A coalition of veterans, church leaders and advocacy groups gathered at the Statehouse Monday to oppose legislation that would expand subprime lending in Indiana.
The bill, which narrowly passed the Senate, would create two new loan types with interest rates above the state’s felony loan sharking limit. The coalition also says the bill would redefine felony loan sharking, possibly allowing lenders to increase interest rates above the current 72 percent cap.
In 2007, President George W. Bush signed the Military Lending Act, which puts a 36 percent cap on payday loans for active-duty military members. However, Hoosier veterans say the law doesn’t protect them, reservists, or the Coast Guard.
Military Veterans Coalition vice chairman, General James Bauerle, says expanding high interest loans will hurt Hoosiers even more.
“If Senate Bill 613 becomes law, I predict Indiana will move close, if not to be no. 1 – the worst state in the nation for bankruptcies,” says Bauerle.
Purple Heart recipient Steven Bramer Jr. says payday lending has hurt him, and last week a fellow veteran died by suicide after talking about his financial difficulties. Bramer’s wife, Megan, says it’s easy for veterans like her husband to fall prey to unscrupulous lenders.
“A lot of these guys are on a fixed income. They don’t get more than what they get,” she says. “And life doesn’t care if your car breaks down, or your kid gets sick or you have a custody battle. Life doesn’t stop. Like I said impossible to live without these loans once you get them.”
Bramer urges legislators to kill the bill.
“There are many of us that have fought and bled and died for this country,” he says. “Please don’t forget about us. I protected you at one point, now it’s time for you to protect me.”
The bill is awaiting a hearing in the House Financial Institutions Committee.