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Tsosie filibusters payday loan bill

February 23, 2006 - Gallup, New Mexico

On Monday, Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, D-Gallup, said she was taken by surprise when Sen. Leonard Tsosie helped mount a filibuster on the 2006 Legislature's last day to kill her payday lending bill.

Tsosie, D-Crownpoint, begged to differ.

Because of the public holiday Monday, Tsosie was unavailable for comments about Lundstrom's bill before the story was published the next day.

In an interview Wednesday afternoon, Tsosie said he made his position on payday lending that he believed in the need for a strict interest rate cap, which Lundstrom's bill did not include very clear during a meeting of the Senate's Indian Affairs Committee in Iyanbito last summer, a meeting he said Lundstrom attended.

"That's been my position all along," said Tsosie, a member of the committee. "It's no surprise to her."

In the Monday interview, Lundstrom lamented the lack of coordination between the area's elected state representatives. Both representatives admitted they'd never personally discussed payday lending. But for Lundstrom to claim she did not know he would oppose a bill with no strict interest rate cap, Tsosie said, was simply false.

Tsosie called Lundstrom's plan an "industry bill," a bill that would only entrench the current payday lending practices that trap many borrowers into cycles of debt: high interest rates which average more than 500 percent APR, according to the Office of the Attorney General and only weeks to repay. According to Tsosie, it's nothing short of "legal theft."

Tsosie, meanwhile, was what Lundstrom called a "pure advocate," someone who refused to give an inch to industry interests.

Lundstrom conceded that her bill was a compromise between most of the consumer advocates and industry representatives who sat on the special task force Gov. Bill Richardson convened in hopes of crafting something with a genuine chance of passing the Legislature this year.

Despite some persistent holdouts on each end, according to Lundstrom, most agreed not to go with a strict interest rate cap. What the bill did instead was propose borrowing fees that varied with the size of the load. But even that, some consumer advocates said, would have allowed lenders to charge interest rates above 400 percent.

Lundstrom believes that anyone pushing interest rate caps as low as 54 percent a proposal by Attorney General Patricia Madrid that Tsosie said he supported simply wants to drive the payday loan industry out of New Mexico without having to say so. Tsosie denied the charge.

Tsosie did admit to helping filibuster Lundstrom's bill, taking up his two hours on the Senate floor exactly one week ago with a list of questions.

Undeterred, Lundstrom is urging the governor to call a special legislative session soon to give a payday lending bill another try.

News Source

Gallup Independent, Zsombor Peter, Staff Writer

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