Payday lending customers would have longer to repay their loan under a bill approved Thursday by the Alabama Senate, which marks the latest attempt to cap the interest rates charged with the short term loans.
The bill by Republican Sen. Arthur Orr of Decatur would give borrowers 30 days to repay a loan instead of as little as 10 days. Orr said the change would give people a better opportunity to pay off the loan. Senators approved the bill on a 20-4 vote.
"It's just to extend the loan term, like a car loan, a credit card payment or a mortgage payment," Orr said.
He said the change would drop the effective yearly interest rate from 450 percent APR to 220 percent APR.
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With payday loans, borrowers pay a flat fee of up to $17.50 per $100 to borrow money for a period of 10 to 14 days. Critics argue that the loans can become a predatory lending trap when people borrow more money when they can't pay off the first loan. Industry backers say lenders provide a service to cash-strapped people who have few alternatives.
Republican Sen. Tom Whatley of Auburn filibustered the bill for about an hour, naming various employees at payday loan shops around the state who would be at risk of losing their jobs if the bill passed.
"Those are people who will be losing their jobs," Whatley said.
The bill now moves to the Alabama House of Representatives, which Orr said has been a "Bermuda Triangle" for past reform efforts. The Alabama Senate in 2016 approved a Colorado-style restriction on the payday loan industry that would give borrowers up to six months to repay the loan. The bill did not clear the House.