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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity-backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He also has an MBA from the University of South Florida. ...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: May 1, 2012

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On March 14, 2012, a payday lending bill, HB 2191, was introduced to Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives. The bill would make it legal for payday lenders to establish operations throughout the state.

Introduced by Rep. Chris Ross, R-Chester, and supported by a handful of representatives from both sides of the aisle, HB 2191 has incited a large public backlash.

“We have heard they will try to pass it next month without debate,” said Greg Simmons, a manager at Action Housing, a nonprofit financial literary group based in Pennsylvania, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Opponents believe this bill will lead to the colonization of predatory lenders that have only their profits and not the well being of Pennsylvania’s people in mind.

For that reason, Rep. Pete Daley, a Democrat from Washington County said he would not sponsor HB 2191.

“As Democratic chairman of the Commerce/Banking Committee, when I support something it gives it a difference [sic] credence,” said Daley to the Gazette. He continued to say that that he would not support the proposal “until we get better language in the bill.”

But Ross says that despite what opponents are saying, HB 2191 is not against the public, but instead was proposed to better serve the public.

“What we have now is a totally unregulated industry, with no rules, and tremendous opportunity for the consumer to be taken advantage of,” the sponsoring Republican told a reporter for Philly.com.

Ross argues that since payday loan lenders are not permitted to establish physical locations in the state of Pennsylvania, they lure Pennsylvanians into financing agreements through online websites. Online payday lenders often skirt state-specific laws and subject borrowers to higher interest rates and fees than those borrowers would otherwise from a state-regulated lender.

But Kerry Smith, a lawyer at Philadelphia Community Legal Services, feels that is a weak argument.

“What they’re doing is saying, ‘Look, a few people are finding internet payday loans at 300 percent or higher, so to protect them we should legalize these loans in Pennsylvania,’” she told Phillo.com. “The only think this bill does is legalize loan-sharking. It is not a consumer protection bill.”

HB 2191 is scheduled to go through a hearing before the House Consumer Affairs Committee on Thursday of this week.