New bill could let payday loan industry back in Georgia - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

New bill could let payday loan industry back in Georgia

February 5, 2007

Bainbridge-- In 2004 Governor Perdue signed a ground breaking law banning payday lenders from the state of Georgia.  Representatives filed a new bill last week that is proposing the industry be let back into the state, but with stricter requirements.

House Bill 163 is meeting strong opposition from those who worked hard to get the 2004 bill passed.

Just across the State line in Tallahassee, finding a payday loan company offering quick cash with your paycheck as collateral is easy.

This was once the case in many Georgia towns, like Bainbridge.  "We had more payday loan companies at one time than we had banks and in a town this size it clearly shows evidence of a problem," says district attorny Joe Mullholland.

Payday loans are short-term loans, under $3,000 that are usually intended to bridge the cash flow for the borrower in between paychecks.  "Stereotypically you would say that college students, the elderly, and military personell really get hit hard by these companies, and its one of the big reasons why the legislature saw the need to put this law into effect," said Mulholland. 

Opponents of payday lending say the interest rates on these loans are huge, and rollovers end up getting borrowers into an endless cycle of debt. 

But industry representatives say their customer's intelligence is being underestimated.  "They do the math and they think that our service is easier and cheaper than their options that they face. And that's why its so popular all across the country," said Jabo Covert, VP of Public affaris for Check into Cash, a payday lending company based in Tennessee.

Industry reps say the bill would require extensive background checks into lenders, and they would also have to be licensed by the state. There would be no more interest rates either, just a flat $15 dollar on time fee on every one-hundred dollars borrowed. 

Industry reps say they fully support the bill.  "It is an impressive attempt to meet the market demand for short term cash advances while offering protections that unscrupulous lenders do not get involved in the practice in Georgia," said Covert.

But the opposition says the bill is just allowing payday lenders a foothold back into Georgia, and nothing would really change.  "The fact of the matter is, a rose is a rose is a rose their just taking adantage of those are the most disadvantaged in our community," said Mullholland.

The bill was filed by republican Representative Steve Tumlin from Marietta.  The attorney general and insurance commissioner have both spoken out against the bill.


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