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The Mighty Payday Industry Roars

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At the beginning of the legislative session in February, I posed a couple of questions in my blog. Will the payday industry play ball with Senator Wendy Davis and other legislators who want to protect consumers from bad actors? Or will they drag their feet, hire more lobbyists and torpedo reform once again – as they do every session — so they can continue to suck every last drop out of Texas’ citizens.

Well, we now know the answers: No & Yes.

Republican Rep. Vicky Truitt offered a trio of payday lending reform bills in the House Thursday. “This is the wild wild West right now, and all we are asking for is a few good fences to reign in the bad actors,” Truitt told the House chamber.

Truitt’s bills could barely be called reform. Still, House Bill 2594 which would require payday lenders to license their storefront operations, only passed after a long contentious battle in the chamber Thursday with Republican Rep. Gary Elkins, who owns a chain of payday lenders, and Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, another Republican,  who offered numerous points of order to try and kill the bill.

In his zeal to kill the bill to help his own chain of stores, Elkins set a new low for conflict of interest in the Texas Legislature.

HB 2592, which hardly does anything other than require that payday lenders provide more disclosures about loan fees passed Wednesday night. The so called “controversial” piece HB 2593, which actually tries to limit the amount and number of loans consumers can take out – in order to prevent a debt trap — was hung up on a point of order Thursday evening and may not pass before the House chamber’s midnight deadline to pass House bills.

In the Senate, Wendy Davis’ payday reform bill, which is much more effective than Truitt’s weak sauce, can’t muster the 21 votes to be brought up for debate in the Senate.

At the beginning of the session, the payday industry already had 35 lobbyists on its payroll. Judging from the results of this week – the payday industry got what they paid for. The question now is what do Texas consumers have to do to have their voices heard?

I’ll have a longer post tomorrow with the full story on Truitt’s bills, payday lenders and the lege.

Melissa del Bosque joined The Texas Observer staff in 2008. She specializes in reporting on immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border. Her work has been published in national and international publications including TIME magazine and the Mexico City-based Nexos magazine. Melissa is a 2014-15 Lannan Fellow at The Investigative Fund.