At our IFCL meeting on Saturday April 6, 2019, we learned that SB 613 was having a hearing in the House Finance Committee. This the bill that has given Gov. Holcomb “heartburn”, because it would allow out of state lenders to legally offer short term loans above the state’s previously defined loan sharking rate of 76%. Some of the “products” could have interest rates of 167%.
IFCL has been working with a coalition of churches and non-profit organizations that has given testimony to our legislators about the negative impact this kind of lending would have on our most economically vulnerable Hoosier citizens. Despite the strong testimony given, SB 613 kept moving through the Senate and had crossed over to the House.
Our coalition partners encouraged IFCL members to attend the hearing and be a presence during the committee hearing. Our leaders were told that signs would be distributed to silently voice our concerns and that various media would be present.
On Sunday during unprogrammed worship, SB 613 was on my heart. I thought about what a terrible burden these kind of loans would have on someone who is working a minimum wage job with an emergency spending need. How could they ever repay a loan with that kind of interest rate? Into my mind came a thought: Usury is evil. Teachings of the early church forbade members to loan money at interest. I didn’t want to carry a sign; I decided to get a T-shirt that reminded legislators, that usury is wrong and that there are better ways to help people through a crisis.
I consulted Pastor Bob about the wording I was planning to use and I tried to find a vendor who could print on a T-shirt. No one could give me a one day turn around, so I bought a fabric transfer kit from Staples and put the following on my shirt, front and back: “USURY IS EVIL Quakers against Payday Lending.” On Tuesday morning, our Quaker contingent traveled to the Statehouse and found the hearing chamber. Most legislators were not in the room yet, and I felt moved to take a front row seat, where I stood silently as the legislators walked past me to take their seats. An 11th hour amendment had been added to this very bad bill which legislators had received 45 minutes prior to the hearing. The bill sponsor tried to convince committee members that this was a needed product and that having a high interest rate was justified for serving high risk population and that this would help build credit. Despite some excellent questions asked by committee members, the bill and amendment was passed along party lines.
We felt depressed and defeated that such a bad bill could be approved. However, several people loved the T-shirt that I was wearing. They wanted pictures and the news media wanted interviews with me and other members of our group. We felt that there might be hope and we went to meet with several House members to share our concerns about this bill and that Quakers were against it. Later we heard that SB 613 was covered in the IndyStar, Channel 59, the Statehouse Files and Indiana Legislative Review.
Today we learned that SB 613 failed to move forward in the House. The actions of many people helped defeat this terrible bill. A little inspiration during unprogrammed worship and being obedient to the vision certainly helped raise awareness before the public.