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Motivations questioned in payday-loan vote

April 21, 2006 - Salem, Oregon

Concerns surfaced Friday that some lawmakers voted for the payday loan bill during Thursday's special session as a political move to get incumbents re-elected.

Such concerns prompted fear among some that legislators will attempt to water down the new law during the next legislative session.

"We had a big win yesterday, but we know it's going to take a lot of effort to secure that win next session," said Angela Martin of Oregon for Payday Loan Fairness.

The law that passed overwhelmingly in the House and Senate Thursday limits the annual interest rate to 36 percent on short-term loans.

But instead of putting the new payday loan law into effect in January -- when most laws take effect -- lawmakers chose to implement the law the following July and after the next legislative session.

Martin said such a delay is "going to buy them time to do everything they can to change that legislation."

In other words, tweak the bill in the next session to make it easier on payday loan companies.

Some lawmakers, like Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point, hope that is what happens.

"The way the bill is written now, it will put payday lenders out of business," he said.

During floor debate Thursday, House Majority Leader Wayne Scott, R-Canby, suggested that the vote over payday loans was political.

"We should come clean (about) what we're really doing today," he said. "We're not passing the bill to protect people; we're passing the bill to protect ourselves."

On Friday, however, he said, "I don't know if I said it was political. What I think I said was, 'it would make a good sound bite.'"

When asked if he thought some of his colleagues running for re-election in November passed the bill to get themselves a boost in November Scott said, "I would hope not."

Among those concerned include House Democratic Leader Jeff Merkley, who said on Friday that he fears delaying the law's implementation will give the payday loan industry more time to file lawsuits.

News Source

KATU 2, Melica Johnson, Web Staff

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