Fla. Lawmakers Consider Higher Interest for Consumer Loans

Fay Pridgeon thought she'd retired nine years ago, but now here she is back at work, all thanks to the great recession.

Not everyone's near as lucky and can find work, so to the payday loan shops they go. Fay, for one, worries about what higher interest rates might do to seniors.

"It would just make choices harder for them," she said. "What they can't do - not buy their medicine or whatever, because just a few dollars can make a huge difference in that respect.
It's a real possibility under brand-new legislation."

The maximum interest rate on a typical $3,000 loan would go from 28 to 30 percent. Do the math for even bigger loans, and you could be talking hundreds of dollars in additional interest.

"You know, I've not actually read the final bill," said republican Sen. Mike Bennett.

Off-camera, he told us even though it's been filed under his name, he's never read it. We did a check, and it turns out two leading small loan companies - Cash America and Advance America - have both given money to Bennett's campaigns.

Consumer advocate Brad Ashwell has a hunch this is one more case of the financial industry trying to find more money in the wake of tough reforms.

"They have been fighting reform - the banking sector and the financial sector - tooth and nail," Ashwell said. "They've spent billions of dollars on lobbying to defeat the consumer financial protection bureau and now to gut it. They are a formidable crew, and I think it's highly likely that they're behind this bill."

But even if they are, public pressure from people like Fay on politicians like Bennett could keep the bill from even getting a hearing.

"Seniors do vote," she said. "I've worked at the polls for years, and seniors always vote."

Lawmakers in North Carolina introduced a similar bill back in May. It was driven by bankers, who argued they weren't making near enough of a profit off their loans.

It's common for Florida legislators to file bills drafted by lobbyists and outside groups. However, the language is often changed as the process moves forward.


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