Mayor's payday lending and loan proposal faces critical test

HOUSTON - Mayor Annise Parker's proposal to regulate the payday lending and auto-title loan industry faces another critical test on Wednesday.

Last week, a vote on the controversial measure was tagged, or delayed, and the proposal could hit a procedural snag during the final City Council meeting of 2013.

A coalition of faith-based and community leaders gathered in downtown Houston Tuesday to urge council members to pass the mayor's proposed ordinance.

"Let's not play games," said Daniel Cardinal DiNardo of the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese. "Let's not postpone one more day the opportunity to assist hard-working families."

The Cardinal and other supporters of the ordinance are concerned that some council members are setting up a procedural move to delay voting on the ordinance for a second week.

If that happens, the ordinance won't be voted on until 2014 - after a new council is sworn-in.

The ordinance would regulate pay day lenders and place limits on the amount of money someone could borrow and how many times the loan could be rolled over.

Cardinal DiNardo says he is concerned about the impact that high fees and interest rates have on those who borrow money during emergencies and become trapped in a viscous cycle.

"Time and again these families have to find their way to food pantries and soup kitchens because they had to make a payment on a loan," said Cardinal DiNardo.

Council member Jerry Davis was one of two council members who tagged the issue last week.

He said he wasn't sure how he will vote on Wednesday.

"One of the things we're looking at is the enforcement piece," said Davis, who stressed he wanted to balance the concerns of the city, those who borrow money through payday or auto title loans and the embattled industry.

But Gail Rowland, who attended Tuesday's news conference, says she believes it is time the city of Houston join other cities across the state and pass an ordinance to protect consumers and regulate the industry.

Rowland said she borrowed from one of the companies eight months ago and her experience turned into a nightmare.

"They debited my bank account every payday. I overdrew my bank account and could not pay my regular monthly expenses," said Rowland.

She says she defaulted on her loan and now feels like a cloud hangs over her head every day.

"They make it so easy. We are in a desperate situation and we're looking for easy money," said Rowland, who said she believes she is ultimately responsible for the loan.

Copyright 2013 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.