Who does the legislature represent when regulating payday loans?


I wasn’t in Jefferson City to see the moment on May 4th when city officials said State Representative Curtis Trent was undermining Springfield’s efforts to regulate the local payday loan industry.

But somehow I feel like I can smell the moment.

And it didn’t smell very good to me.

Trent is a Republican who represents District 133, which includes Battlefield and much of southwest Springfield. He is an attorney and former deputy chief of staff to Congressman Billy Long.

My first thought was that Trent might have received a campaign contribution from the payday loan industry.

Thats only me.

Not that it’s illegal to take money out of the payday loan industry and then poke your nose into a matter to protect that industry.

After all, in these times of unemployment and financial struggle, someone in Missouri has to stand up and fight for a billion dollar industry that charges poor people 300 percent and more in short-term interest.

I checked online campaign funding records for Friends of Curtis Trent, and boy, he must have a lot of friends.

One of his friends is Stand Up Missouri, which describes itself as “a non-partisan coalition of consumers, businesses, civic groups and religious organizations that have come together to protect access to safe and affordable credit options.”

In other words, it advocates the payday loan industry.

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A bill that was first forgotten, then risen again

How do I know?

For many years, Stand Up Missouri has appeared in news stories across the state, including the News Leader, in its ongoing struggle for truth, justice, and thwarting all efforts that cities and the state have made to help poor people by capping yearly Help interest rates that have reached up to 1,000 percent.

Stand Up Missouri presents Friends of Curtis Trent with a check for $ 1,000. It was received on October 3rd. The group also gave him $ 500 in 2019.

On February 27th, Trent introduced House Bill 2730.

The bill would have changed state law so that cities like Springfield would not be able to charge a license fee from companies that offer consumer credit if the city does not collect similar fees from other lending institutions like banks.

In addition, it would have changed the law so that short-term lenders who went to court to challenge new restrictions or fees would automatically be entitled to costs, including legal fees.

Trent’s bill, introduced on February 27, went nowhere. It never had a public hearing. It was never carefully examined. It was quickly forgotten.

Until May 4th.

At that time, Trent introduced it as a supplement to a far-reaching omnibus law for financial institutions. The bill was passed by the Senate the next day. It becomes law unless Republican Governor Mike Parson vetoed it.

On the same evening of May 4th, Springfield City Council passed its own payday loan bill. The vote was 9-0. The city is home to 21 payday loan companies.

Elected city officials have grappled with payday loans for years and eventually passed the law after delegating a job of leading citizens to investigate the problem.

None of this seemed to bother Trent, our Big Brother in Jeff City.

The city plans to charge payday lenders an annual license fee of $ 5,000.

The money would be used to enforce city rules, help the indebted, and provide alternatives to short-term credit.

Of course, you’d think Trent would consult with city officials before including his language on the bill.

It doesn’t, Mayor Ken McClure tells me.

“That came as a surprise,” he says. “Nobody had the opportunity to comment on it.”

Councilor Mike Shilling endorsed the city’s ordinance regulating payday loans. He represents Zone 3, the part of the city that is part of the Legislative District of Trent.

Yes, says Schilling, Trent called him.

On May 8th he called Schilling – four days later. Schilling did not answer.

“We were kind of blind,” Schilling tells me.

“Lobbyists were running wild in Jefferson City – I was told – in the last few days of the session,” says Schilling.

I tried to speak to Trent. I started early because I had a hunch I wouldn’t hear from him. I called him Wednesday. I called him Thursday. I called him on Friday.

I specifically stated that I wanted to talk about payday loans and how, if anything, the impact, if anything, of Stand Up Missouri’s contributions on his decision to jump into the fray when the clock ran out during the session. I explicitly told him that this story should run on Sunday.

Trent either received one of my messages or knew telepathically that I was trying to reach him because his legislative adviser Christine Bondurant called me on Friday.

She said Trent wanted to know what I wanted. I told her.

She said he was unavailable on Friday.


“He’s on the way.”


“I’m not sure. I just know he’s very busy and traveling a lot and doing what reps do.”

More Pokin in the area:

Since I don’t know when Trent will find the time to stop and take a break, I’ll tell you what he told the news leader in a news story earlier this month.

“Nothing is stopping the city from enacting its payday loans,” he said. “Stopping the city ordinance was not intended, and I don’t expect it will have any effect.”

Trent and other Republicans make a distinction between what are known as “payday loans” or “car title loans” and consumer installment loans.

Payday loans must be less than $ 500 and are expected to be repaid within weeks; Installment loans can be larger and are repaid over four or more months.

Mayors McClure and Brian Fogle say many of the same companies that offer payday loans offer consumer installment loans. They say consumer installment loans are still predatory, but less so than payday loans.

Fogle is president of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks and a former banker. He was with others on the town’s payday loan assignment, including Mark Struckhoff, the former executive director of the Council of Churches of the Ozarks.

Struckhoff questions who Trent represents.

“I don’t think he represents voters,” he tells me. “The obvious answer is that he represents the payday loan industry.”

Seems like “intimidation”

Susan Schmalzbauer of Faith Voices of Southwest Missouri points out that the language Trent added is an invitation to the short-term loan industry to sue cities like Springfield that are enacting regulations.

The amendment states that if the industry sues and wins, the community will automatically reimburse all legal fees.

Why? She asks.

In most civil suits, plaintiffs can seek compensation.

Why does Trent specifically want damages that are automatically awarded if the plaintiff wins?

“That seems to intimidate cities,” says Schmalzbauer.

To better understand consumer installment loans – and how they might differ in terms of interest rates – I went to the Advance America home page, Cash Advance Centers Inc., Missouri.

It has three locations in Springfield: 2419 S. Campbell Ave .; 3548 S. Campbell Ave .; and 2639 N. Kansas Expressway.

I went through the steps to apply for a $ 1,000 online loan without actually receiving one. Who couldn’t use $ 1,000 to pay bills during this pandemic?

If I paid off my $ 1,000 loan in six months with 12 bi-weekly payments … my borrowing fee would be $ 1,063.

With an APR of 348 percent.

It occurs to me that maybe our elected officials should pass a law that allows lobbyists to easily vote on the many bills they actually write themselves.

Missouri could save a lot of money by eliminating the middlemen, the legislators themselves.

These are the views of News Leader columnist Steve Pokin, who has been with the newspaper for eight years and has covered everything from courts and cops to features and fitness throughout his career. He can be reached at 836-1253, [email protected], on Twitter @stevepokinNL, or by email at 651 Boonville Ave., Springfield, MO 65806.


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