Intense Payday Loan Battles Are Not Likely In 2015
BATON ROUGE (AP) — The high-profile payday lending fight in 2014 should not be repealed in the 2015 legislative session.
Hundreds of church leaders and community activists filled the halls during the 2014 legislative session in hopes of reining in the practices of an industry that locates mostly in low-income neighborhoods and offers short-term loans at high prices. Despite the pressure, legislators ended up passing a new law that better protects payday lenders.
Disappointed consumer advocates say they don't anticipate taking another run at the issue.
Jan Moller, director of the Louisiana Budget Project, tells The Advocate’s Marsha Shuler legislators spoke loud and clear and they did not want to restrict these loans.
The advocacy group for low- and middle-income families was one of the chief proponents of better regulating payday loans.
"Clearly, we tried as hard as we could to educate politicians about the destructiveness of these loans and how to protect consumers, but the industry prevailed," Moller said, adding that a rerun would be futile unless many lawmakers have had a change of heart, and there's no sign of that.
Louisiana Payday Loan Association lobbyist Danny Ford said he doesn't expect any state activity on the issue this year, based on conversations he's had with legislators. If legislation does surface, he said, he does not anticipate debate will be "as harsh as last time."
The upcoming session will focus on state fiscal matters, and the rules limit legislators to introducing only five bills that don't deal with finances. "I don't think anybody wants to give up one of their five bills to get into that fight again," Ford said.
Certainly, Democratic state Rep. Ted James doesn't.
"I don't know that I want to use one (of the five bills) on something that's going to go down," James said. His north Baton Rouge district has a lot of the payday loan shops.
Last year, James cosponsored consumer measures that ultimately failed. The legislation, as introduced, would have capped interest rates at 36 percent. In hopes of winning support, James changed the bills to limit consumers to taking only 10 such loans per year.