Nevada lawmakers aim to strengthen consumer protections on payday loans

by Suzanne Potter

A state audit last year found almost one-third of payday lenders in Nevada fail to follow existing laws. (Kelly Griffith/Center for Economic Integrity)

CARSON CITY, Nev. – Two bills before the Nevada Legislature would tighten up the rules on payday lending, just as the Trump administration is proposing to loosen them.

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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently proposed lifting the requirement that payday lenders verify that borrowers can pay back a loan. State Sen. Yvanna Cancela, D-Las Vegas, just introduced SB201, a measure that would adopt certain provisions of the federal Military Lending Act, which would require the Commissioner of Financial Institutions to develop, implement and maintain a database storing certain information relating to deferred deposit loans, title loans and high-interest loans made to customers in Nevada. The bill would also prohibit a deposit loan or high-interest loan that exceeds or requires payments that exceed a certain percentage of the customer’s expected gross monthly income.

Dollar Loan Center has distributed a packet to lawmakers that argues that a database would hurt the payday-lending industry, leave borrowers with less choice and be a risk for data breaches.

A second bill, Assembly Bill 118 from Assemblywoman Heidi Swank, D-Las Vegas, would cap interest rates at 36 percent. Now, some payday loans have annual interest rates as high as 652 percent. Attempts at a similar cap have died in past legislative sessions.

The CFPB also has said it will no longer supervise payday lending to military members and only investigate once a complaint has been made. Therefore, Cancela’s bill would add protections from the federal Military Lending Act into state law. It caps interest rates at 36 percent for military members and their families.

“The CFPB has recently said, at the federal level, that they will be rolling back enforcement on that law,” she said, “and so my bill, it codifies the federal law into state law so that the enforcement of that law can continue at the state level, regardless of what happens at the federal level.”

Both bills are pending in committee, awaiting a hearing.