It’s Time to Reform the Predatory Lending Industry

Interest and fees trap low-income families in a cycle of debt | 850 vehicles a week repossessed by auto-title lenders | Legislature must act

Image: A loan store on South Cooper Street in Arlington. Khampha Bouaphanh Star-Telegram

BY CHRIS TURNER
Special to the Star-Telegram

Can you imagine taking out a $500 loan and it costing more than $1,100 to pay it back?

Every day in the Fort Worth-Arlington metro area, many of our neighbors are doing just that and paying up to 484 percent in interest and fees on small, short-term “payday” and auto-title loans.

These absurd interest rates are completely legal in Texas, due to the inaction of the Legislature, which refuses to pass meaningful reforms to rein in what is largely an unregulated industry.

As a result, payday and auto-title lenders are allowed to charge unlimited interest and fees, effectively trapping low-income families in a cycle of debt.

 

State Representative Chris Turner

The State of the State

This morning, Governor Greg Abbott delivered his first “State of the State” address to a joint session of the House and Senate. If you’ve never witnessed this address, it’s very similar to the “State of the Union,” but focused on the issues impacting Texas, while giving direction to the Legislature.

After touting our state’s successes, Governor Abbott focused on five emergency items, issues he wants the Legislature to address sooner than later. The issues include, education, transportation, border security, and ethics.

He didn’t go into many details, but I agree that education is a top priority and hope that Governor Abbott and the legislature really are serious about making real investments in pre-k, public education and higher education.

There was quite a bit of discussion about spending more, with an equal amount about cutting taxes and shifting funds. I have questions about how both will be achieved — spending money to improve the future of our state, while at the same time reducing revenue.

I was also disappointed that healthcare only received a passing mention. Governor Abbott focused some attention on the critical need to increase funding for the Women’s Health Program and PTSD treatment, but ignored the millions of Texans who need affordable health insurance. If we don’t find a solution soon, one in four Texans will remain without coverage and we’ll continue to be the state with the highest rate of uninsured in the nation.

Over the next several weeks, I’ll keep you posted on these issues. Please send me your thoughts on today’s speech and the issues that matter to you. You may email chris.turner@house.state.tx.us or call 512-463-0574.

Chris

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Last night, a federal judge out on hold the President’s executive action on immigration. This is an issue that impacts many in our community and I hope that the federal government is successful in fighting this decision. In the meantime, if you have any questions about this decision, please email emily.amps@house.state.tx.us.

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On Sunday, I joined The Dallas Morning News’ Gromer Jeffers and NBC 5’s Kristi Nelson on Lone Star Politics to talk about border security and proposed immigration legislation. You’ll see me 7 minutes 15 seconds into the video.

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Tomorrow’s a big day. The bus will leave at 6:00am sharp to head to Austin for Texas 101 Day at the Capitol. If you aren’t able to make it, join us virtually via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We’ll be posting pictures throughout the day!

If you are attending, but still need details, please call Tammy at 817-459-2800 today

Turner supports bill to create fund for Texas water, offers amendment to keep future bidding process transparent

AUSTIN — Paving the way for Texas to finally implement its plan to ensure adequate water supplies, the House voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to create a huge revolving loan account for community projects and conservation.

Star Telegram: “Double dipping” bill worthy of consideration

Last week, I filed my first bill of the session, HB 413, which will ban the “double-dipping” of a state pension and salary at the same time by elected officials. You may remember this issue from Governor Perry’s run for President when it was revealed that the governor has “retired” from state service in order to begin collecting a state pension – even though he was still on the job and collecting his regular salary.

It’s important to note that Governor Perry is almost certainly not the only elected official who is taking advantage of this loophole; he just happens to be the one we know about due to financial disclosures associated with his presidential campaign.

During the past few days, our legislation has received a good amount of media attention across the state, including this Fort Worth Star-Telegram editorial on Saturday:

fwst_r

Editorial

January 11, 2013

‘Double-dipping’ bill worthy of lawmakers’ careful consideration

Had Gov. Rick Perry not run for president, Texans might never have known that he had “retired” and was already collecting his pension, a practice permitted by a 1991 law that apparently few people — including present and past lawmakers — fully understood.

The pension records of Texas politicians are private, so unless someone discloses that he or she is receiving the monthly benefits, there is no way the public will know which officials are “double-dipping,” drawing a pension while also drawing a state salary.

As a presidential candidate, Perry had to file income statements with the Federal Election Commission, revealing that he is receiving more than $90,000 a year in pension payments in addition to his $150,000 annual pay as governor.

That revelation shocked many people around the state, as did news reported by the Texas Tribune earlier this year that the governor was “in an elite group of 189 employees who make at least $100,000 annually while drawing a state pension, according to figures provided by the state comptroller.”

 That practice will be stopped if State Rep. Chris Turner gets his way. On Wednesday Turner, D-Grand Prairie, filed House Bill 413, which would prevent “elected officials from collecting a salary and state pension at the same time, if their retirement payments are a result of their service as an elected official,” his office said in a new release.

Turner said his legislation, which would not be retroactive, is designed to ensure that if politicians “retire” to collect a pension they should truly retire and not collect a salary.

Otherwise, it is unfair for taxpayers to pay them twice.

The sponsor of the bill to revise the pension plan more than 20 years ago, former Democratic Sen. Bob Glasgow of Stephenville, did not realize the special double-dipping perk was in it, the Tribune reported, noting that the late Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock used the provision to supplement his income through the pension plan.

 It is a bad practice that legislators this session should correct, and Turner’s bill provides a vehicle for doing that.

This bill has also been covered in recent days by the Texas Tribune, the Dallas Morning News, KEYE-TV and KLIF-AM.

To keep the momentum going on this legislation, I need your help. Please forward this email to your contacts, share these stories on your Facebook page and tweet them out to your friends and family.

With your help, we can put an end to the double-dipping loophole this session.

Turner Hopes Legislature Can Tackle Issues Pragmatically

BY ANNA M. TINSLEY

This year’s Legislature will have a different look and feel. New faces will make up nearly a quarter of the Texas House, and many government watchers believe that this could be one of the most conservative sessions ever in Austin. Five of Tarrant County’s seven new House members are ranked among the top 12 freshman lawmakers expected to be the most conservative in the 83rd legislative session.

Rep.-elect Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, was the only local House freshman not to make Hailey’s list.

He said he hopes that both parties can work together.

“The Republicans no longer hold a supermajority, and as a result, there will be a greater need for bipartisanship and compromise,” Turner said. “It is my hope that we can tackle the issues facing our state pragmatically, not based on political rhetoric.”Our state is changing very rapidly, and all the members must take the needs of the changing population into account.”

Turner Calls for a Bipartisan Approach to Texas Issues

BY DAVE MONTGOMERY

The selection of a speaker will be one of the first orders of business in the 150-member House on Tuesday when lawmakers open their 140-day biennial session to deal with state spending and host of other issues.

Although Straus is favored to easily retain his post in the GOP-controlled House, Simpson’s challenge perpetuates an element of conservative dissent that has periodically dogged the speaker through his two terms in the leadership post. A threatened conservative uprising in 2011 evaporated when Straus’ two challengers withdrew.

Rep.-elect Chris Turner of Grand Prairie, a Democrat who will represent the new district in east Tarrant County, says he plans to cast his vote for the incumbent speaker and is calling for a more bipartisan approach in the Republican-controlled House to deal with issues such as health care, education and transportation.

“I think Straus is clearly going to be elected speaker again'” he said.

Turner: Congress Should Close Gun Show Loophole

BY ANNA M. TINSLEY AND SCOTT NISHIMURA

Each year countless guns change hands at thousands of guns shows nationwide — including quite a few in North Texas.

But the way those guns are sold could soon change if President Barack Obama and gun control advocates succeed in closing the “gun show loophole” that has been hotly debated for years as criminal justice officials explore ways to keep weapons out of the wrong hands.

… [S]tate Rep.-elect Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, said he believes closing the loophole is reasonable.

“I think we should have background checks for all gun purchases,” Turner said. “I think the American public expects that. We want to know when someone purchases a gun, there’s no criminal or other history that would prevent them from buying it.”

Turner: Perry Ignoring Issues that Matter to Texans

State Rep.-elect Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, said Perry should be keeping the focus on more pressing issues about government spending rather than focusing on politically charged social issues.

“Gov. Perry is once again ignoring the issues that matter to Texans, including reversing his devastating cuts to public schools and women’s health care, reducing the huge number of uninsured and investing in basic infrastructure so we can grow our economy.”The next legislative session is far too important to simply become a partisan sideshow in the governor’s 2016 presidential campaign.”

State Representative Chris Turner

Thank You!

Thank you. With early voting results in, I’m humbled to say that we’re at 90 percent of the vote and headed back to Austin.

We have much to celebrate tonight, and Lisa and I cannot thank you enough. Our victory is the result of the hundreds of volunteers and donors and the thousands of voters in District 101 who believe we need change in Austin and want to have a representative who is not afraid to stand up to the special interests and partisan agendas. I am so honored that the voters have placed their trust in me to fight for their families in our state’s capitol.

So tonight, let’s celebrate. Tomorrow, I’m going back to work for the people of Arlington and Grand Prairie and promise to do my very best to represent you well in the Texas House of Representatives.

With much gratitude,

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