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No rest for either side in Va. payday lending debate

December 29, 2007

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Both sides in the payday lending debate are gearing up for the upcoming General Assembly session.Religious groups, business organizations, advocates for the poor and others say they can't compete with the money that payday lenders spend on lobbyists, donations to legislators and ads touting themselves as a helping hand to those in need.Industry officials say it's tough going up against influential voices at the legislature, like the faith community, NAACP, AARP, and Better Business Bureaus of Virginia.According to the state Bureau of Financial Institutions, about 434,000 people in Virginia took out almost 3.6 million loans last year -- worth $1.3 billion.Opponents hope to persuade legislators to cap the annual interest rate payday lenders can charge at 36%.But Advance America spokesman Jamie Fulmer says a rate cap would force payday lenders out of business.

The Reverend Douglas Smith at the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy opposes payday lending and likens the debate to the story of David and Goliath. He says ... quote ... "the faith community knows how that story ends."

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