OK State Legislature Updates: New Threats to Low Income Oklahomans

Late Monday of last week, just days before the deadline for passing bills out of committee, we learned that last-minute language had been put into two measures that were introduced as "shell bills". These bills suddenly became serious threats to Oklahoma families who are already struggling to get by.

HB 1913 creates a new high-cost loan product that would allow lenders to offer loans up to $1,500 with interest charges of 17 percent per month. HB 1270 provides for "extreme vetting" of applicants for food assistance (SNAP) and health care (SoonerCare) and does away with a program that simplifies and streamlines eligibility. both bills passed out of committee last Tuesday and are now eligible to be heard by the full House of Representatives in the next three weeks.

New High-Cost Loan Product – HB 1913

HB 1913 by Rep. Chris Kannady (R-OKC) would create a new high-cost loan product in Oklahoma, known as a "Small Loan." These loans would be extremely expensive. Borrowers could be charged interest of 17 percent per month, which amounts to an Annual Percentage Rate of 204 percent. Borrowers could be charged cumulative interest of $2,108 on a 12-month, $1,500 loan.

This new loan product is viewed by some as unnecessary. Oklahoma consumers in financial need already have plentiful borrowing options, including “A” loans (over $1,470); “B” loans, or signature loans (up to $1,470), as well as payday loans. "A" loans and "B" loans are much less expensive than the Small Loans proposed in HB 1913. Some believe that this bill is an effort by the payday loan industry to add another high-cost product that will catch thousands more struggling working families in a debt trap.

If HB1913 is of concern to you or your industry, please call or email your House member and tell them to protect Oklahoma consumers by voting No on HB 1913. You can find your legislator here. Identify yourself as a constituent. If you or someone you know has been affected by high-cost loans, please share your story.

Please also consider doing the following:

· Call or email the bill’s author, Rep. Chris Kannady, and express your opposition to HB 1913: 405-557-7337; chris.kannady

· Call or email House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols and ask that he not schedule HB 1913 for a vote: 405-557-7354; jon.echols

For talking points on opposition to HB 1913 and advocacy tips, please visit: http://okpolicy.org/stop-a-new-high-cost-loan-product/

New Expensive Mandates on State Agencies – HB 1270

HB 1270 by Rep. Elise Hall (R-Bethany) would require the Oklahoma Health Care Authority and Department of Human Services to create redundant administrative burdens for SoonerCare (Medicaid) and SNAP (food stamps), the two largest safety net programs that serve hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans, mostly children, parents, seniors, and individuals with disabilities.

This cookie-cutter legislation drafted by a national advocacy group is a solution in search of a problem. The fact is, Department of Human Services and the Oklahoma Health Care Authority already conduct extensive verification of applicants for food assistance and health care, and the error rates in these programs are low. DHS estimates that compliance with HB 1270 would require them to hire 400-500 additional workers, at a cost of $9 million to $11 million every year — money that would be taken directly away from what’s available for food aid. This would add new burdens on state agencies that are already understaffed and underfunded, while diverting scarce resources away from providing help to those in need.

Please contact your House member and urge him or her to Vote No on HB 1270. You can find your House member here, or call the House switchboard at (405) 521-2711. Identify yourself as a constituent. You can use the talking points below to help craft your message. If you or someone you know is helped by SoonerCare or SNAP, please share your story.

Please also consider doing the following:

· Call or email the bill’s author, Rep. Elise Hall, and express your opposition to HB 1270: 405-557-7403; elise.hall

· Call or email House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols and ask that he not schedule HB 1270 for a vote: 405-557-7354; jon.echols

For more information on the bill, a set of talking points, and advocacy tips, please visit: http://okpolicy.org/oppose-new-expensive-mandates-state-agencies-hb-1270/

Your voice really does make a difference. Please let your elected representatives know when proposed legislation doesn’t represent your organization or your priorities.

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