In a guest column published in the Galveston Daily News (“It’s special interest groups that kill payday loan reform,” Daily News, March 15) Adam Burklund, field organizer for the Consumer Service Alliance of Texas, asserted that we and the “consumer interests groups” we represent defeated the predatory lending reform bill last session.
While we would like to revel in any claim that gives us so much power over the Texas Legislature, we hate to break it to Burklund, but the only consumer interest groups we represent are the consumers of our respective House and Senate districts.
To refresh Burklund’s memory, the bill that he says passed “overwhelmingly” out of the Senate Business and Commerce Committee actually passed 5-3, hardly what we would call a landslide. Furthermore, the compromise bill that Burklund claims Sen. Rodney Ellis had a hand in killing on the Senate floor last session actually passed off the Senate floor with the support of 24 senators — a truly bipartisan piece of legislation. Maybe Burklund is referring to the death of the version of the bill that came out of the Senate committee that contained a little provision that the predatory lending industry was really banking on: the so-called pre-emption clause.
The pre-emption clause would have voided any steps that cities had taken or will take in the future to protect their residents against the most harmful practices of the predatory lending industry. At the time that the bill was being debated in the Senate, seven Texas cities had passed similar ordinances to protect their residents, all stronger than what was being proposed in the bill that passed out of the Senate committee. Had that version of the bill passed, those ordinances would have been voided and replaced by substantially weaker statewide legislation. Fortunately, the Senate saw the danger of the pre-emption clause and unanimously, and overwhelmingly, voted to nullify it.
Since then, eight more Texas cities have passed similar ordinances, including Houston. As of today, 6.7 million Texans are protected by an ordinance that is stronger than what passed out of the Senate committee, and this scares the predatory lending industry to death. This is why the industry showed up in droves and testified for hours against the bill when it was heard in the House committee. It was at this point that the bill never saw the light of day again.
Burklund claims that we want to kill the predatory lending industry as it exists in Texas. This is also untrue. We want to change how the predatory lending industry conducts business as usual and see the most egregious of its practices die.
In 2012, the current predatory lending business model drained $1.25 billion in fees from working Texas families for loans at 500 percent interest and higher. Business as usual hurts Texas families.
We have always maintained that we do not want the small loan business to go out of business in Texas. We understand there is a need for it in our communities. What we want is for the businesses providing the loans to operate in a responsible, fair, and honest way. The people of Texas would be better served if the industry supported fair lending practices rather than fighting efforts to better the way they conduct their predatory business by penning misleading guest columns and attempting to change easily verifiable facts.
State Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, is chair of the House Committee on Investments and Financial Services. State Rep. Craig Eiland, D-Galveston, is one of Galveston County’s two representatives. State Sen. Rodney Ellis represents the 13th district.