Terry Ganey has a must-read story in the Tribune today about the Financial Institutions Committee committee hearing led last night by Rep. Don Wells (R-Cabool). Though Speaker Ron Richard (finally) assigned Rep. Mary Still's payday loan reform legislation to the committee on Monday, Wells and Chairman Michael Cunningham (R-Rogersville) chose to hold a "presentation on lending" -- but not consider Still's bill. Ganey:
No hearing was scheduled on Still’s bill, but a vague notice for the committee meeting last night said there would be a "presentation on lending.” The presentation, a pre-emptive strike on Still’s bill, turned out to be all in favor of payday loans.
On hand were the industries’ lobbyists, John Bardgett of QC Financial Services, Randy Scherr representing United Payday Lenders and Mark Rhoads of Cash America International. The committee was shown a short video explaining the process of getting a payday loan from Advance America...
After Still questioned Wells about the fairness of the meeting, Wells responded that he wanted the committee to have answers about the benefits of payday lending. He said Still could have her arguments heard when the bill came up on the House floor, which is unlikely at this point.
In an interview, Wells said he did not believe the process was unfair. He said the chairman of the committee, Rep. Michael Cunningham, R-Rogersville, was absent and had asked him to hold the presentation. Wells, who is vice chairman, said it would be up to Cunningham to decide whether Still’s bill gets a hearing.
Not exactly standard protocol. But not entirely shocking, given Wells' personal financial interests and campaign contributions. More Ganey:
State Rep. Don Wells, a Republican from Cabool, believes payday loan companies provide a great service. That’s not surprising because he owns Kwik Kash, a payday loan business...
State Division of Finance payday lending records show Wells does business as “Kwik Kash” in Cabool. Wells’ personal finance disclosure statement filed with the Ethics Commission lists Kwik Kash as a sole proprietorship that handles “small, small loans.”
Records show Wells’ political committee, Wells and Friends, received $1,000 in campaign contributions last year from QC Holdings, $500 from Advance America and $250 from Cash America.
I'd like to hear more about why Wells thinks its okay to hold invitation-only
committee hearings commercials to protect his own predatory business, and not actually consider legislation that should be before the committee.