Payday loans in Ohio are the country’s most expensive, with a typical annual percentage rate (APR) of 591 percent.2 Lenders charge higher prices in Ohio than in any neighboring state. [MORE]
From [Brett Larkin] Faith leaders are praying Ohio's elected officials abandon their deal with the devil and rein in payday lending predators.
"Lord, we cannot imagine a Heaven where your will includes poverty profiteering," Troy Jackson, leader of a Cincinnati anti-poverty program, solemnly told a June 14 gathering in the Statehouse atrium.
But prayers won't work in a state with the nation's highest payday loan rates and the largest number of morally bankrupt lawmakers.
The Lord's agenda means nothing to this crowd.
Unless it's accompanied by a check.
Soon, the rats who run the Statehouse will flee for home. Once again, a legislative session will end with legislators ignoring the will of an electorate, which in 2008 demanded Ohio stop punishing mothers with two jobs who need to borrow a few bucks to feed their children.
What type of a cruel, heartless government would tolerate gouging its working-class citizens with the most obscene short-term interest rates and fees in the United States.
This one. The state once called the "Heart of it All" is now the most heartless of them all.
In 2008, by an astonishing margin of 1.45 million votes, Ohioans capped annual percentage rates for payday loans at 28 percent. But payday lenders escaped, slithering through a loophole that allowed them to ignore the voters and continue business as usual.
For nine years, legislators have failed to close that loophole. For nine years, the Ohio General Assembly has made it abundantly clear that how their constituents view payday lending matters not at all.
For nine years, Republican legislators have sided with an industry that puts money into their campaign bank accounts and removes it from the pockets of Ohio's working poor.
For the poster child of the appalling intellectual dishonesty that permeates Ohio's legislative leadership, look no further than House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger.
On March 7, I had a 28-minute telephone conversation with the Cincinnati area Republican, largely about the legislature's failure to rein in payday lenders, along with some other grievances the speaker had with my columns.
More than once during that conversation, Rosenberger said he had come to believe the payday lending issue deserved his wholehearted attention. Those comments, I decided, earned him the benefit of the doubt. So on March 16, I wrote that "to his credit, Rosenberger also promised to take a serious look at the issue, which now sits before him in the form of a proposed law."
On the morning of April 26, Rosenberger phoned again. It was the voice and tone of a man who had made up his mind. He had decided to throw his support behind a version of the House payday lending reform bill sponsored by Rep. Kyle Koehler, a Springfield Republican.
Rosenberger volunteered that Ohio's reform bill should resemble Colorado's. That 2010 law capped fees and interest rates in a number of ways. The result: The $680 in interest and fees that an Ohioan would pay on a five month, $300 loan would cost a Colorado resident only $172.
Again, I gave Rosenberger the benefit of the doubt.
That was more than nine weeks ago. Now the legislature is headed home for the summer.
Instead of a hearing, Rosenberger asked the House's policy guru, Rep. Bill Seitz, to convene an informal meeting of interested parties to discuss the issue. That meeting was held June 21 in Columbus.
And it was a sham.
Not a single owner of a payday loan store attended. Neither did Rep. Louis Blessing, chairman of the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee, which has avoided holding hearings on the bill.
At the table were a bunch of people whose only goal is to protect the working poor. Across the table were people with nothing but ulterior motives, those who receive either contributions or lobbying fees from the industry.
And in selecting Seitz to preside, Rosenberger put the fox in charge of the henhouse. Seitz is an affable, very smart guy with a long history of supporting the payday loan industry and a fondness for the ultimate red herring on this issue - the notion that a little financial literacy will solve the problem.
Rosenberger spokesman Brad Miller told me the speaker remains "very much a proponent of some kind of reform," but "hasn't specified a time frame."
What's clear is it will be later rather than sooner. And that the legislature's idea of reform will look very different than The Pew Charitable Trusts and other good-hearted people envision.
This state's legislative leaders want you to believe they go to work each day with the singular goal of making Ohio a better place for everyone who lives here.
Don't believe them. They're phonies.
They've sold their souls.
And if you're one of the millions of Ohioans who works hard but still has trouble making ends meet, know this:
They've sold you out.