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– An open letter to state leaders
– Out of touch

An open letter to state leaders
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As a new decade begins, this letter is sent to the leaders of the executive and legislative branches of Virginia government with best wishes for success in addressing the difficult issues facing the state and its citizens in 2010 and beyond. The economy, jobs, education, the budget, and transportation among other issues make up a daunting agenda for Virginia. As witnessed in the nation’s capitol this year, one or two complex and controversial issues can dominate the agenda and divide the parties, resulting in gridlock. With your leadership we believe that Virginia can avoid the problems and pitfalls of the Washington scene and make this legislative session a success for our state and all of its citizens.

In that context, we bring to your attention an issue that has plagued the General Assembly and the state for many years and that is the issue of predatory lending. Unfortunately, Virginia is a state that has been a perennial haven for predatory lending of all stripes including payday, car title, and open-ended lending. By any other name, predatory lending is legalized usury and in practice means annual interest rates of 400% or more along with devious schemes to trap the borrower in a cycle of debt leading to bankruptcy, foreclosures, and financial ruin.

With its business friendly attitude, Virginia has attempted to establish a middle ground with these lenders and has passed legislation intended to soften the consequences of these lending schemes for middle and working class Virginians. Any success of these measures has been limited in scope and success as the agile and resilient usurers find loopholes and alternatives to advance their nefarious lending practices.

Fortunately, predatory lending and usury are not as complex as economic and health care reform and the change required to remove the stain of usury is simple: a 36 percent cap on all forms of lending with no additional fees. This solution has the support of an overwhelming majority of citizens, local governments, and businesses throughout the state. As one example of this support, in 2008, 60 county and local governments representing over 60 percent of the population of Virginia sent petitions to the General Assembly requesting this change. However, the one obstacle to achieving this reform is major: the predatory lending lobby is perhaps the most influential, powerful and richest lobby in Richmond and they have, year after year, stymied this real and simple reform against usury and economic tyranny.

We ask for your support and leadership in passing this legislation this year. We would appreciate a public response to this request.

– Michael H. Lane
Ward R. Scull, lll
Co-founders, Virginians Against Payday Loans


Out of touch

Who you gonna call? Let’s hope it’s not your state Senator or Delegate, because you might have a tough time reaching them.

When I dialed the General Assembly constituent viewpoint line yesterday, I was surprised to get an out of service message. For years I have used an 800 number to communicate with my state representatives in Richmond. With the rapid pace of the General Assembly, I like that I could—easily and without charge—reach out and get a message to my representatives in Richmond. Now, it seems that they have cut the line as a “cost saving measure.”

I am in favor of Richmond tightening its belt like the rest of the state, but I think this was an important service that helped constituents hold their Delegates and Senators accountable. I cannot help but wonder if cutting the constituent line was really due to the budget or if the budget served as the perfect excuse to turn a deaf ear to constituents’ concerns.

I will try to find other ways to communicate with my legislators and hope others will as well. However, limiting the ways in which we can hold our legislators accountable is unacceptable, recession or not.

– Paul Moceri, Norton



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