Ohio Legislative Republicans, with a few exceptions, finally stand up to the wage lobby: Thomas Suddes

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Thanks to a determined state legislator in Springfield, his ally in Toledo, and the Republican leadership in the General Assembly, Ohioans may soon be protected by a consumer-friendly payday loan law.

The lawmaker is Republican Representative Kyle Koehler. He and a Toledo Democrat Rep. Michael Ashford, also a strong advocate for Ohio consumers, are co-sponsors of bipartisan Bill 123, which the Ohio Senate passed in a vote this week. from 21 to 9. The Ohio House passed Bill 71-17 on June 7.

It took 15 months for the House to act, thanks to relentless opposition from the payday lending industry, which is charging Ohio borrowers some of the highest rates in the United States.

Senator Dave Burke, a Republican from Marysville who voted for HB 123, said payday lenders sent 41 Statehouse lobbyists to fight Koehler and Ashford’s bill, Laura Hancock of cleveland.com reported.

The Senate has 33 members. With 41 payday loan lobbyists on the ground, it’s one payday loan lobbyist per senator – with eight lobbyists to spare, the Statehouse equivalent of human wave attacks.

Self-interest fuels politics. The payday loan industry has every right to defend its profits. And Koehler and the many others who want to reform the way the industry does business in Ohio have every right to push for change.

The officers of the General Assembly and the chairmen of the committees referee such competitions. In the Senate, the keen-eyed umps on HB 123 were Senate Speaker Larry Obhof, a Republican from Medina, and Senator Scott Oelslager, a Republican from the Northern Township who chairs the Senate Finance Committee.

Granted, neither Obhof nor Oelslager enlisted in Ralph Nader’s Raiders. HB 123’s Senate move and House move, led in June by President Ryan Smith, a Republican from Gallia County, were matters of practical policy. Still, if, as expected, Smith’s House approves the Senate changes in HB 123, the bill will go to Governor John Kasich, who will almost certainly sign it.

It’s a remarkable turnaround. The Koehler-Ashford bill was virtually ignored by legislative leaders after its introduction in March 2017. But three months ago then-President Cliff Rosenberger, a Republican from Clinton County, resigned. It turned out that the FBI was investigating a London junket that Rosenberger had taken. The junket included payday loan lobbyists.

If you want to do to a GA member what garlic does to a vampire, say “FBI” within earshot of the Statehouse. Given the scuttlebutt surrounding Rosenberger’s resignation, there was no way Republicans in the legislature could not past some sort of payday loan reform. The question was whether the bill would have teeth.

HB 123 does – and Senate Republicans (Obhof and Oelslager) have polished them. Decisive to help get there: Data and testimonials gathered by Nick Bourke of Pew Charitable Trusts, and Ohio-led campaign for Payday Loan Reform, a bipartisan coalition that includes the Cleveland Building and Construction Trades Council, the Columbus Urban League and the Corporation for Ohio Appalachian Development.

The nine Senate Republicans who voted “no” on HB 123 live in counties that voted “yes” in the 2008 statewide referendum that capped annual percentage rates on payday loans at 28% (a cap that payday lenders found ways to get around, prompting Koehler and Ashford to introduce HB 123).

For example, Senator John Eklund, a Republican from Munson Township, represents Portage County and parts of Geauga and Lake counties. He voted “no” on HB 123. But in 2008, 68 percent of those who voted on the ballot issue in Geauga County supported capping the APRs on payday loans; as did 67 percent of those who voted in Lake County and 65 percent of those who voted in Portage County.

Senator Kris Jordan, a Republican from the village of Ostrander, near Delaware, who also voted “no” on HB 123, represents the counties of Delaware and Knox and parts of Franklin County. In 2008, 67 percent of those who voted on the ballot issue in Delaware County supported capping the APRs on payday loans; 69 percent of those who voted in Franklin County and 64 percent of those who voted in Knox County did the same.

Certainly, as Anglo-Irish statesman Edmund Burke told his constituents in the 1700s, a lawmaker should use judgment to decide issues rather than simply being the mouthpiece for people’s opinions. from is home. But when it comes to payday loans, the folks at home in Ohio didn’t just ring the bell. They voted.

Thomas Suddes, member of the editorial board, writes from Athens.

To reach Thomas Suddes: [email protected], 216-999-4689

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