Last updated on 2011.08.09
As expected, the House Commerce and Energy Committee stood in favor of abusive lending practices Wednesday and killed HB 1223 and 1224, the anti-usury bills proposed by Pastor and Representative Steve Hickey (R-9/Sioux Falls). The bankers and loans sharks rolled in to Pierre to argue for their right to screw their fellow citizens. As Father Timothy Logan Fountain notes, our elected leaders (including my lone District 8 Democrat Mitch Fargen---boo, Mitch!) sided with obscene phone calls, privacy violations, and violence over protecting folks in dire financial straits.
Rep. Hickey pulls no punches in his characterization of the harmful practices of payday lenders:
Those who profit from predatory lending would like us to believe, and no doubt they have themselves convinced, that they are financial angels who are a God-send. However, the stories of the people they "help" are everywhere to be told and in those testimonies, these lenders more resemble vultures than angels as they circle those who struggle to get by. I would suggest however that those of you on this committee have the opportunity to be the true angels here and I encourage you to vote yes on HB-1223 [Rep. Steve Hickey, statements to House Commerce and Energy, quoted in "Vultures 2, Angels 0," Voices Carry, 2011.02.09].
Rep. Hickey cites former governor Bill Janklow himself as saying that interest rates of 20-plus percent aren't healthy and expressing some unease with his role in loosening our usury laws to draw Citibank in the 1980s. Rep. Hickey would have been happy with a 36% interest rate cap. But our legislators, beholden to the loan shark industry, couldn't swallow even that meager protection for their fellow citizens.
But we wouldn't want to cut into the Dollar Loan industry's profits. After all, they have bills to pay, too.
Pastor Hickey, a sincere thank you to you and your co-sponsor, Rep. Joni Cutler, for continuing this fight against unfair lending practices. Our embrace of usury damages our state's economy and families and stains our state's moral character. That embrace must be broken.