A controversial proposal to revamp Washington’s payday-lending rules won state Senate approval Tuesday night. It now goes to the state House.
OLYMPIA — A controversial proposal to revamp Washington’s payday lending rules was approved by the state Senate Tuesday night on a 30-18 vote after more than two hours of heated debate.
Senate Bill 5899, which was backed by Seattle-based payday lender Moneytree, would replace traditional two-week payday loans in Washington with “installment loans,” to be paid off over several months.
Supporters said the new loans would be better for low-income families, offering smaller payments stretched out over time.
“I believe this is a better product for consumers,” said Sen. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo, the bill’s chief sponsor.
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But critics argued the measure would impose hundreds of dollars in additional fees on borrowers and undermine hard-fought reforms to the lending industry approved by the Legislature in 2009.
“There is only one group of people that benefit … and that is the lenders,” said Sen. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle. “These loans are bad for working families.”
Jayapal and other critics offered dozens of amendments to the bill, seeking to cut the loan fees and offer other borrower protections.
Liias and supporters amended the bill Tuesday to lower loan costs when compared with the original bill. Changes included reduced monthly fees and limiting the size of the loans to $700, instead of $1,000.
But Liias led bill supporters in voting down amendments aimed at cutting the loan costs even further. The installment loans need to remain “financially feasible” for lenders, he said.
Six Democrats joined most Republicans in voting for the measure Tuesday night, beating a Wednesday cutoff deadline for legislation. One Republican, Sen. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe, voted no. The bill now moves to the state House.
The lending proposal had been the subject of intense lobbying by Seattle-based payday lender Moneytree, which hired a prominent Democratic public-affairs firm, Sound View Strategies, to pitch the proposal as a consumer-friendly reform. Advocates for the poor have opposed the legislation, arguing the state’s 2009 law is working.
The payday-lending business has been cut back sharply in Washington since that law’s enactment. In 2009, the industry made $1.3 billion in loans. In 2013, that figure had shrunk to $331 million.