Friday, January 19, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Payday loans overdue for reforms

Any regulation of the payday loan industry is welcome. Consumers should be shielded from loans that look short-term but come with triple-digit interest rates and trap borrowers in long-term debt. Federal banking regulators are on the verge of telling big banks to stop their worst practices, and that's good news. The industry has operated with few constraints for too long.

There are 1,300 payday lenders in Florida, and many of them operate from storefronts in less affluent communities. But there are also a handful of banks willing to risk their reputations to do what amounts to legal usury, including Wells Fargo Bank, U.S. Bank, Regions Bank, Fifth Third Bank, Guaranty Bank and the Bank of Oklahoma. Their practices have drawn the attention of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., both of which have proposed new rules to protect consumers. One essential change is that banks would have to first determine whether a borrower has the ability to repay the principal and interest charges of payday loans — rules that are similar to mortgage requirements under the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. This change alone would help keep borrowers from being caught in cycles of debt.

Bank payday lenders say they are providing a needed service, but the industry profits from people who are financially unsophisticated and vulnerable. Seniors represent more than a quarter of payday borrowers, according to the Center for Responsible Lending. Just like storefront payday lenders, banks charge high interest rates of up to 300 percent. The loans operate off a bank checking account. Borrowers take "advances" from their directly deposited paychecks, disability or Social Security checks. Banks then first repay themselves along with interest and origination fees.

Problems for borrowers arise when they don't have enough money left to pay their monthly expenses and must take out another loan. And if borrowers' accounts can't cover the loan, overdraft fees start piling up. Payday loan borrowers are about twice as likely to face them, according to the center.

To stop this churning, regulators are expected to require a 30-day cooling-off period. No loan could be offered to a borrower until 30 days after all prior loans are paid off. And consumers would have to be given clear and accurate information on interest rates, something that doesn't always happen now.

Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, recently called payday and direct-deposit loans "debt traps." All of this regulatory attention is a hopeful sign that payday loans may finally be reformed.

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Editorial: Confronting racial distrust in St. Petersburg, one conversation at a time

The St. Petersburg Police Department’s heavy presence in Midtown on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the community animosity it stirred have raised a familiar, troubling question: Can St. Petersburg’s racial divisions ever be reconciled?That big ideal ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

A surge of Democrats seeking local legislative offices and hoping for a "blue wave" in the 2018 election continued last week, led by Bob Buesing filing to run again versus state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa.In addition:• Heather Kenyon Stahl of Tampa has...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

The smiles, applause and at least one hug belied the grim impetus for a gathering last week at a neighborhood center in Tampa — the Seminole Heights killings.The Tampa Police Department held a ceremony to thank those who helped in the investigation t...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Editorial: State’s warning shot should get attention of Hillsborough schools

The state Board of Education hopefully sent the message this week with its warning shot about the slow pace of the turnaround at Hillsborough County’s low-performing schools.The board criticized the school system for failing to replace administrators...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Published: 01/18/18

Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Published: 01/17/18
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

A substitute teacher at a Plant City elementary school berated a class of fourth graders — and then the school principal. Another compared a student to a stripper. Others were caught napping, hitting children, making sexual remarks, giving students b...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18

Another voice: Why just Florida?

Cynicism has always been a part of politics, but rarely are politicians so brazen and self-serving as President Donald Trump and his interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, have been over the past week. First they announced a new offshore drilling plan that ...
Published: 01/16/18