Advocates hope to put payday loan reform bill on 2019 ballot

Consumer advocates pushing reforms to curb payday loan interest rates and establish safeguards for Ohio borrowers aren’t waiting for the Statehouse to take action.

Ohioans for Payday Loan Reform, a coalition of faith leaders and organizations that serve low-income Ohioans, can now begin collecting signatures to put a measure on the ballot as soon as November. The Ohio Ballot Board on Tuesday certified the “Short-Term Loan Consumer Protection Amendment” as a single ballot issue.

The proposed constitutional amendment mirrors House Bill 123, which has languished in the Ohio House for over a year.

Carl Ruby, a Springfield pastor and coalition leader, said supporters will likely work toward putting the measure on the November 2019 ballot.

“We’ve taken this step because the legislature has been so reluctant to move it forward,” Ruby said. “Our preference is they would pass a bill that would address these measures. But if not, we will take it to the voters.”

Ohio voters overwhelmingly upheld a 2008 law intended to regulate the industry and cap interest rates at 28 percent. But lenders sidestepped the law by registering under other state lending laws.

House Bill 123 was introduced last March, and House leaders said they worked behind-the-scenes to try to find compromise on the legislation. The bill has been held up in recent weeks because the House cannot vote unless it first chooses someone to replace former House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger. Rosenberger resigned in mid-April amid a reported FBI inquiry into a trip to London he took last year with lobbyists from the short-term loan industry.

Payday and auto title lenders say the bill and the constitutional amendment would force storefronts to close and leave many people without an avenue to borrow cash.

“The Ohio Consumer Lenders Association favors reform that curbs excesses without ending access to credit,” association spokesman Patrick Crowley said in a statement. “This extreme ballot proposal will cause major economic hardships for hundreds of thousands of Ohioans who are unable to get loans from banks or credit unions.”

Supporters will need to collect more than 300,000 signatures of registered Ohio voters to place the measure on the statewide ballot. The deadline for this year’s ballot is July 4.

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