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Ohio rejects payday loan petitions led by Springfield pastor

A petition seeking to put a state constitutional amendment on November’s ballot to restrict payday lending in Ohio was rejected by the state.

Carl Ruby, a Springfield pastor and activist, is leading the statewide initiative and said the rejection is disappointing but not fatal to the cause.

“Making these changes sets us back a few weeks but has no impact on our long-term goals,” he said. “We are determined to get Ohio borrowers the protection they deserve.”

The Ohio Attorney’s General’s Office said language on a petition submitted to the office had wording issues. The office pointed to the summary of the petition and said it lacked or contradicted important information inside the petition.

Earlier this month, leaders of the effort submitted petition language and signatures from about 2,000 Ohio voters to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. The group will have to recollect the signatures and resubmit the petition to the attorney general’s office. Once approved, the group will then need to collect more than 305,000 valid voter signatures by July 4 to qualify for the November ballot.

PREVIOUSLY: Springfield pastor wants to put payday loan limits on ballot

Proponents of the constitutional amendment say the industry takes advantage of the poor and charges up to 591 percent interest for loans.

Industry spokesman Pat Crowley said short-term loan lenders serve many Ohioans fairly and opponents misrepresent facts about the industry. He told the Springfield News-Sun last year the industry charges fees, not interest rates. Their services help people pay medical bills and buy groceries, or “everyday things that people need to survive,” he has said.

Springfield has 13 such stores are in Springfield and Urbana, many clustered on East Main and South Limestone streets. Ohio in all 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.

The group behind the petition is confident they will be able to get the required signatures again and will resubmit shortly, Ruby said.

“It was relatively easy to get the 1,000 signatures needed to file the petition,” Ruby said. “We actually had twice the amount needed and expect many of the same people to sign again.”

MORE: Backers advance ballot measure capping payday interest rates

The group will continue to work to see the ballot question voted on, fellow leader Nate Coffman said.

“We realize this sometimes happens with ballot proposals, and we can easily comply with the change needed. We will keep moving forward and are unwavering in our commitment to reform Ohio’s most-expensive-in-the-nation status for payday loans.”

Originally, the group planned to work through the Ohio legislature, Ruby said, and state Rep. Kyle Koehler, R-Springfield, along with state Rep. Mike Ashford, D-Toledo, introduced a House bill that would regulate payday loan centers. However, that bill has sat in committee for almost a year now and the group has gotten tired of waiting.

“As we have previously stated, we don’t care how Ohio achieves payday lending reform, so long as it happens,” Coffman said.

READ: Loophole hurts payday loan borrowers in Ohio

Koehler supports the amendment and has sponsored the legislation that is stuck in committee.

“I continue to support both efforts to reform payday lending in Ohio,” Koehler said. “People in Ohio continue to be taken advantage of because 650 paddy lending storefronts continue to skirt the law passed in 2008.”

The services are important, he said, but companies need to be forced to follow strict guidelines.

“Individuals in Ohio need access to this type of credit without being preyed on by companies that don’t follow the Short Term Loan Act,” he said. “I am hoping to submit substitute language for House Bill 123 that is based on input from all parties that have offered input in the last 12 months. “

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