Houston Hopes New Payday Lending Regulations Will Pressure Texas Legislature

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New payday lending regulations will go into effect in Houston now that councilmembers have voted the ordinance into law. The new rules are partly intended to pressure state lawmakers into passing similar legislation.

After two years of planning and negotiations behind the scenes, Houston council passed a payday lending ordinance 15-2, with councilmembers James Rodriguez and Helena Brown voting against it.

The ordinance mirrors those already in place in Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and El Paso.

Councilmember Ellen Cohen, who previously served two terms in the Texas Legislature, says the government has an obligation to protect its citizens from predatory business practices.

"Houston is, in many cases, the 800-pound gorilla up in Austin. When we sign on, at least we add a significant effect to what we're trying to do. And I sincerely hope that our colleagues that sit on the floor in Austin are listening to these discussions and really will have the courage to move forward."

The Texas Senate passed a bill to cap and limit payday loans earlier this year, but the measure was left to die in a House committee.

Anna Babin is president and CEO of the United Way of Greater Houston, which is one of the organizations that lobbied for the regulations.

"We know most definitely our three senators are for this legislation and have been behind the City of Houston actually moving forward on an ordinance, so I think we have much more momentum."

After council passed the ordinance, state Sen. Rodney Ellis released a statement saying he plans to introduce legislation in the next session to protect Texans and preserve local control over payday lending practices.

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Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...