Texas lawmakers approve payday lending bills - Word&Way

Texas lawmakers approve payday lending bills

AUSTIN—The Texas Legislature sent two bills to the governor’s desk that will provide more transparency and oversight to largely unregulated payday and auto title lenders.

Working in a broad coalition that included AARP, Texas Impact, Catholic Conference of Bishops and Goodwill of Texas, the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission helped raise awareness about the need to regulate payday and auto title lenders that charge interest and fees that often exceed 500 percent.

Upon hearing from Baptists across the state, the CLC took up this issue four years ago and is beginning to see its advocacy efforts pay off, said CLC legislative counsel Stephen Reeves.

“The two bills that are on their way to the governor would ensure that borrowers are given clear information about the costs of these loans and would for the first time give the Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner the right to license, examine and collect data about these businesses,” Reeves said.

“They would also guarantee that collections harassment laws and federal laws regarding lending to members of the military are enforced.”

Addressing the Baptist General Convention of Texas Executive Board, CLC Director Suzii Paynter said several Texas Baptists testified before lawmakers about the impact payday lenders are having on communities. Those testimonies clearly had an impact, she said.

Jeff Johnson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Del Rio, told how local payday lenders solicited business from clients at a mental health and retardation facility. Rep. Vicki Truitt, R-Keller, added a section to one of the passed bills that would prevent advertising toward or soliciting on the premises of such facilities.

Reeves applauded lawmakers for taking these measures, but he noted more work remains. Payday and auto title lenders still can charge usurious interest rates that take advantage of people looking for help in their time of need.

“It has been made clear this session that these loans are a problem in Texas and the issue will not go away until the concerns of our communities are addressed,” he said.

“The legislation does not address these most pressing concerns. So, we are looking forward to working on the issue in the interim period and returning next session to advocate for bills that would break the cycle of debt perpetuated by these products.”