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Payday lending fight qualifies for Ohio ballot

COLUMBUS, Oct. 23, 2008 (AP): Voters will get to decide whether to repeal a new Ohio law cracking down on how much interest can be charged on payday loans.

Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner said Thursday that the industry submitted enough signatures for the issue to appear on the Nov. 4 ballot.

The state law would cut the interest rate that payday lenders can charge from an average 391 percent annual rate to 28 percent.

The loans work this way: A borrower goes to a check-cashing company and writes a check. The company gives the person cash, minus a fee, and agrees not to cash the check until his or her payday.

Lenders argue that a payday loan is an individual financial choice that lawmakers shouldn't take away. They also have said the changes would put them out of business.

``We continue to move ahead building momentum with our coalition of Ohioans working to save 10,000 good-paying jobs, nearly $500 million in economic impact and critical credit options in Ohio,'' said Kim Norris, spokeswoman for Ohioans for Financial Freedom, the industry-backed group trying to get the issue on the ballot.

Opponents of the loans have said the industry's business model relies on trapping customers in a cycle of debt so they take one loan out after another to make payments on previous loans.

``Stand up to the lenders, and stand up for one of the finest consumer-protection laws in America,'' said Bill Faith, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio and treasurer of the Vote Yes on Issue 5 Campaign.

Lenders have already succeeded in getting an initiative on the Arizona ballot that would let them continue charging the higher interest rate. If the initiative fails, the ability of lenders to charge 391 percent will expire in 2010, and they won't be able to charge higher than 36 percent annual interest.

Fifteen states and the District of Columbia already restrict payday lending.






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