Consider these facts:
- Missouri has more payday storefronts than almost any state and some of the weakest lending regulations in the nation.
- The Better Business Bureau of Eastern Missouri reports that payday loan companies in Missouri can charge up to 1,950 annual percentage rates. The average APR is 430.64 percent.
- The Missouri Division of Finance reports that Missouri law allows six loan renewals and a Missouri consumer can pay up to $395 in interest and fees on a $500 loan. All surrounding states forbid renewals.
Missouri's lax regulations have allowed an industry to mushroom throughout our state, encouraging chronic borrowing and taking advantage of low-paid, hourly workers such as those who work in our nursing homes. In fact, Missouri is the only state in the country that allows nursing homes to offer payday loans within the facility.
I propose we join most other states in the country and pass a law to change this. In fact, as a legislator I have drafted such a law, and I propose we have a vote on it.
That turns out to be an interesting question.
House Bill 2116 limits APR to 36 percent and allows a 90 day payback period. It is the same measure passed by the federal government to protect military families and supported by Missouri's former U.S. Sen. Jim Talent.
This bill, co-signed by 70 legislators, has the support of numerous religious groups, the AARP, Habitat for Humanity, Better Business Bureau and the Silver Haired Legislature. In fact, there has been no opposition to the bill other than that of the lenders themselves.
So, what seems to be the problem? Why not vote on this?
That is a question for the Speaker of the House of Representatives Ron Richard,R-Joplin, and Majority leader Steve Tilley, R-Perryville. Last year, it was not even assigned to a committee until the final day of the session - the surest way to kill a bill.
This year, following a groundswell of public outcry and five public hearings, it was assigned to the Financial Institutions Committee. Unfortunately, it was a hearing where only one side was allowed to testify — the payday loan side. And, the even more tragic, the presiding chair of the hearing, Don Wells, owns a payday loan store, Kwik Kash, in Cabool.
Appropriately, 60 House Democrats signed a petition of discharge, as allowed by the constitution, and moved the bill to House floor for debate and a vote.
Richard has said he does not want floor debate. Tilley has said he will not allow a debate, much less a vote.
If there is no need for reform, vote the bill down. If the people of Missouri are clamoring for predatory lending tactics and quadruple APRs, then vote it down.
But, why not have a vote so that Missouri citizens know where you stand?
BINGO. Maybe, I have just answered my own question.
State Rep. Mary Still is a Columbia Democrat.