Senator laying groundwork for massive changes to payday lending reform bill

Ohio Statehouse News

When House Bill 123, a payday lending reform bill, passed through the Ohio House of Representatives supporters of the bill were able to celebrate for a brief time.

That time is over as State Senator Matt Huffman is positioning a potential amendment to the bill that would make it unrecognizable to the original content.

Huffman has been working on his plan since it became clear the bill would be coming to the Senate.

The original bill has had quite the controversial path so far, with some accusing former Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger of intentionally delaying the bill.

A protest at the statehouse last November forced the delays into the public eye and the bill seemed to get a jump start as a result.

Then, as it neared the end of its hearings in its House Committee there were rumblings that some in leadership wanted to amend the bill with ideas from the lending industry.

Discussions between the sponsors of the bill and the industry over a compromise seemed to be going nowhere at the time.

Then Rosenberger suddenly resigned citing an FBI inquiry that he needed to devote his full attention to.

That inquiry seems to have been upgraded into an investigation with FBI agents raiding his home, storage facility, and requesting documents here in the Capitol.

Some have tried to connect the investigation to overseas travel Rosenberger took with people associated with payday lending.

As his resignation was announced, the last minute attempt to amend the bill was scrapped in committee and the bill was sent to the full House as introduced.

The House overwhelmingly passed the bill and sent it to the Senate for them to deal with.

That brings us to this week when the bill’s sponsors Rep. Kyle Koehler and Rep. Michael Ashford testified in front of the Senate Finance Committee on the merits of their bill.

During that testimony, Koehler admitted he feared an attempt by Senators to usurp his bill and change it into something unrecognizable to the detriment of the people of Ohio and the benefit of payday lenders.

Two days later, supporters of the bill gave reason after reason why the bill should move forward as written and begged the committee not to alter the bill unnecessarily.

When they finished, Sen. Matt Huffman laid out the changes they feared.

Huffman’s proposals are still broad ideas with no concrete numbers associated with them yet and there are still some questions about what parts, if any of the original bill would survive an amendment he pens.

Supporters of the bill claim, like a lawyer trying to convince a jury of their client’s innocence, Huffman’s well practiced delivery of the changes his proposal would make are just window dressing to exactly what the payday lenders want; the appearance of reform without any.

“If the payday lending industry were to create a bill it would be the bill that senator Huffman just suggested,” said Carl Ruby with Ohioans for Payday Loan Reform.

Ruby says his group is ready to pursue a ballot initiative if Huffman’s changes are taken up by the Senate.

His suggestion that the payday lending industry played a large role in crafting Huffman’s proposals may not be as hyperbolic as you’d think.

According to Alex Horowitz with the Pew Charitable Trusts, while the bill was still in the House there were interested party meetings held.

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