“We are certain voters will support this if legislators don’t act on reform”
Leaders of an initiative to put payday lending reform on the November statewide ballot this morning turned in over 2,000 petition signatures to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. This is the first step to getting the measure on the ballot. Backers are pursuing this direction because state lawmakers have not acted on reform.
The petition language calls for a constitutional amendment that would cap payday loan interest rates in Ohio at 28%.
Nate Coffman, of Ohio CDC Association in Columbus, and Pastor Carl Ruby, of Springfield, are filing the petitions. At least 1,000 of the Ohio voter signatures must be validated and the Attorney General’s Office must determine that the summary of the proposed constitutional referendum is a fair and truthful representation of the proposed law.
The Attorney General must then certify the petition to the Secretary of State. At that point, Coffman, Ruby and other supporters can start collecting the 305,591 valid registered voter signatures that must be filed by July 4 in order to get the issue on the November ballot.
“These petitions, these signatures are proof that we mean business,’’ said Coffman. “It’s been nearly 12 months since a bi-partisan reform bill, House Bill 123, was introduced and the legislation has stalled ever since. It seems like they don’t care that every day this bill doesn’t move forward, it costs Ohioans an average of $200,000 in excessive borrowing costs, or about $75 million annually. That’s not acceptable. And that’s why we are pushing for a ballot issue.’’
Payday lenders charge an average 591% annual percentage rate in Ohio, the highest such rate in the nation. Pastor Ruby said that rate is ridiculous, and he is tired of seeing lenders gouge vulnerable, lower income working Ohioans.
“It’s time for the voters of Ohio to have their say, because apparently many in the legislature are not willing or eager to advance
HB 123,’’ said Ruby. “With a few notable exceptions, they seem more interested in placating the special interest groups who are profiting from these loans, than in protecting the working class borrowers who are sinking deeper and deeper into debt.’’
The ballot initiative mirrors some of the reforms called for in the bi-partisan HB 123, which seeks to establish a maximum interest rate on such loans of 28% plus a maximum monthly fee of $20.
Coffman pointed out that in 2008, Ohioans overwhelmingly voted in favor of payday lending reforms. “Since then, payday lenders have by-passed the will of the people and state law and are charging even higher prices,’’ he said. “That’s unacceptable, and we are certain Ohio voters will agree if legislators themselves don’t move quickly on reform.’’
Members of Ohioans for Payday Loan Reform, a diverse statewide coalition of more than 100 individuals and organizations that support passage of HB 123, will be asked to support the ballot initiative.
Nick DiNardo, of Cincinnati, and Michal Marcus, of Cleveland, are joining Ruby and Coffman in the push for a November ballot vote.