Abilene residents split on payday lending ordinance at first hearing


ABILENE, Texas - An ordinance to regulate payday lending took a political turn during Thursday's city council meeting.

Current city councilman and mayoral candidate Anthony Williams made a comment regarding his rival in the mayoral race, Robert Briley. Williams highlighted the similarities between payday lenders and rent-to-own businesses. Briley owns several rent-to-own stores in the Abilene and West Texas. "We know payday lending and rent-to-own entities take advantage of certain segments," Williams said.

KTXS asked Williams during the break if he meant the comment as a jab on his political opponent.

"No and it if came across like that it wasn't intended to as much as it was trying to understand decision ahead of us with pay day lending," Williams said.

Briley decided not to comment at this time.

The topic was broached after the city received feedback from advocates for low-income residents. Abilene City Attorney Stanley Smith talked about what effect the ordinance would have on payday loans.

"The credit access business can only loan up to a certain amount based upon the income of that individual or the value of the vehicle. It talks about how many installments they can have," said Smith said.

This was just the first reading, but Abilene Mayor Norm Archibald opened the discussion to the public. This topic brought many people from both sides to the stand. Some even had shirts that said, "Stop the ordinance."

"The biggest detail that we know so far as business owners is [the ordinance] causes a massive amount of closures of businesses," said Michael Brown, with the Texas Organization of Financial Service Centers. "Over the last four years, we've had almost 1,500 stores go out of business across the state."

Brown said it should be handled at the federal or state level because cities aren't experts in regulating these types of businesses.

Jen Rogers, with Abilene Fair Lending, wants council to approve this ordinance. Rogers said poor residents should have the same treatment as those who go to a bank for loans.

"We've seen firsthand the damage that can be done by these kinds of loans. We're here to protect our citizens from the predatory practices of these payday lenders," Rogers said.

Council approved to move this ordinance forward to the second reading. There will be a public hearing at the next city council meeting on April 27.

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