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Madigan prods Illinois reps over stalled payday-loan crackdown

By Legal News Line | May 21, 2007

Lisa Madigan

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan gave state lawmakers a smack with the whip over a delayed bill that would greatly expand her regulatory powers over so-called "payday lenders." Madigan, addressing an anti-payday loan rally in Decatur, Ill. Saturday, urged House lawmakers to pass House Bill 1437. HB1437 would, among other things, re-define a "payday loan" as any loan with an annual interest rate above 36 percent. The current Payday Loan Reform Act of 2005 restricts that definition to loans of over 36 percent APR combined with a 120-day term restriction. House lawmakers have extended the deadline for final action on HB1437 four times in the past month. The bill has been amended three times since reaching the House on Feb. 21, the latest filed on April 26. HB1437 is due up before the Illinois lower chamber for a fifth go-round this Friday, May 25. Payday loans are high-interest, generally short-term loans written against a near-term paycheck or sometimes a car title. Providers are common in poorer neighborhoods that regular banks and other institutions typically do not serve. In response to ongoing attacks from local and state legislators and regulators, lenders earlier this year formed the Coalition for Financial Choice (CFC). It consists mostly of payday-loan and check-cashing operations. The CFC opposes "misguided and punitive measures that are hurting a vibrant sector of the financial services industry," spokesman Bill Murray stated on launching. Madigan, a strong opponent of the payday-loan sector, is keen to see HB1437 become law after clearing the Senate earlier this year. In her speech Saturday, she urged lawmakers to pass the bill, the (Decatur) Herald-Review reported. The attorney general also took the opportunity to again slam the lending practices of Illinois' payday-loan store operators. "They disproportionately market their lousy loans to women, minorities and members of the military," she charged. She also called on traditional lower-end lenders like credit unions to offer such customers more affordable alternatives to payday loans without "shackling them to the treadmill of debt." HB1437 would also force lenders to equalize periodic payments and list all collection lawsuits they have filed over the previous year. It also prohibits lenders from using a "device or subterfuge" in the loan to evade the Act.

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