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Predatory Lending Bills Receive Bipartisan, Cash Backed Opposition in Committee

Lee Hedgepeth

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By: Lee Hedgepeth
Alabama Political Reporter

As the Alabama Political Reporter had predicted on Wednesday, two bills that would deal with predatory payday and title lending being considered by the House Financial Services Committee were killed in its meeting last week.

The payday lending regulations bill, HB145, is sponsored by Birmingham Democrat Patricia Todd. The title loan regulation bill, HB106, is sponsored by Fairfield Democrat Rod Scott.

Last year, 28 members of the House cosponsored identical legislation that proposed a cap at 36% for annual yearly percentages, a level adopted by as many seventeen states and the US Armed Forces. This year, though, the title loan legislation has 56 cosponsors at last count — more than half of the Alabama House of Representatives.

The committee meeting also served as a public hearing for those who wished to testify about the legislation.

Several opponents, all lobbyists or industry insiders, spoke to the proposals, citing the severe impact they felt the bill would have on loaning companies.

Jay McDuffie of Check Depot, based in Birmingham, Alabama spoke in opposition:

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“Our customers have financial needs that they can’t can’t produce…and banks and credit unions can’t make those kinds of loans… The provisions in the proposed bill will take this choice from Alabamians… You’re gonna hear from our opponents today that we are unfair when we charge outrageous annual percentage rates, but we’re to say there are other alternatives that cost even more than what we charge — overdraft —  so-called overdraft protection, late payments, utility reconnection charges. People use us to avoid those fees.”

Shay Farley, the legal director of Alabama Appleseed, a nonprofit advocacy group, spoke in favor of the bills:

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“If you don’t think triple digits are usury and immoral, I don’t know what we would define ‘usury’ and ‘immoral’ as,” she said to a room packed with legislators, lobbyists, news media and the like. She then moved on to the fact that over a dozen cities around Alabama are already taking action against the industry, but are mostly ineffective. Farley pointed out that four cities who passed local legislation — Decatur, Montgomery, Birmingham, Talladega — who were represented by lawmakers in the room — wrote letters to the legislature asking for help…We can stop them from growing, but we cannot stop them from preying.”

The Alabama Political Reporter extensively covered the widespread nature of payday loan storefronts, and on the increasing number of cities taking action.

 

Our reporting can be read here.

 

She ended on a note that made much of the attentive audience chuckle:

 

“This is not government regulation. Your body yesterday voted to regulate tanning beds.”

 

Democratic Representative Thad McClammy of Montgomery showed apprehension towards the bill, saying that he wanted to get at the real problem behind payday and title loans, namely, issues like parking tickets that burden state employees.”

 

In response, Representative Rod Scott noted that if the government addressed every underlying problem, we’d live “in a utopia.”

 

Rep. Todd’s payday lending regulations bill was moved to subcommittee, usually a sign of a bill’s last bow. Some point to Todd’s “lone wolf” personality as a possible factor affected her bill’s ability to gain support, with the Birmingham Democrat, Alabama’s first openly gay legislator, not rallying for cosponsors; none are currently listed in ALISON, the legislature’s electronic bill database.

 

Rep. Scott’s title loan regulations bill with 56 co-sponsors was carried over for further consideration at the call of the chair. Representative Scott, a Yale economics graduate, told the Alabama Political Reporter that he is confident that his legislation will come back up for consideration. “Chairman Vance just told me to let him know,” he said. Scott commented both in the meeting and after that some compromise may have to take place, with a sit down between the industry, the banking department, and the committee a must.

 

Exclusive video highlights of the House Financial Services Committee meeting can be viewed here.

 

During the few months leading up to this meeting, payday and title lending companies donated a total of over $100,000 in campaign contributions to members of the legislature, $45,000 of which went to either members of the committee or members of the legislative leadership. One company, TitleMax, contributed nearly $50,000 alone.

 

Payday and Title Loan Cash Recipients

 

 

1. Republican Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh, $15,000

Title Max $5,000

SMR $10,000

 

2. Storming the State House – $13,500

Title Max $2,500

Cash America $1,000

SMR $10,000

 

3. Committee Chairman: Lesley Vance R-Phenix City – $3,500

Check into Cash $400

Check Smart $100

Title Max $1,500

Cash America $500

SMR $1,000

 

4. Oliver Robinson, D-Birmingham – $2,890

Check into Cash $240

Check Smart $150

Title Max $1,000

Cash America $500

SMR $1,000

 

5. Marcel Black D-Tuscumbia – $2,000

Title Max $1,000

SMR $1,000

 

Others:

 

Mack Butler R-Rainbow City – $2,000

Title Max $1,000

SMR $1,000

 

Thad McClammy, D-Montgomery – $2,000

Title Max $1,000

SMR $1,000

 

Committee Vice-Chairman: Jack Williams R-Vestavia Hills – $1,600

Check Smart $500

Magic City Title $100

SMR $1,000

 

Republican Attorney General Luther Strange – $1,500

Check Smart $500

SMR $1,000

 

Steve Hurst R-Munford – $1,000

SMR $1,000

 

Wes Long R-Guntersville – $1,000

SMR $1,000

 

Mike Hubbard, R – Speaker of the House – $835

Check into Cash $635

Check Smart $200

 

At this time, the only member of the House Financial Services committee that the Alabama Political Reporter has not found proof of accepting payday or title lending contributions is DuWayne Bridges, R-Valley, who does not have an active principal campaign committee visible on the Secretary of State’s website.

 

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Study: COVID-19 infection rates more than double without lockdowns

Infection and fatality rates would have been higher without stay-at-home orders, a new UAB study found.

Micah Danney

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(STOCK PHOTO)

New research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham says that if there had been no stay-at-home orders issued in the U.S. in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the country would have experienced a 220 percent higher rate of infection and a 22 percent higher fatality rate than if such orders were implemented nationwide.

Seven states never imposed stay-at-home orders, or SAHOs. The study analyzed daily positive case rates by state against the presence or absence of statewide SAHOs between March 1 and May 4, the period when such orders began to be implemented. Twelve states lifted their SAHOs before May 4.

The researchers defined SAHOs as being in effect when a state’s governor issued an order for residents of the entire state to leave home only for essential activities and when schools and nonessential businesses were closed.

“During March and April, most states in the United States imposed shutdowns and enacted SAHOs in an effort to control the disease,” said Bisakha Sen, the study’s senior author. “However, mixed messages from political authorities on the usefulness of SAHOs, popular pressure and concerns about the economic fallout led some states to lift the restrictions before public health experts considered it advisable.”

The research also sought to determine if the proportion of a state’s Black residents was associated with its number of positive cases. It found that there was.

“This finding adds to evidence from existing studies using county-level data on racial disparities in COVID-19 infection rates and underlines the urgency of better understanding and addressing these disparities,” said study co-author Vidya Sagar Hanumanthu. 

The research can help advance a greater understanding of racial disparities in the healthcare system as a whole, and help leaders make future decisions about shutdowns as the virus continues to spread, Sen said.

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“While the high economic cost makes SAHOs unsustainable as a long-term policy, our findings could help inform federal, state and local policymakers in weighing the costs and benefits of different short-term options to combat the pandemic,” she said.

The study was published Friday in JAMA Network Open.

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Jones to attend Auburn student forum, Tuberville hasn’t yet responded to invitation

Jones has agreed to attend the forum, but it was unclear whether Tuberville planned to attend.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Sen. Doug Jones, left, and Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville, right.

The College Democrats at Auburn University and the College Republicans at Auburn University have asked U.S. Senator Doug Jones, D-Alabama, and his Republican opponent, Tommy Tuberville, to attend a student forum on Wednesday. 

“We are excited to invite the candidates running for our U.S. Senate seat and provide this opportunity for any Auburn student to hear directly from them, and we hope it will inform our student bodies’ decisions with the November 3rd election only days away,” said Carsten Grove, president of the College Democrats at Auburn University, in a statement. 

Jones has agreed to attend the forum, Auburn University College Democrats confirmed for APR on Sunday, but it was unclear whether Tuberville planned to attend. The student organization  was still awaiting a response from Tuberville’s campaign. Jones has for months requested that Tuberville join him in a debate, but Tuberville has declined.

“AUCR takes great pleasure in coming together with AUCD to co-host the Alabama Senate candidates in this forum. We are looking forward to a very informative and constructive event,” said Lydia Maxwell, president of the College Republicans at Auburn University.

Dr. Ryan Williamson, assistant professor of political science, is to emcee the forum, which will be open to all Auburn University students in the Mell Classroom Building at 6 p.m., according to a press release from the College Democrats at Auburn University. 

 Students will be permitted 30 seconds to ask a question of either candidate, and each candidate will have two minutes to answer, according to the release. Capacity at the forum will be limited and precautions taken due to COVID-19. Any student with an Auburn ID is welcome and attendance will be first come, first served.

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122,000 Alabamians would lose health coverage if ACA is overturned, study finds

President Donald Trump’s administration and 18 states, including Alabama, are asking the country’s highest court to strike down the law. 

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

At least 122,000 Alabamians and 21.1 million in the U.S. overall would lose health coverage if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the Affordable Care Act, according to a recent study. 

The Washington D.C.-based think tank Urban Institute’s analysis found that Alabama’s uninsured rate would increase by 25 percent if the court strikes down the Affordable Care Act (ACA), after oral arguments in a case against the landmark health care law is to begin on Nov. 10.  

President Donald Trump’s administration and 18 states, including Alabama, are asking the country’s highest court to strike down the entire ACA. 

Trump, speaking to CBS News’s Lesley Stahl in a recent interview, said he would like the Supreme Court to end the ACA. There’s concern among many that Trump’s pick to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the court, conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett, could be a deciding factor in the repeal of the ACA when the Supreme Court hears the case just after the Nov. 3 election.

“I hope that they end it. It’ll be so good if they end it,” Trump told Stahl.

“Repealing the ACA would throw our health care system into chaos in the middle of a pandemic and a deep recession,” Alabama Arise executive director Robyn Hyden said in a statement. “Tens of thousands of Alabamians would lose health coverage when they need it most. And hundreds of thousands would pay more for coverage or lose protections for their preexisting conditions.”

Health care coverage losses could be even larger next year, as the COVID-19 pandemic and recession likely still will be ongoing, according to the study. 

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“The ACA has been a health lifeline for many Alabamians during the pandemic,” Hyden said. “It provides coverage options for people who have lost their jobs or seen sharp reductions in their income. And it ensures people aren’t denied insurance just because they got sick.”

Ending the ACA would also reverse gains made in reducing racial disparities in health care coverage, researchers in the study found, noting that overturning the ACA would strip health coverage from nearly one in 10 Black and Latino Americans under age 65, and more than one in 10 Native Americans nationwide would lose health insurance. 

People with preexisting conditions would be charged higher insurance rates, or have their coverage dropped altogether, if the ACA is struck down, according to the study, which also found that the law’s repeal would harm people who have health insurance through their jobs. 

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Those who have health insurance through their jobs could see their plans reintroduce annual and lifetime coverage limits, and requirements for plans to cover essential benefits and provide free preventive services would disappear, according to the study, as would the requirement for insurers to allow young adults to be covered through their parents’ plans.

While millions would lose health care if the law is repealed, the country’s top earners would receive tax cuts, according to a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which found that the highest-income 0.1 percent of households, which earn more than $3 million annually,  would receive tax cuts averaging about $198,000 per year. 

“A portion of these tax cuts — about $10 billion per year — would come at the direct expense of the Medicare Trust Fund, since the additional Medicare tax the ACA instituted for couples with earnings over $250,000 flows to the fund,” the Center of Budget and Policy Priority study reads. 

Pharmaceutical companies would pay $2.8 billion less in taxes each year, according to the study, while millions of seniors would pay billions more for prescription drugs due to the gap in Medicare’s prescription drug benefit if the ACA is repealed. 

“The ACA has left Alabama better equipped to fight COVID-19 and rebuild our economy after the recession,” Hyden said. “And those benefits would be even greater if Alabama would adopt Medicaid expansion.

“Striking down the ACA would harm the Alabamians who have suffered the most during the pandemic and the recession. It would deprive our state of the opportunity to save lives and strengthen our health care system by expanding Medicaid,” Hyden continued. “And it would shower huge tax cuts on rich people while making life harder for everyone else. Alabama officials should stop seeking to undermine the ACA and start investing in a healthier future for our entire state.”

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Two military pilots killed in plane crash in Foley

Brandon Moseley

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Navy Lt. Rhiannon Ross, age 30, of Wixom, Michigan, died when her T-6B Texan II trainer aircraft crashed. Also killed was Coast Guard Ensign Morgan Garrett, a 24-year-old student aviator.

Friday, a Navy pilot and a Coast Guard student pilot were killed when their Navy T-6B Texan II training airplane crashed into a home in Foley. No one in the house was killed.

Commander Zach Harrell, a public affairs officer with Naval Air Forces, said that the plane crashed around 5:00 p.m. A house and two cars on the ground were hit in the crash.

“It is with a heavy heart that we mourn two of our pilots who lost their lives during an aircraft crash in Alabama today,” the Chief of Naval Air Training said in a Twitter post. “Our deepest sympathy goes to their family and friends at this difficult time. Rest in peace, Shipmates. We have the watch.”

Navy Lt. Rhiannon Ross, age 30, of Wixom, Michigan, died when her T-6B Texan II trainer aircraft crashed. She was a Navy instructor pilot, officials announced on Sunday. Also killed was Coast Guard Ensign Morgan Garrett, a 24-year-old student aviator.

Ross earned her commission in April 2012. Before joining the Florida-based Training Squadron Two in February 2018, she served three years with Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 26 out of Norfolk, Virginia.

Garrett was from Weddington, North Carolina, and was a 2019 Coast Guard Academy graduate.

“Their spirit, friendship, and devotion to their country will not be forgotten,” Navy officials said in a Sunday news release.

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Ross was a member of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor’s Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps, according to her Navy career bio. Her personal awards include a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal.

Friday’s accident marked the Navy’s first aviation-related fatality in more than a year.

“The incident is currently under investigation,” Harrell said. “The Navy is cooperating fully with local authorities.”

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U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, said on Twitter, “Very sad to hear about the Navy trainer aircraft that crashed in Foley. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the two service members who lost their live.”

Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Montrose, said, “As we await additional information, I hope you will join me in praying for the victims and their families. According to the Baldwin County Sheriff’s office, the plane was a US Navy aircraft.”

A home caught fire after the plane crashed but the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office also said no one on the ground was injured.

The T-6B Texan II is a tandem-seat, turboprop aircraft primarily used to train Navy and Marine Corps pilots, according to the Navy.

There are 245 T-6Bs based at the Navy’s two aviation training bases, Naval Air Station Whiting Field, outside of Pensacola and Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas. The airfield is about 45 miles from the crash site.

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