There have been so many bad bills this session of the Virginia General Assembly, it’s hard to keep track of them all. Fortunately, the Democratic-controlled Senate has killed most of the truly heinous ones, whether on immigration or the environment or whatever else. However, some truly bad ones have made it through. For instance, take SB 1367, pushed by Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, which “[e]liminates provisions that prevent motor vehicle title lenders from making title loans to individuals whose motor vehicle is registered in another state.” As the Washington Post points out, this bill “preys on those desperate for fast cash, extending short-term loans that carry extremely high interest rates to those least able to repay them.” The Post continues:
…Borrowers who fall behind can lose their cars, which they often need for employment.
Officials in the District and Maryland, which have both adopted usury caps that have essentially stamped out car-title lending in their jurisdictions, had said they were concerned about the Virginia effort, fearful that it would encourage their citizens to cross into the commonwealth for fast cash.
Consumer advocates have said they believe the industry is protected by hefty campaign contributions. Registered car-title lenders have given Virginia politicians and parties more than $1 million since 2004.
Lovely, huh? Slimeballs spreading large amounts of money around to the Senate Majority Leader, among others, put a bill that favors their industry – and hurts everyone else – on the fast track to becoming law. As Tamara Dietrich points out in the Daily Press, Saslaw’s essentially acting as a “poodle for predatory lenders” — “not only is the Fairfax Democrat not reining in those legal loan sharks – he’s trying to widen their pool of hapless victims.” Believe it or not, this godawful bill passed the State Senate 32-3, with only Senators Edwards, Locke, and McEachin having the cojones to stand up against their fearless “leader.” Thank you to them, but what about everyone else?
And then we have the House of Delegates, which passed the bill 51-47, with a bizarre mix of liberals and conservatives voting “yea” and “nay” on the bill. For instance, conservative Republican Glenn Oder voted “nay,” along with liberals like David Englin, Patrick Hope, Scott Surovell, and Adam Ebbin. Meanwhile, the “aye” side included a bunch of Republicans, but also liberal Democrat Kaye Kory, conservadem Ward Armstrong, Arlington Democrat Bob Brink (WTF?!?), and slimeball-o-dems Lionell Spruill (also a religious bigot, on top of being a slimeball and a buffoon) and the reliably and consistently awful Johnny Joannou (“one of the most dependable Republican votes in the House of Delegates”).
So what’s going on here? I asked several Democratic members of the Virginia General Assembly, and was told: “I think there was some heavy lobbying going on;” “check the Post’s past coverage, which…gets into [Saslaw’s] relationships with the industry;” and also that “There’s a group of Rs (Oder, Cosgrove, Morgan, Bob Marshall etc.) who oppose title lending because they’re concerned about usury and exploitation.” But, in the end, Saslaw “leaned” on members – both in the Senate, and in the House of Delegates (I’m told) to support this bill, and guess what — it passed! Gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling on a cold, February morning, huh?