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HB 1223 & 1224: Pastor Hickey Tackles Usury!

Credit to Father Tim for first coverage on the usury battle!

I had my worries about Pastor Steve Hickey's ascension to the Legislature. His fervent spiritual opposition to abortion has led me to believe he might go to the Legislature and do some serious damage to women's rights. The Right Rev. Rep. Hickey has signed on with my own Senator Russell Olson as a co-sponsor of the offensive HB 1127 to put more government between women and their health care providers (Dakota Women have a much fuller explanation).

But Rep. Hickey has not submitted abortion-related legislation of his own. Instead, in his first bills, the good pastor has chosen to apply his Christian family values to an issue that arguably imperils many more families in South Dakota: usury.

Rep. Hickey's House Bill 1223 raises the yearly license fee for payday and title loan shops from $1000 to $5000. It also prohibits harrassment, oppression, and abuse by payday/title lenders in their debt collection practices.

For the payday and title lenders who can jump that hurdle to enter this usurious field, House Bill 1224 limits finance charges to an annual rate of 36%. This legislation takes its cue from successful federal legislation that prohibits payday lenders from charging military personnel and their families interest higher than 36%. Payday lenders currently charge civilians triple-digit interest. If that's not usury, I don't know what is.

I'm still keeping my eye on Pastor Steve for any sneaky theocracy (even though he assures me that's not his aim). That niggling suspicion notwithstanding, I deeply respect Rep. Hickey for bringing this legislation forward, just as I respect Father Timothy Logan Fountain of Sioux Falls for taking a similar Scriptural stance against usury and blogging seriously in support of this legislation. I hold this respect even though I disagree passionately with both men on other issues.

Payday lenders harm families and society. They take advantage of neighbors in tight financial times and bind them in unescapable debt. Yes, people make their own financial choices. But we ban drugs and other products that are so harmful and entrapping that one bad choice might doom users and the people around them. Payday loans with 400% interest are such products.

These bills go first to the House Commerce and Energy Committee. My man Rep. Mitch Fargen (D-8/Flandreau) is on that committee, and he's a co-sponsor of HB 1224. Good call, Mitch!

Get on the horn to your legislators and tell them to rein in predatory payday lending practices. Support HB 1223 and 1224.


  1. Anne Beal 2011.02.02

    look, this might come as a surprise to you, but women don't want abortions, they want men to step up. Pregnancy is way too easily prevented for anybody to be getting pregnant accidentally. It just doesn't happen anymore. Women seek abortions because their husbands/boyfriends/fathers threaten to beat them up or throw them out if they don't. Abortion is not a form of choice, it is a form of abuse.

  2. tonyamert 2011.02.02


    Don't project your opinions onto everyone. Not everyone wants a baby and sometimes mistakes are made or products malfunction. It just does happen.

    Have you been abused domestically? I have yet to meet anyone who has gotten an abortion due to an angry husband/boyfriend/father. Perhaps I'm young and my generations simply accepts single mothers without reservations much like we view homosexuals.

  3. KingofthePaupers 2011.02.02

    "Rep. Hickey has chosen to apply his Christian family values to an issue that arguably imperils many more families in South Dakota: usury. Rep. Hickey’s House Bill 1223 raises the yearly license fee for payday and title loan shops from $1000 to $5000."
    Jct: Not quite whipping the bankers in the temple. Jesus said: If you have money, do not lend it out at interest (Thomas 95). Or did Jesus say: pay 5 times the usury fee for loansharking? I think Jesus prohibited usury, it didn't charge a heftier fee for loansharking. Of course, the Catholic Church permits interest on money so of course, go after the fees for the license to loanshark.

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.02.02

    John, cut the poor pastor some slack! He's going to face a hard enough battle getting legislators to look past "jobs jobs jobs!" and "Blame the poor!" to pass even these restrictions on loansharking. I'm an idealist, but even I credit Rep. Hickey for trying to get us walking in the right direction.

  5. KingofthePaupers 2011.02.03

    Jct: Okay, it's better than nothing. But how about those catholic and anglican priests and muslim imams who helped start LETS timebanks for their communities? That's shepherding!

  6. Eve Fisher 2011.02.03

    I can't believe I'm saying this, but go Pastor Hickey! Usury is condemned in both the Old and New Testaments, and was illegal (that doesn't mean it wasn't practiced) throughout the Christian world until John Calvin legalized it in Geneva. (In case you're wondering, yes, that's why Swiss banks are the best - they had a head start.) Ever since, people have raced to put it in practice, and now it is the foundation of our economic system. But the Bible still says it's wrong, which is why it's going to be interesting to watch this bill go nowhere, because, while our legislators (state and national) have no problems with controlling women's bodies or deciding who can get married, they are certainly not going to touch the foundation of our society. Especially in a state which depends so largely on the credit card industry, which is, of course, based on the charging of exorbitant amounts of interest.

  7. Timothy Fountain 2011.02.03

    KingofthePaupers - tell me more about LETS. My email is on the masthead at my blog.

    Eve - Thanks for that good summary of usury's sad history in the church - talk about moving from a moral conviction to zero! But sometimes good efforts prevail. There's an interesting history here in Sioux Falls, which was the quickie divorce city for rich Northeasterners back in the day. Bishop Hare (the first Episcopal Bishop here) and others eventually got rid of the short residency requirement - took them years of work in Pierre and having to come back again and again to protect the reform. So folks who care about usury and the exploitation of neighbors need to be in for a long haul.

  8. KingofthePaupers 2011.02.03

    Eve Fisher: "exorbitant amounts of interest."
    Jct: Don't go there. Exekiel 18 denounced he who exacts usury on money or excessive interest on cows. Get the difference? One can pay reasonable interest on cows but charging interest on sterile money creates musical chairs with money where everyone who got 10 has to bring back 11 to survive their mort-gage death-gamble.
    Interest on grain, usury on gold or credits.

  9. KingofthePaupers 2011.02.03

    Timothy Fountain: "tell me more about LETS."
    Local Employment-Trading Software is online poker chips. Pledge 100 Hours of labor and 100 Hours worth of chips at $10US Greendollars/hour, 60 GreenFrancs/hour, 20 Greenmarks/hour and 1 Ithaca Hour/hour. It's a software for trading employment locally and the UNILETS United Nations International & Local ETS is the hoped for global timebank. In 1999, under the UNILETS Time Standard of Money, I paid for 39/40 nights in Europe with a timebank IOU for a night back in Canada worth 5 Hours which I recorded on my public do-it-yourself timebank account:
    Start your own unilets.htm account page and I'll put you up in Canada at 5 Hours/night if you'll put me or any other timebanker up chez vous.
    Here is my video on UNILETS Timebank in U.N. Millennium Declaration
    To make it really easy, imagine every town started paying all their unemployed with x bus tickets per hour registered in an online account they can mail 5 Hours worth to me for accommodations. Every town on the planet could join the Time Standard of Money just by using bus credits local currency used globally.
    But that's too simple a way to save the planet for most people to believe so we have to keep looking for a way they won't understand that they can believe might work precisely because they don't understand it and, with economics being so hard, if they understand it, it can't be right. That's the attitude. But just see the videos from my busbucks campaign for Mayor of Brantford. Search busbucks. Save your world with better poker chips.

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