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Marsh substitute seeks to further enrich predatory lenders

Bill Britt

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By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY— President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) received favorable ink recently when he introduced Senate Bill 449. The bill was touted as a reform effort for payday lending in Alabama. Advocates against predatory lending considered it a first step toward curtaining the excessive fees charged by payday and title loan lenders.

However, on Tuesday, Marsh set to introduce a substitute to SB449 that favored the payday lenders and gutted his promised reforms. Once the Alabama Political Reporter released the facts concerning Marsh’s substitute, an immediate pushback took place against the substitute to SB449. Marsh’s chief of staff, Phillip Bryan, who is the self-proclaimed protector and enforcer for Marsh, Inc, launched into damage control. But once exposed the substitute could not find the needed votes to bring it to the floor.

Originally Marsh had said that SB449, would prohibit borrowers from taking out more than six loans per year. But the substitute would have increased this to 12 times within a year. This is even beyond what the Payday lenders had requested in committee.
 If an individual borrows $350 and rolls it over 12 times (as most borrowers only take out “new loans” to extend the repayment period), they will pay over $700 in fees alone. 
The bill first proposed by Marsh would have capped at fees at 12.5 percent or around 300 percent APR. The substitute would have kept fees at the current 17.5 percent of the amount borrowed about 456 percent APR.


When Marsh introduced the original SB449 State Banking Superintendent John Harrison was quoted in AL.COM as saying, “Consumers will be ‘well-served’ by the legislation.” Harrison is also quoted as saying, “If not for Senator Marsh’s renewed interest in reforming this industry, yet another year would have passed without any action.” 
The only item of Marsh’s original bill that remains constant is the requirement for a universal database under the purview of the Banking Department. 


Marsh is one of the wealthiest men in the Alabama legislature. He is the owner of multiple business including Southern States Bank. He even owns a private 1500-acre, $1.7 million island in the river in Lauderdale County, TN. It is said that Marsh has spent considerable time and an abundance of money to build a luxury “hunting” facility on his private island. So, it is not hard to imagine that Marsh doesn’t exactly understand the difficulty of those who seek payday loans just to make ends meet.

Another millionaire legislator is Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, who recently took thousands of dollars from a title loan group to form his new “Storm PAC.” Select Resource Management, of Georgia, is a major player in the title lending business, racking in millions in profit from the working poor of Alabama.

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But all around the state there is a growing group of advocates who believe that the excessive fees charged by these lenders violates our state’s Judeo-Christian values. Usury has become a rallying cry for conservatives who believe that payday lending and title loans are doing damage to the state’s neediest.
Yet, this session alone hundreds of thousands of dollars have been paid by wealthy lobbyist to make sure that fees for the industry stay at around 400 percent APR. And that the cycle of borrowing continues to mean endless debt for the consumer and huge profits for the lenders.

At a recent hearing on title lending, the lobbyists outnumbered all others present at the packed committee meeting. Meanwhile a “coalition of over 150 Alabama organizations under the banner of The Alliance for Responsible Lending in Alabama, along with the Governor, Superintendent of the Alabama State Banking Department, and a bi-partisan group of Alabama legislators from both the House and Senate, came together at the start of the 2013 Regular Session of the Alabama Legislature to address the issue of predatory payday and title pawn lending in the state, according to Don Gowen, an advocate. Advocates who would like to see reform to the predatory lending practices in Alabama were shocked when the found out that Marsh was preparing to betray them.

“Payday lending reform was originally introduced this session by Senator Keahey. The bill enjoyed broad, bipartisan support. When Senator Marsh introduced his version, we endorsed it, even though it only lowered the interest rate slightly. As originally filed SB449 was a solid compromise that still included strong consumer protections. This new substitution seems to look nothing like either bill, and we do not support it,” said Shay Farley, Legal Director at Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice.

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Don Gowen in a recent opinion column was not so diplomatic saying, “[Certain House members] have sold their soul to the predatory payday loan lobby”

It is not clear if Marsh’s enforcer, Bryan, has mustered the votes for the substitute to SB449 but in this case money doesn’t just talk it demands.

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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Gov. Kay Ivey on Friday to visit coast impacted by Hurricane Sally

Ivey is to fly by helicopter over Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and Fort Morgan, according to an announcement to media from Ivey’s office on Thursday.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Gov. Kay Ivey Held a post Hurricane Sally Press Conference at Alabama EMA headquarters in Clanton, Ala. Thursday September 17, 2020. (Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

Gov. Kay Ivey plans to visit Alabama’s coastline on Friday to see for herself the damage caused by Hurricane Sally. 

Ivey is to fly by helicopter over Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and Fort Morgan, according to an announcement to media from Ivey’s office on Thursday.

Following the flyover Ivey will meet behind closed doors with Alabama Emergency Management Agency director Brian Hastings, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner Chris Blankenship, her staff, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Alabama, and local officials for a briefing. 

Ivey at noon on Friday is to hold a press conference at the Gulf State Park Lodge, followed by a flyover of Dauphin Island and another closed-door meeting before another press conference set for 3 p.m. at Dauphin Island City Hall to give an update on the state’s recovery efforts 

At least one person in Alabama died as a result of Hurricane Sally, the state’s EMA director Brian Hastings said earlier on Thursday.

More than 130,000 Alabama Power customers along the coast and Southeast Alabama were without power Thursday afternoon.

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Governor awards grant to expand court facility dog program

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Gov. Kay Ivey has awarded $1.17 million to continue and expand a statewide program that helps children and others who have been victims of crime feel more at ease when testifying in court or undergoing other crime-related interviews.

The grant to the Alabama Office of Prosecution Services will enable that state agency to continue its facility dog program.

The program uses specially trained dogs to calm traumatized victims when they are called into the courtroom or interview room to recount details of often horrific crimes committed against them.

“I cannot imagine what victims, especially children, have to go through when they are called before strangers to recall what is often a very personal and sensitive tragedy that they have difficulty even relaying to family members,” Ivey said. “This program has proven beyond successful and has been admired and modeled by other states. I am pleased to support its continuation and expansion here in Alabama.”

Facility dogs have been used more than 1,000 times including forensic interviews, court hearings, medical examinations and other case-related matters. The dogs are based in several counties, but according to the Office of Prosecution Services, are available for use throughout the state.   

The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs is administering the grant from funds made available to the state from the U.S. Department of Justice.

“The facility dog program has been vastly successful and well received throughout the state,” said ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell. “Although we would prefer that there would be no reason for this program to even exist, ADECA joins with Gov. Ivey in assisting with its continued success.”

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Ivey notified Barry Matson, executive director of Prosecution Services, that the grant had been approved. 

ADECA administers a wide range of programs that support law enforcement, victim programs, economic development, water resource management, energy conservation and recreation.

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Elections

Secretary of State extends absentee voting for Senate District 26 special election

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Secretary of State John Merrill has officially extended the opportunity for anyone concerned about COVID-19 to apply for and cast an absentee ballot for the Senate District 26 special election.

The special primary election for Senate District 26 will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 17. If necessary, a runoff election will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 15. The general election will be held on Tuesday, March 2, 2021.

Any qualified voter who determines it is impossible or unreasonable to vote at their polling place shall be eligible to check the box on the absentee ballot application that is most applicable to that individual.

State law allows the secretary of state to issue absentee voting guidance during declared states of emergency, allowing Merrill to encourage voters to check the box which reads, “I have a physical illness or infirmity which prevents my attendance at the polls. [ID REQUIRED]” unless another box applies.

For the Nov. 17 primary election, the deadline to apply for an absentee ballot is Thursday, Nov. 12. If delivered by hand, absentee ballots must be returned by Monday, Nov. 16. If delivered by mail, absentee ballots must be postmarked by Monday, Nov. 16.

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National

Jones introduces bill to forgive CARES Act loans for small businesses impacted by hurricanes

Eddie Burkhalter

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Sen. Doug Jones speaks during a live-streamed press briefing. (VIA JONES CAMPAIGN)

Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, and Sen. John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, on Thursday introduced legislation that would forgive small business loans made under the CARES Act in counties hard-hit by Hurricanes Sally and Laura. 

The Disaster Relief for Southeastern Small Businesses Act of 2020 would establish a process for businesses in counties with major disaster declarations from Hurricane Sally to seek forgiveness for Paycheck Protection Program loans and Economic Injury Disaster Loans, according to a press release from Jones’s office. 

“As folks across South Alabama begin the work to recover and rebuild after Hurricane Sally, I believe Congress should be assisting them in any way we can,” Jones said in a statement. “That’s why I’m joining Senator Kennedy, from our neighbor Louisiana, to introduce bipartisan legislation that ensures small businesses impacted by Hurricanes Sally and Laura can benefit from loan forgiveness for COVID-19 relief programs.” 

“Alabama’s Main Street businesses have struggled already during the pandemic, and Hurricane Sally is yet another devastating hit. This legislation will cut through government red tape and allow forgiveness of business loans received as part of our CARES legislation as they continue to re-open and re-build. It is one way we can help them survive these compounding disasters and continue to serve our communities and create jobs,” Jones continued. 

To qualify under the program, impacted businesses would have to provide their lenders with a form stating they used the loans as intended in order to receive loan forgiveness. The Small Business Administration would have the authority to review and audit forgiven loans, according to the release. 

Alabama businesses received $6.2 billion in PPP loans, which closed at the end of Aug. 8. As of that time, there had been a total of 41,243 EIDL loans totaling $1.84 billion issued to small businesses in Alabama.

Jones in May called for increased guidance and loan forgiveness for small businesses that applied for PPP loans.

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In April, he supported legislation to replenish PPP funds and gave additional relief to Alabama’s small businesses. Jones also introduced legislation in May to fund payrolls of eligible businesses to help business owners cover workers’ wages during the pandemic.

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