Sunday, April 23, 2006

Payday Loan Sharks Get Last Laugh From Oregon Legislature

Oregon is only one of seven states with no interest rate caps on "payday loan" type businesses where interest rates can top 469%. With the huge surge in gasoline prices more and more lower income persons are counting on shady businesses such as payday loan, cash advance or pawn shops for money for bills or to put enough gas in the car to drive to work.

The Oregon legislature had a real opportunity to limit the type of legal loan shark practices that this industry forces on the poor. And in what appeared to many to be a consensus of Democrats or Republicans to crack down on this abuse of the poor, the legislature voted to cap the maximum interest rates at 36%.

The real problem with this was that it was merely a show for the voters only days before the May primary. The actual bill passed had a clause that allows it to take effect in 2007, not on July 1, 2006, which allows the payday loan industry ample time to file lawsuits to kill this bill in the courts or to have Republican legislators weaken or even gut the bill entirely in the next legislative session. Some Republicans that voted for the bill before the May 16, primary already commented that they intend to "fix" the bill in the next legislative session.

It is also a highly cynical approach to both the voters and to the real problems of an arrogant industry that preys upon the poorest of Oregonians that a number of Republican legislators who receive campaign donations from either the payday loan industry or their lobby, vote for a bill solely to have a selling point with the voters right before the primary election, but put in a escape clause not allowing it to take effect, giving lawyers from the payday loan industry plenty of time to kill the legislation with lawsuits. And if this isn't enough to kill the bill, then the legislators can kill the bill if they manage to elect a Repulican majority in either chamber.

Last session, Republican Speaker of the House, Karen Minnis would not even allow a bill for self-extinguishing cigarettes to be voted on. Careless smokers cause nearly 900 grass or forest fires in Oregon each year. And nationwide careless smokers cause an average of 31,000 housefires each year in the U.S. But both the tobacco industry and the payday loan industry have a strong ally in Minnis who makes a farce of her position of power in Salem.

I've seen the face of evil, and it's some of the members in the Oregon legislature who turn their back on public safety and fire prevention or who cast their lot with the evil loan sharks.


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