A Springfield pastor hopes to collect almost 400,000 signatures to put a statewide payday loan issue on November’s ballot.
Carl Ruby, pastor at Central Christian Church in Springfield, is on a four-person committee overseeing the potential ballot initiative.
Ohio has more than 830 storefronts that offer payday or car title loans, most of which offer both forms of loans, according to a report by the Center for Responsible Lending. At least 13 such stores are in Springfield and Urbana, many clustered on East Main and South Limestone streets.
“It’s just a blight on our community,” Ruby said.
The industry abides by existing laws, an industry spokesman said, and provides a necessary service in many communities by offering credit to customers who often don’t have easy access to traditional banks.
“We remain committed to working with members of the General Assembly and all interested parties on appropriate reforms that do not jeopardize access to credit for the millions of Ohioans we serve,” a statement issued by the Ohio Consumers Lending Association said. “Continued misrepresentations — assertions that they know to be false — are not helpful to achieving any reform.”
Ohio Consumers Lending Association spokesman Pat Crowley declined further comment.
The petition that will soon be circulating around the state will ask voters to change the Ohio constitution to limit the interest rate payday lenders can impose on people taking out short-term loans. Payday loan interest rates hurt Springfield residents and Ohioans, Ruby said, alleging interest rates can be as high as 591 percent.
“It’s hurting our community as a whole because it is taking money out of the city of Springfield and out of the state of Ohio,” Ruby said.
Ruby and the committee want to limit interest rates to 28 percent.
“I got involved because I care about working class people in Springfield who are having a hard time making ends meet,” Ruby said. “When you are in a crisis and you take out a loan and you are paying 600 percent interest, that doesn’t help a person in crisis.”
The group wanted to work through the Ohio legislature first, Ruby said, and stare Rep. Kyle Koehler, R-Springfield, along with state Rep. Mike Ashford, D-Toledo, introduced a House bill that would regulate payday loan centers.
“We met with house leadership several times and we were promised probably eight months ago that they would act quickly on this,” Ruby said.
However, Ruby said the process is moving slowly so the group decided to take the issue straight to the voters.
“I wish other representatives took this as seriously as ours do,” Ruby said.
The Statehouse should move quicker to protect Ohioans from payday loans, Koehler said.
“My hope is we can pass something in the House and Senate to fix this the way it should be fixed,” he said.
Though he still hopes elected officials will fix the issue with a bipartisan vote, Koehler said he won’t stand in the group’s way of putting the issue on the ballot.
Ruby said he believes the group has the infrastructure in place to collect the 400,000 valid signatures across the state by the July 4 deadline.