In an effort to protect soldiers based in Texas from lenders who offer fast cash payday loans with exorbitant, sometimes hidden, interest rates the Senate today passed SB 1479, by El Paso Senator Eliot Shapleigh. Soldiers are prime targets for these predatory lenders, said Shapleigh, because they have a regular pay check, do not get laid off, and because the lenders know they can contact the base commanders of soldiers who are delinquent in payment. Shapleigh added that many enlisted men are young and relatively naive when it comes to financial matters, so they may agree to a loan with a large interest rate without fully understanding the consequences. "I believe companies that would prey on soldiers are abhorrent," said Shapleigh. "What we're trying to do is have soldiers make informed decisions and protect them from abuse."
SB 1479 would prohibit payday lenders from garnishing soldiers' paychecks to collect payment, and would forbid them from contacting a commanding officer to collect. The bill would also prevent a lender from attempting to collect from a soldier's spouse if the soldier has been deployed. Payday lenders must also clearly disclose these regulations, and, if a base commander ordered a certain lender to be off-limits to base soldiers, that lender must honor that order and not lend to soldiers from that base. Senator Craig Estes of Wichita Falls represents the base with the most payday lenders per capita, Shepphard Air Force Base. He applauded the passage of SB 1479. "We want to make sure that there is full disclosure," said Estes. "We want to make sure that if the base commander intervenes in this problem that it is prominently noted, and this is good for our military communities and good for our military."
Shapleigh also highlighted the passage of another piece of legislation, SB 506, which was approved by the Senate last week. SB 506, by Shapleigh, would prohibit an insurance underwriter from offering life insurance to a soldier without notifying him or her that the federal government offers policies to soldiers that are often much cheaper. This bill, combined with SB 1479, said Shapleigh, helps the state prevent companies from making an unfair profit from Texas-based soldiers.
The Senate State Affairs committee began deliberations today on SB 15, by Galveston Senator Kyle Janek, which seeks to reduce the backlog of asbestos- and silica-related lawsuits in the state's courts. SB 15 would move individuals who have been diagnosed with an actual asbestos- or silica-induced illness to the front of the court dockets. It would also remove the statute of limitations from making a claim for damages following exposure to asbestos or silica. Once exposure has been determined, a claimant has two years in which to file a lawsuit, often before an actual illness has developed. Plaintiffs who sue before actual sickness occurs could receive a settlement far less than they would be entitled to had they been afflicted with a demonstrable illness.
The Senate will reconvene Tuesday, April 12, at 11 a.m.