That’s a remarkable turnabout. Koehler and Ashford’s bill was all but ignored by legislative leaders after the bill was introduced in March 2017. But three months ago, then-Speaker Clifford Rosenberger, a Clinton County Republican, resigned. It turned out that the FBI was investigating a London junket Rosenberger took. The junket included payday loan lobbyists.
If you want to do to a General Assembly member what garlic does to a vampire, mention the term "FBI" within earshot of the Statehouse. Given the scuttlebutt surrounding Rosenberger's resignation, there was no way the legislature's Republicans couldn't pass some kind of payday lending reform. The question was whether the bill would have teeth. Koehler's HB 123 does – and Senate Republicans sharpened them.
Still, the nine Senate Republicans who voted “no” on HB 123 live in counties that voted “yes” on a 2008 statewide referendum that capped payday loan APRs at 28 percent. For example, Sen. Bob Hackett, of London, represents Clark, Greene and Madison counties. He voted “no” on HB 123. In 2008, 64 percent of those voting on the issue in Clark County supported capping payday loan APRs; so did 66 percent of those voting in Greene County, and 65 percent of those voting in Madison County. Also voting “no” on HB 123 was Sen. William P. Coley II, who represents parts of Butler County. In 2008, 59 percent of those voting on the issue in Butler County supported capping payday loan APRs.
True, as the Anglo-Irish statesman Edmund Burke told constituents in the 1700s, a legislator must use his or her judgment in deciding issues rather than just be a loudspeaker for the opinions of the folks back home. But as to payday lending, the folks back home didn’t just sound off. They voted.