A bill that would have allowed payday lenders to charge annual percentage rates of up to 222 percent on some types of short-term loans passed its Indiana House committee and the House itself before being blocked in the Senate.
The fact that such legislation was introduced in the first place is a concern. Even more disturbing is how far it advanced before dying in its Senate committee.
House Bill 1319, written by state Rep. Martin Carbaugh, R-Fort Wayne, would have created a new class of high-interest loans aimed at low-income borrowers. Storefront lenders would have been allowed to offer three- to 12-month loans of $605 to $1,500 at interest rates up to 222 percent.
Under Indiana law, rates of more than 72 percent are considered felony loansharking. Payday lenders can offer higher rates but only for smaller loans.
The bill passed in the House Financial Institutions Committee by an 8-5 vote, and narrowly passed in the House by a 53-41 vote, with House Speaker Brian Bosma voting for it. Also among those voting in favor of the bill were two Republicans who represent portions of Bartholomew County, Sean Eberhart, of Shelbyville, and Jim Lucas, of Seymour. Milo Smith, of Columbus, was excused for the vote.
At a Third House session Feb. 26 at Mill Race Center, Eberhart told those in attendance, “Even though the fees and percentages charged for those loans sounds outrageous, it’s better than what options some folks have now.”
Eberhart was right on the point that the fees and percentages that would be allowed in the bill are outrageous. But even if they were better than other options some people have, that doesn’t make those allowed by HB 1319 good options, either.
Low-income residents are the most vulnerable, and charging interest rates triple what is allowed now is what you call gauging. Or predatory. Both descriptions fit.
Social service agencies, veterans groups and religious organizations were correct to fight this bill. All it would have done is legally allowed one group to take advantage of another. That’s not right.
Thank goodness someone was awake enough to prevent HB 1319 from advancing further.
State Sen. Mark Messmer, R-Jasper, the chairman of the Senate Commerce and Technology Committee, said Feb. 27 that he would not allow the bill to get a hearing in the committee, effectively killing it. He conceded that negative feedback was a factor.
So was Senate President Pro Tempore David Long’s coolness to the bill.
Predatory lending has no place in society, whether in Indiana or elsewhere. Legalizing the ability to take advantage of the most vulnerable should not be among Hoosier values.
Fortunately, enough Hoosiers made their voices heard and made those points clear.