Changing my mind about the payday loan debate
The problem with listening to the Missouri legislature debate via the Internet is that you miss stuff. While taking a phone call or going to the water fountain or something yesterday, it seems I missed a crucial interaction in the payday loan debate that causes me to rethink what I wrote yesterday about the Republicans allowing a fair and open discussion.
Democrat Mary Still had wanted to amend the sham bill that made it out of committee, which would do nothing to curb abusive practice by payday lenders. She proposed capping the annual percentage rate at 99 percent, rather than the 1,564 percent cap proposed in House Bill 656.
That part that I missed is described here by Roseann Moring of the Springfield News Leader:
Still proposed a modified version of her bill as an amendment to Brandom’s bill. But Rep. Ward Franz, R-West Plains, substituted an unrelated proposal for her amendment, and the body agreed to it. That effectively cut off her amendment, because representatives cannot propose multiple amendments that are substantially the same. Still heavily criticized Republicans for the move. “You know the public is appalled by this,” she said. “You know you would be taking a bad vote” by rejecting the amendment. House Speaker Pro Tem Shane Schoeller, R-Willard cut her off, saying she needed to keep to the bill.
So it looks like Republicans effectively denied Still a vote on the 99 percent annual percentage rate. If that’s the case, than anything the House does from this point on this bill is meaningless. Missouri currently allows an APR of 1,950 percent — the highest in the nation. Capping it at 1,564 percent means nothing, because the average short-term lender in Missouri pays an annual percentage rate of 444 percent.
That’s an unhealthily high rate. So any reform has to lower the cap beneath that figure. It appears that not only does the House not intend to do that, it doesn’t even intend to allow a vote on it.