Veto the “loan shark giveaway,” Gov. Hickenlooper

In the final hours of the legislative session last week, something bad happened.

Lobbyists for the subprime lending industry sneaked in a last-minute bill to allow huge interest rate increases on certain personal loans. The Colorado Attorney General’s office estimates that this legislation could mean increases of almost 40% to the total cost of a personal loan.

Send a message to Gov. Hickenlooper right now requesting a VETO of House Bill 15-1390.

There was no opportunity to properly debate this legislation–and that was by design. This bill to allow lenders to hike interest rates on personal loans was passed by both chambers in less than a week with almost no debate. Some lawmakers have already expressed regret over their rushed vote for this legislation. Passing bills that could cost thousands of Coloradans millions of dollars at the last minute with no debate is just plain wrong.

Tell Gov. Hickenlooper to VETO House Bill 15-1390, the “loan shark giveaway” bill. Your message will be delivered instantly to the Governor’s office.

Thanks for your timely assistance stopping this bad anti-consumer legislation. This time, the money saved could be your own.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (May 13)

It looks like the beginning of the end of Tulo’s time with the Rockies. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) remains in full freak-out mode over the potential CD-6 candidacy of Democrat Morgan Carroll. As Sen. Carroll noted on her Facebook page, a “tracker” was at the airport to meet her on a recent visit to Washington D.C. — you know, in case she decided to give an impromptu policy speech in front of the restrooms.

► Senator Michael Bennet (D-Denver) helped block a trade proposal yesterday. Mark Matthews of the Denver Post has been following the debate:

The issue has divided Democrats in recent months, with Obama lobbying for passage and fellow party members, including Minority Leader , angling to stop it. Traditional Democratic allies, including unions and environmentalists, also have called on Congress to kill the so-called “fast track” legislation because of fears of pollution and lost jobs.

At its core, the fast-track measure would empower Obama to negotiate trade deals with foreign governments and afterward send the proposal to Congress for a simple yes-or-no vote. That authority is considered crucial for the passage of complicated deals because it prevents Congress from debating to death these trade agreements.

► Meanwhile, national pundits continue to list Colorado as among the Top 10 hottest Senate races in 2016…though it’s starting to look pretty rote. Colorado is really only on the list because you need more than 9 states to make a Top 10. 


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National GOP Panic Over Morgan Carroll Continues

carrolltracked

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Senate Minority Leader Morgan Carroll.

Senate Minority Leader Morgan Carroll.

As Colorado Senate Minority Leader Morgan Carroll continues to assess the possibility of a run for Rep. Mike Coffman’s CD-6 seat in 2016, the National Republican Congressional Committee has responded with an over-the-top fusillade of pre-emptive attacks on Carroll. Their shrill reaction to the mere possibility of Carroll entering the CD-6 race betrays obvious fear that she could take the seat, whether or not Coffman remains to defend it.

In addition to being the target of eager video “trackers” during her recent trip to Washington, D.C., the NRCC sent out another press release attacking Carroll today that barely conceals their growing fear:

“Ultra-liberal” Morgan Carroll is at it again, this time going out of her way to soften language condemning Iran for sponsoring terrorism…

Remember, this is the same Iran whose supreme leader joined an angry mob in chanting “death to America” just weeks ago and is angling to obtain a nuclear weapon.

With Iran’s well-documented hostility towards America and her allies, why does Morgan Carroll go out of her way to soften language condemning Iran’s role in sponsoring terrorism?

NRCC Comment: “Ultra-liberal Morgan Carroll went out of her way to soften language condemning Iran for being a state-sponsor of terrorism, despite Iran’s continued aggression and pursuit of a nuclear weapon. Carroll won’t be taken seriously as a candidate for federal office if she continues to trip over herself on national security issues that will be a key factor in 2016.”

This nutty release is in reference to a story from the Colorado Statesman today regarding a state senate resolution condemning Iran–mentioned as part of a longer story about Iran policy in general. But reporter Ernest Luning’s actual story bears little resemblance to the NRCC’s version of events:

As originally proposed, Senate Joint Memorial 15-002 called Iran a “theocratic dictatorship” dedicated to a “permanent war against Western democratic institutions and values.” It also included a reminder that Iran has been named a state sponsor of terrorism.

Senate Minority Leader Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, argued for blunting the legislation’s language, calling the initial draft a “high-stakes, provocative claim” that waded into Middle-Eastern politics in a way that could undermine national security. The Senate approved Carroll’s rewritten statement by a 34-0 vote. [Pols emphasis] (State Sen. Linda Newell, D-Littleton, voted “present” after asserting that the Legislature didn’t have any business conducting foreign policy.)

If anything, we’re inclined to agree with Sen. Linda Newell that the Colorado General Assembly has no need or business issuing these meaningless foreign policy statements. We’ve felt this way for many years. With that said, the fact that every Republican Colorado Senator voted to approve Morgan Carroll’s “coddling of Iran,” for what looks like very good reasons, makes the NRCC look…well, ridiculous.

More than a little bit panicked too, folks. And that is the real story here.

In Colorado, Every Legislator’s Email Is “Emailgate”

Senate President Bill Cadman (R).

Senate President Bill Cadman (R).

9NEWS’ Jeremy Jojola reports on something you might not know, but has actually been uncontroversial standard operating procedure at the Colorado General Assembly for years:

A 9Wants to Know review of email use among public officials reveals all 100 members of the Colorado General Assembly use private accounts to conduct state business.

The policy and practice has been in place for many years, giving each individual lawmaker full control of what emails will be released when their emails become the subject of records requests under the Colorado Open Records Act…

9Wants to Know found the “state.co.us” address used by some legislators is not an actual email account, but a way for the state to re-direct all incoming emails to a private account, like Gmail or AOL.

As 9NEWS reports, the forwarding-address email system for state legislators, delivering messages to any number of private email systems, differs from other government bodies (9NEWS cites the city of Aurora as an example) with much more stringent email retention policies–and control of the email servers by an impartial public employee, whose job it is to respond to Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) requests. An email server managed by government IT staff could be configured to automatically retain copies of all emails sent and received for an appropriate length of time, and help assure that requests for open records are honestly handled.

But–surprise!–we have bipartisan consensus in the General Assembly that there’s nothing to see here.

[House Speaker Dickey Lee] Hullinghorst and [Senate President Bill] Cadman stood by the current policy, claiming it’s been working and that they can be trusted to turn over all releasable emails under the Colorado Open Records Act – even messages that may be controversial. [Pols emphasis]

“We’ve had a system in Colorado that’s worked for us for a very long time,” Hullinghorst said. “Yes, I hand it all over.”

“We’ve been CORA’d, and have provided everything that has been asked of us,” Cadman said.

It’s not like anyone would admit otherwise, right? The point is, you don’t really know. Under the present arrangement, at a certain level we just have to trust them.

Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton.

Now, we’re pretty sure that Bill Cadman follows the national news, more specifically FOX News, and is therefore aware in great detail that fellow Republicans are trying desperately to gin up a scandal over exactly this sort of arrangement–a public official using a private email server with no formalized records retention policy. So, either Cadman just exonerated Hillary Clinton from the “Emailgate” controversy that the GOP is milking for all it’s worth, or…

On second thought, how much would a state-owned server for legislative emails cost again? Because that would probably be the best way for Cadman to save face. That, or Hillary Clinton appreciates Bill Cadman’s vote of confidence!

Have fun explaining this one at the next ALEC happy hour.

Colorado Loves Conservation – Our Senate, Not So Much

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Until recently, Colorado had a long legacy of consensus on conservation, and it’s not hard to see why. Our state is home to stunning landscapes — many of us live with nationally-renowned lands in our backyards or just a quick drive away. When you are in that kind of constant contact with the grandeur of nature, it’s hard not to recognize the value of conservation. When you live in a place like Colorado, it only seems natural that a river has a right to be healthy and flowing, and that some places are too beautiful to be fenced off and developed.

Champs Fought Hard

Unfortunately, this spirit of common cause and reason was noticeably absent from the 2015 legislative session. We saw a disappointing amount of narrow-minded bullishness on all of our priority issues, from public lands to clean energy. It wasn’t all bad — our legislative champions certainly worked hard to protect Colorado’s air, water, and land. Leaders like Reps. Daneya Esgar, Jessie Danielson, and Faith Winter and Sens. Kerry Donovan, Mike Merrifield, and Matt Jones fought hard to push proactive measures and fend off bad ones.

No Room for Reason in Colorado Senate

Unfortunately, our champions faced some tough obstacles. Those came in the form of a Senate that, with a few exceptions, refused to pass common sense conservation bills. For example, an instream flow bill, which is essentially legislation that gives a river the right to be a river, was killed in the Senate. There is no political ideology that justifies opposition to rivers.

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (May 12)

Add this to the list of reasons why we like basketball: You can’t possibly play the game with a deflated ball. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Senator Michael Bennet (D-Denver) is smack in the middle of trade deal discussions, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), that will shift into higher gear today in the Senate. As Mark Matthews of the Denver Post reports:

It’s not exactly a political vise, but with a major trade deal looming, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet is feeling pressure from both President Barack Obama, who wants it, and liberal allies, who want nothing more than to kill it.

How the Colorado Democrat navigates the debate — expected to begin Tuesday — could have long-range implications for his political future and a trade agreement among the U.S. and 11 Pacific Rim countries.

Central to the fight is a legislative package that would give Obama more authority to negotiate trade deals. He and many Republican lawmakers support the plan, but it faces opposition from Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and other Democrats.

► State Sen. Ellen Roberts tried floating her name for the U.S. Senate (or CD-3) in an interview with the Durango Herald, and she didn’t do very well. Next time, Sen. Roberts, you might want to avoid calling your own interest in higher office “a long shot.” Tom Brady couldn’t have done a better job deflating this trial balloon.

Edgar Antillon, the restauranteur and promoter of the since-cancelled “White Appreciation Day” tells Jason Salzman that he is no longer a Republican. But he’s also not a Democrat. Antillon is, however, registered as a Republican candidate for the State House in HD-32. So, um, whatever.


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Promoter of “White Appreciation Day” Now Says He’s Leaving Republican Party

(Uhhhh…..Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Edgar Antillon.

Edgar Antillon.

Edgar Antillon, who’s twice run for the Colorado State House and is promoting a “White Appreciation Day” at his rural Colorado BBQ joint, says he’s leaving the Republican Party.

Antillon lost his latest bid for the Colorado legislature just last year, and he’s still listed as an “active” Republican candidate on Colorado Secretary of State’s website.

But Antillon said in a Twitter exchange yesterday that he plans to close his campaign accounts as soon as possible, and he’s not a candidate currently.

“Never will I run as a Republican again,” tweeted Antillon, who led Mitt Romney’s Hispanic outreach effort in Adams County, Colorado. Antillon’s pro-gun activism has supported state GOP legislative efforts.

Antillon explained his position in a subsequent email.

Antillon: “I support gay marriage. Support a Ronald Reagan style amnesty. Support legalizing marijuana.

I once thought I was a Republican. I now know I’m not. Republicans claim to be the party of freedom…they are not.

I’m not a Democrat either though.”

Antillon is still promising to give white people a 10 percent discount on June 11 at his Rubbin’ Buttz BBQ in Milliken.

But in a development first reported by Denver’s NBC affiliate Sunday,  Antillon is now saying he’ll give everyone, regardless of race, a discount on “White Appreciation Day,” which has gained national media attention.

He insists that it was never his intention to exclude non-white races from the discount, despite telling 9News’ on tape that Hispanics like himself would not get the discount. He reiterated to 9News that the point of White Appreciation Day was to bring Americans together.

“We’re not backtracking,” he told 9News. “We’re not clarifying anything. This was the intention from the beginning.”

He’s also said he received a bomb threat at his restaurant Friday.

 

Ellen Roberts Floats Her Name for U.S. Senate or CD-3

Sen. Ellen Roberts (R-Durango).

Sen. Ellen Roberts (R-Durango).

As Peter Marcus reports today for The Durango Herald, state Sen. Ellen Roberts (R-Durango) is hoisting up a trial balloon for a potential new job in 2016 — be it for the U.S. Senate or in CD-3:

Roberts spoke to The Durango Herald on Friday, two days after the legislative session ended. She said she has time now to consider the massive 2016 undertaking.

“I recognize it would be a long-shot,” Roberts said. “But to be in the U.S. Senate, that would be something that I am in the process of thinking about.”…

…One rumor that has been circulating is that U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, is considering a run for U.S. Senate. In that case, Roberts also could vie for that 3rd Congressional District seat. But Roberts said she is less interested in that seat, and a spokesman for Tipton said, “Congressman Tipton is very happy to be serving Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.”

We’ve heard Sen. Roberts’ name mentioned for higher office here and there, though we’d agree with Roberts herself that a U.S. Senate run “would be a long-shot.” As Peter Marcus noted in the Herald, Roberts is coming off a particularly tough legislative session that saw her take several difficult votes sprinkled in with some eyebrow-raising statements (including her off-the-reservation admission that SB-268 was, indeed, a bill about creating Personhood).

Congressman Scott Tipton was floating his own name for U.S. Senate back in January, though a spokesman was intentionally vague in responding to Marcus for this story. Running a campaign for Congress in CD-3 would seem more logical for Roberts, if Tipton did indeed decide to take a shot at Democrat Michael Bennet in 2016. Roberts has not had to run a serious campaign herself since winning election to the State House in 2006, and the Colorado Republican Party is a lot different today than it was 10 years ago. Unless Republicans were to completely stand down for Roberts, we don’t see how she’d ever make it out of a Primary; even if she did, Roberts would be forced to move so far to the right that she’d never be able to get back to the middle before a General Election.

Roberts also would need to overcome the political detriments of being relatively isolated in Durango. She has no name recognition along the Front Range, and Roberts has not built up any sort of donor base that could jump start an undertaking as ambitious as running for U.S. Senate. Any Republican candidate in 2016 will be compared to Sen. Cory Gardner in some respect; it is important to remember that Gardner had been carefully cultivating a broad base of Republican support for years prior to his sudden entry into the 2014 Senate race last February.

If nothing else, today’s news from Roberts should prod the likes of state Sen. Owen Hill (who also ran for U.S. Senate in 2014) to get moving, and it will probably shake loose a few more potential Republican names for 2016.

Groups Ask Hickenlooper To Veto Interest Rate Hike Bill

380_image_loanshark_8662Here’s an excerpt from a letter sent by several consumer advocacy groups including the Bell Policy Center, the Colorado Center for Law and Policy, and the Colorado Progressive Coalition to Gov. John Hickenlooper, requesting a veto of House Bill 15-1390last-minute legislation that shot through the General Assembly at the closing bell allowing lenders to dramatically jack up interest rates on specific types of personal loans:

We respectfully ask you to veto the Allowable Finance Charge for Certain Consumer Credit Transactions bill (HB15-1390). This bill, which was introduced in the final few days of session and did not get a full vetting in the Legislature, would raise the cost of credit for moderate- and low-income Coloradans on certain consumer credit transactions. Raising these caps would lead to more high-cost and unaffordable credit products, hurting Colorado consumers and middle-class families. We are not opposed to the loans, just to increasing the current rates so significantly.

The Colorado Attorney General’s Office, which regulates these loans, testified in the House about how HB15-1390 would affect these loans. While neutral on the bill, the office said that it would increase the costs of an average $6,000 loan by 38.1 percent. The Attorney General’s Office also said there is nothing to indicate that this credit product is not available to consumers or that consumers are having a hard time accessing this product.

In a legislative session that was supposed to be about the middle class, this bill moves Colorado in the wrong direction. We wish this bill had come up earlier in the session to allow more time for conversations with legislators and a greater opportunity for the views of average Coloradans to be heard. Your veto of HB15-1390 will help protect low- to moderate-income Coloradans from detrimental credit products. The Legislature can address this issue again next session in a manner that ensures all viewpoints are heard and more measured deliberations take place.

As we discussed last week, House Bill 15-1390 passed through the General Assembly at lightning speed with almost no debate. Consumer group opponents like the Bell Policy Center had no opportunity to mount an opposition to the bill. In subsequent days, we’ve heard that lobbyists for the lenders who would benefit from higher interest rates facilitated the late introduction of the bill, and paraded lenders through the legislature in the final days who essentially threatened to close up shop if they couldn’t increase interest rates–this despite the fact that tens of thousands of these loans worth hundreds of millions of dollars were made under the current rates last year. This threat, which sounds remarkably like the hollow arguments against payday lending reform a few years ago, evidently persuaded all but two members of the House to pass the bill. In the Senate, after opponents had the chance to get their feet under them, most Democrats voted against the bill--a telling difference.

1390senatevote

From all accounts we’ve heard, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office was not part of whatever dubious greasing of the wheels occurred here, and his signature is by no means assured. Over the coming days, we expect Hickenlooper to hear from both sides, but ultimately we think there is enough backlash forming against both the bill and the shady process by which it was introduced and passed to make a veto an easy decision.

And after that, we hope for a frank conversation within the Democratic House caucus–about how sticking it to subprime borrowers in the closing hours of the legislative session is not how you “protect working families.”

Get More Smarter on Monday (May 11)

We can see clearly now. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

Joe Neguse, the Democratic nominee for Colorado Secretary of State in 2014, has been appointed by Gov. John Hickenlooper as the new head of the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA). From a press release:

Gov. John Hickenlooper announced today Joe Neguse will be the executive director of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) effective June 1, 2015. He will replace Barbara Kelley who has served in the role since 2009.

“Joe’s experience as an attorney, civic leader, and public servant will be an invaluable asset to DORA,” said Hickenlooper. “Our business friendly environment is an essential part of Colorado’s economic success, and Joe will champion that effort to further grow our vibrant business community and protect consumers.”

Tell us we’re not alone here: We can’t see or hear “DORA” and not immediately think of “The Explorer.”

► Congressional Republicans are preparing to introduce legislation outlining a late-term abortion ban as soon as this week. You know, because Congress has nothing else to do.

► With the 2015 Colorado Legislative Session in the rear-view mirror, media outlets around the state are rolling out their “Winners & Losers” and assorted summaries of the session. Joey Bunch of the Denver Post writes that the middle class was ignored by both Republicans and Democrats; Bunch, Lynn Bartels and John Frank of the Post combine to play Win, Lose, and Draw.


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Eight Great Stories on the Colorado Legislative Session

(Yeah, we were hoping for 9, too — Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Below I’ve listed some of my favorite reporting about Colorado’s legislative session that ended Wednesday.

My favorite: The Denver Post’s John Frank wrote an accessible yet detail-rich article on the failed effort to secure funding for a wildly successful teen-pregnancy-prevention program. Read it here: IUD Jewelry Emerges at Colorado Capitol to Demystify and Educate on Birth Control

The Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby provided a cool look at the flaming arrows launched at Republican Rep. Dan Thurlow. Read it here: Thurlow Defends Record

Colorado Public Radio reporter Megan Verlee’ provides an outside-the-Capitol perspective on the teen-pregnancy issue. Listen here: For Colorado Teen Moms, There’s Help but Daunting Statistic

Colorado Public Radio’s Verlee demystified the complicated debate about the Earned Income Tax Credit. Listen here: 5 Things to Know about the Earned Income Tax Credit, a Proven Poverty Reliever.

The Post’s Joey Bunch and John Frank teamed up to show how middle class reality connects to the legislature. Read it here: Fear and Worry in Colorado’s Middle Class Lures Politicos.

Denver Post reporter Lynn Bartels explained how a bill offering help for the middle class was killed over one lawmaker’s concern that his rich constituents wouldn’t like it. Read it here: Upper Class Protected During Debate about Saving for College. 

Great in-depth reporting by the National Journal’s Nora Kaplan-Bricker about Colorado’s latest birth-control battle and teen pregnancy program. Read it here: The Big Battle Over a Little Device.

And finally, I can’t resist adding the Aurora Sentinel’s outstanding editorial on the failed teen-pregnancy prevention measure. (Sorry for the repeated citations of coverage of this legislation, but it generated the most inspired reporting.) Read it here: The birth of ignorance; get science right before voting on teen pregnancy bill.

Get More Smarter on Friday (May 8)

MoreSmarter-RainWe’ll be happy to break down the ramifications of elections in the United Kingdom as soon as we figure out how the whole thing works. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► With the 2015 Colorado legislative session now officially in the books, all eyes turn to Gov. John Hickenlooper and, more specifically, his writing instrument of choice. As John Frank reports for the Denver Post, Hickenlooper may veto two red-light camera bills and is taking a close look at a few more pieces of legislation. The House Speaker, meanwhile, joined Hickenlooper in voicing displeasure over the demise of TABOR reform efforts:

House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst of Boulder said she will keep alive a Hickenlooper-endorsed plan to remove the fees paid by hospitals from state revenue collections to make room for more transportation and education funding within the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights spending limits.

“That’s one of the things I’m the most sorry about that did not pass out of the Senate,” the Boulder Democrat said. “We are facing a budget crisis without finding a way to address our revenues coming up against the TABOR cap.”

► The Associated Press has its own take on the 2015 legislative session, calling it “among the most sharply partisan in recent memory.”

 ►Colorado Senators Michael Bennet (D-Denver) and Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) are calling for more congressional oversight in the Aurora VA Hospital project. Once again, we remind you, that Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) is the CHAIRMAN OF THE NONOVERSIGHT AND INVESTIGATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE under the House Veterans’ Affairs committee.


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Get More Smarter on Thursday (May 7)

MoreSmarter-RainAt this point, just let us know if it’s not going to rain. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► It’s over — it’s really over. The 2015 Colorado legislative session is in the books, and the Associated Press takes a look at what went down on the final day under the Gold Dome. For more on the last day’s events, everybody who is still at the Denver Post combined for a story.

 ► State Senate Minority Leader Morgan Carroll is taking a look at running for Congress in CD-6. 

 ► Problems with construction at the VA Hospital in Aurora were obvious well before construction even began, according to the Denver Post (originally noted by ProgressNow). May we remind you, dear readers, that Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) is the CHAIRMAN OF THE NONOVERSIGHT AND INVESTIGATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE under the House Veterans’ Affairs committee.


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So Much For Keeping That Interest Rate Hike Bill Under Wraps

FOX 31’s Tammy Vigil reports on the last-minute giveaway to subprime personal lenders that passed the General Assembly with distressing bipartisan support–at least in the Democratic-controlled House–and is now headed to the Governor’s desk, where consumer advocates hope it will be vetoed:

Only the Governor can save consumers now.

House Bill 1390 raises interest rates on personal consumer loans by up to 71 percent. It would allow lenders to raise finance rates from 21 percent to 36 percent on loans up to $3,000.

It also increases rates from 15 to 21 percent on loans more than $3,000 to $5,000.

These loans target people with some credit problems who can’t get loans from traditional banks and credit unions to buy consumer products like cars, boats and to consolidate debt…

As we discussed yesterday, House Bill 15-1390 would dramatically increase the maximum allowable interest rate on the specific types of personal loans offered by subprime lenders like Citigroup’s OneMain Financial and Springleaf Financial. Not surprisingly, lobbyists for these corporations were the driving force behind this legislation, and successfully prevailed on Democratic leadership in the House to allow the bill to be introduced late last week. Asked to defend the legislation yesterday by FOX 31, House sponsor Rep. Jovan Melton (D) made a disappointingly unconvincing argument:

“It is high risk. It has a higher interest rate of 36 percent, but it’s much better than 125 percent we see with pay day lending facilities,” said State Rep. Jovan Melton, a Democrat from Aurora.

He also said these lenders need a hand to stay in business in our state… [Pols emphasis]

The claim that these lenders need to be able to hike interest rates in order to “stay in business” is plainly contradicted by the huge success they are enjoying in Colorado today–in 2013 alone, millions of dollars in profits on over 31,000 loans of the type that would be affected by the legislation. Sure, 36% is a lower interest rate than payday loans, but the current rate caps are not hurting these lenders’ business. It is therefore completely disingenuous to claim that we must let them inflate the cost of loans they issue to consumers by almost 40% in order to “keep them in business.”

In fact, that’s the same nonsense we heard from the payday lending lobbyists and their political surrogates back in 2010, when legislation reforming that industry’s over-the-top usurious practices was signed into law. Five years later, surprise! You can still get a payday loan in Colorado with ease.

Bottom line: this was a major political mistake for Democrats who backed indefensible anti-consumer legislation, and another lesson about the constant vigilance needed at the Capitol to protect citizens from predatory corporate lobbyists. The last-minute rush to pass this bill was obviously meant to limit debate and public knowledge of what was happening, and that was a terrible decision by Democrats who should know better.

And now that the media is cluing in to what happened, it’s time for some mea culpas–and a swift veto by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Last-Minute Swindle: Personal Loan Interest Rate Hike Races Through General Assembly Ahead of Sine Die

Sen. Cheri Jahn (D).

Sen. Cheri Jahn (D).

Just when you thought it was safe to exhale as the end of the 2015 session of the Colorado legislature approaches today, fresh controversy is brewing at the Capitol over House Bill 15-1390: a bill that sped through the House yesterday before passing the Senate today to allow lenders to dramatically increase interest rates charged for specific types of personal loans. Passed with almost no notice or debate, the Bell Policy Center is urgently sounding the alarm–from their release yesterday before the bill passed the Senate this morning:

A late bill that is clearly bad for consumers easily passed the House and is on the Senate floor. This bill, Allowable Finance Charge for Certain Consumer Credit Transactions (HB15-1390), would raise the cost of credit for moderate- and low-income Coloradans on certain consumer credit transactions. The frenzied pace of the final days of the legislative session paved the way for this bill to sail through, and consumers stand to lose. [Pols emphasis]

The bill passed the House (62-2) last week and the Senate Finance Committee (4-1) this morning, despite strong testimony in both chambers from our Rich Jones. Jones said that raising the caps on certain supervised loans and consumer credit sales would lead to more high-cost and unaffordable credit products. We are not opposed to the loans, just to increasing the current rates.

The Colorado Attorney General’s Office, which regulates these loans, testified in the House about how HB15-1390 would affect these loans. While neutral on the bill, the office said that it would increase the costs of an average $6,000 loan by 38.1 percent. In response to a question, the Attorney General’s Office also said there is nothing to indicate that this credit product is not available to consumers or that consumers are having a hard time accessing this product. [Pols emphasis]

In a legislative session that was supposed to be about the middle class, this bill moves Colorado in the wrong direction. We wish this bill had come up earlier in the session to allow more time for conversations with legislators…

But the extremely limited debate this bill received appears to have been a feature, not a bug. The legislation has its origin with lobbyists for OneMain Financial, a branch of Citigroup that specializes in the kinds of personal loans that would be affected. The bill was rushed through the House with almost no opposition, but the vote today in the Senate was not unanimous after Democratic Senators realized there was a problem. There seems to be an effort now that the bill is causing controversy to make excuses for its plain effect–allowing lenders to hike interest rates on personal loans. Unfortunately, it’s a one-page bill, and there’s no sugar-coating what it does.

Much like the shenanigans we’ve seen in previous years to undo hard-won reforms of the payday lending industry, what we’re seeing here is another ugly brute-force attempt by lobbyists and allied politicians to ram through an undesirable piece of legislation during the final crush. Longtime readers will recall that the payday loan reform battle was fraught with lobbyist-engineered treachery, with several attempts before success in 2010 scuttled by Democrats making “surprise” votes to kill the bills. Sen. Cheri Jahn, the Senate sponsor of House Bill 15-1390, has a long history of this kind of thing, and has little trust among consumer advocates as a result.

Bottom line: lender lobbyists are some of the most audacious under the Dome, but this bill could well be a step too far–for them, and for legislators in both parties who signed on to this ill-advised ploy. There is simply no reason to ram through legislation like this except to gouge consumers and enrich lenders. And the only reason to ram it through at the last minute is to keep it quiet.

In short, it’s one of those situations that makes voters, you know, cynical. Hopefully, Gov. John Hickenlooper will correct what appears to be a major bipartisan mistake.