those bills with a fiscal impact — potentially costing the state at least $4.9 million in lost revenue — so the governor likely won't be rushing to sign it.

Rent-to-own disclosures Maryland hasn't updated its law on rent-to-own stores since 1989 and other states have stronger consumer protections, says White of the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition.

A survey by the nonprofit group found that consumers who buy appliances from rent-to-own stores end up paying two to three times more than they would if they'd bought the product outright from a traditional retailer, she says.

White's group wanted stiffer consumer disclosures and a cap on the profit a rent-to-own store could make on a sale. She says the industry countered that the state shouldn't interfere in the marketplace.

The outcome, White says, is no cap and only modest consumer disclosure. This would take effect in October. White vows to take up the issue again next year.

Readers of this column might recall a practice by some insurers that requires customers to buy both auto and homeowner's policies from them if they want any coverage at all.

A bill was introduced to ban this so-called "forced bundling" before it gained momentum in Maryland. The legislation failed.

On the upside: An insurer that was considering "forced bundling" here has backed off.

eileen.ambrose@baltsun.com

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