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The Clock Runs out on Proposed Payday Lending Regulation in Nebraska

A new change to the payday loan regulations in Nebraska – a change that was endorsed in full by the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, along with TD Ameritrade – has died out. This proposal would have changed the payday lending rules in big ways, but will not wind up taking effect any time soon. The bill – 1036 – was introduced by way of State Senator Kathy Campbell from Lincoln. It was designed to cap interest rates on payday loans at just 36 percent. This cap represented a major reduction from where the loan fees – when amortized for an entire year – currently stand.

In addition to APR caps, the bill was also aimed at changing the way debts are collected, while requiring more reporting to be done on the payday lending companies doing business in Nebraska. However, the payday lenders can breathe a sigh of relief, since the overhaul failed to get past the Nebraska Legislature’s Banking and Commerce Insurance Committee. This means that the 60 local payday lending locations in Omaha, and more than 90 throughout the state will operate per usual for the foreseeable future.

Senator Jim Scheer is from Norfolk and is the chair of the committee. He indicated that time was a real factor with regards to the folks supporting this bill. Those same folks met a roadblock when it came to a relatively shorter legislative session. The session this year is 60 days, while the following year will be 90. Session days alternate every year. If the senator does not name a particular bill as being a priority it will more than likely not make it out of the committee. The bill is then to be talked about on the full Legislature floor. Campbell did not indicate that the payday loans bill was a priority.

Sheer said, “It got past the point of being named a priority bill, and without that designation, it had no vehicle to get anywhere on the floor.  It didn’t make much sense from the committee’s standpoint to move it into the general file if it wasn’t going to go anywhere.”

When the 90 day legislative session rolls around there may be more time for discussions and amendments to the bill via negotiations submitted from both opponents and supporters. In a 60 day session, though, lobbyists and other interested parties do not have as much time to arbitrate and come up with solutions. This process proves disappointing to those who have a stake in the proposal.

The executive director of the Women’s Fund of Omaha Michelle Zych said, “Quite frankly, we were really surprised that it didn’t make it out of committee.” Zych’s group was the organization that originally pushed for the new regulations. Her supporters criticized the fees that are currently permitted on Nebraska payday loans. They believe that there are not many other states that will allow these higher rates, and that the fees currently contribute to consumers getting stuck in “debt traps.”

Opponents of the reform, like Brad Hill said that the industry is already sufficiently regulated and that borrowers are stopped from rolling over loans that they cannot afford to pay back in time. Hill then told the hard truth that many people don’t want to hear about: the fact that people who need small dollar loans do not have anywhere else to turn, other than to local payday lending locations or to online lending companies. Time is on the side of the payday lenders in Nebraska, for at least a little longer. Both opponents and proponents of the regulation will likely turn out in force when the time for the 90 day session arrives.

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