PHOENIX — Without a vote to spare, the state House voted Monday to allow lenders to charge interest rates up to 204 percent.
SB 1316 got the bare minimum 31 votes required for final House approval. Every Democrat voted against the measure, joined by Republicans Chris Ackerley of Sahuarita, Brenda Barton of Payson, Kate Brophy McGee of Phoenix and Tony Riveo of Peoria.
But the industry lobbyists who have pushed heavily for this law since voters wiped out payday loans still have a major hurdle.
Identical legislation was killed earlier this year in a Senate committee.
By tacking this language onto an unrelated bill that already has been approved by the Senate, supporters bypass that committee. But the now-amended measure still has to gain approval of the full Senate, a hurdle that could prove difficult to overcome
The legislation permits companies to lend up to $2,500 for up to two years at a monthly interest rate of 15 percent. But that is only if there is collateral; if not, the monthly rate goes up to 17 percent.
What that means is that someone who borrows $2,500 for the full two years would end up repaying more than $10,000 when interest charges are tacked on.
Barton, in parting ways with other Republicans, said she had been lobbied by those who insisted these loans are the only options for people without credit history to get quick cash.
“It is not true,” she told her colleagues.
For example, she said credit unions have been offering “payday alternatives,” referring to the payday loans that voters made illegal. She said these carry annual interest rates of 13.9 percent. And Barton said various faith-based organizations offer loans in emergency and crisis situations.
“You have not been given all the information,” Barton said.
That also was the conclusion of Rep. Stefanie Mach, D-Tucson.
“There are people who loan who aren’t as predatory,” she said.
Rep. Jay Lawrence, R-Scottsdale, disagreed, saying the alternatives are not realistic.
“They want a credit report,” he said. “They won’t provide the money immediately.”
And that, Lawrence said, provides no help for someone whose family member has an immediate medical need.
Rep. Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen, chided colleagues for approving the exception to state laws that generally limit interest rates on loans to no more than 36 percent a year.
“The role of government is to be the last line of defense, to be there to support individuals who are having a hard time, not to work to build wealth on the backs of people in poverty,” he said. “We should be ashamed of ourselves, each and every single one of us.”
Bolding said if lawmakers are worried about poor people having more options to borrow, “Then we need to step up.”
Monday’s debate also included suggestions of fraud on the part of lenders.
Several lawmakers told of getting boxes of letters, purportedly from constituents, urging them to support the measure.
But Rep. Diego Espinosa, D-Tolleson, said when he called some of them up, none of them were aware of having signed such documents.
Rep. Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, conceded the point, saying the box of letters he had received “I think by in large is a fake.”
Bowers, however, said he subscribes to the viewpoint that these loans provide needed options.