Monday, September 10, 2007

More on B.R.E.A.D., Payday Lending, and Ohio Representatives

This is a follow-up to yesterday's post (on another blog) about Doing Justice in Ohio. The following excerpt comes from my church's September newsletter:

At that Nehemiah Action Assembly, Senator Ray Miller pledged to introduce legislation in the state house to curb PayDay Lending. You may have seen recent articles in the Columbus Dispatch and elsewhere in which this issue and its abuses have been well documented. Though B.R.E.A.D. is mentioned, it is rarely given the credit for having moved this issue to the forefront.

Behind the scenes B.R.E.A.D. has been working with Senator Miller, a Democrat, and Representative Bill Batchelder, a Republican, to sponsor the same legislation in the House and in the Senate. This kind of strong bi-partisan cooperation will benecessary to pass a bill. At the August 24 meeting, B.R.E.A.D. was reminded that it will take phone calls, e-mails, and letter to state lawmakers to get this bill passed. PayDay Lenders have a well funded lobby and have doubled their spending in the legislature since 2006. Be prepared for some requests from your B.R.E.A.D. team to write, call, e-mail those who represent you in the statehouse!
About that bipartisan support--that is apparently the reason Ohio House Minority Leader Joyce Beatty has been hesitant to support the legislation. From the Other Paper article I linked yesterday...
Several state lawmakers of both parties have agreed to take on the cause. While others surely have their reservations, Beatty is one of the only legislators to openly criticize the effort, brushing off the proposed reforms as shortsighted and politically motivated.

Using her influence as the minority leader, Beatty has discouraged Democrats from working with Republican state Rep. Bill Batchelder of Medina, whom advocates have asked to sponsor the legislation in the House.

Known as an arch conservative, Batchelder has been against high-interest loan centers dating back to the 1990s, when he opposed legislation that led to the proliferation of payday lending shops. However, Beatty has repeatedly suggested Batchelder is using the issue to advance his aspirations to be speaker of the House next session.

“I will not support any legislative agenda that I feel is solely for someone’s political gain,” Beatty wrote in an op-ed column published last month in the Akron Beacon Journal.

That’s a problem because legislation will require bipartisan support, and Beatty is known for her ability to keep her caucus in line.

“It’s already damaged the prospects for getting the bill passed,” said Miller.

“I think we’ve laid out a good strategy, we’re fortunate to have bipartisan leadership on this with Rep. Batchelder and myself,” he added. “At the present time, our biggest challenge is the opposition from Rep. Beatty and her work to encourage members of her caucus to be neutral or opposed.”
I have a hard time understanding how a powerful Democrat in the Ohio House would want to delay implementing measures to protect our most vulnerable citizens from predatory lending practices for basically political reasons. Still, she did say I will not support any legislative agenda that I feel is solely for someone’s political gain, and has said that she is willing to hear from her constituents on this matter. Maybe even polite letters from people who are not her constituents, but are able to clearly express why this is not solely for someone's political gain.

The bill (I've been searching for a bill number and an official link, and will update if/when I find that) only proposes the same safeguards against predatory lending that military personnel are now granted via the Nelson Talent Amendment.
The proposed bill would cap interest rates on short-term loans at 36 percent. Currently, the rate on these loans can reach nearly 400 percent when calculated over a year. The bill also would call for financial incentives and tax credits for traditional lenders to encourage them to offer short-term, low-interest loans.
So we're talking about reasonable limits on the interest rates that can be charged, not shutting these places down, as Rep. Beatty seems to suggest here:
House Democratic Leader Joyce Beatty, who represents some of the same citizens as Miller, said she has talked to people in line waiting to get payday loans.

"People said to me, ‘Rep. Beatty, these folks will at least cash my check.’ One lady told me she couldn’t get her check cashed in any bank in the city," Beatty said.

"I have not had anybody call me and say, ‘I go to a payday lending establishment, and I think you should close them down.’ "
That quote is from an article that was published on July 23. Hopefully by this point, people have clarified to Representative Beatty that no one associated with this proposed bill is suggesting that payday lending establishments should be shut down Still, since she is in a position to either help or hurt the passage of a bill that could offer even some minimal protection to Ohio's most vulnerable citizens, I think it couldn't hurt to politely help see to it that she does understand what this is really about.