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COLUMBIA, S.C. – It’s been an ongoing effort for the past four years, but the executive vice president of the South Carolina Credit Union League is hopeful the state’s predatory lending bill will have better luck this time around when the state legislature convenes in January 2003. What’s different this year? The upcoming statewide elections, said the League’s Steve Fowler. “A state predatory lending bill is being discussed as a campaign issue, and we have more support this time around,” he said. A state predatory lending bill was introduced in earlier sessions of the state legislature, but it never made it to the floor of either the state House or Assembly for a full vote. In addition, Fowler said Gov. Jim Hodges in the past has “sat on the fence” when it comes to predatory lending. With the governor’s seat up for election, Hodges is singing a different tune this time around. Fowler said although Hodges “hasn’t taken a particularly strong stance, at least we’ve been able to move him.” When questioned, for example, how he feels about predatory lending, Fowler said “Hodges usually says he against it.” Hodges is running for reelection against former U.S. Congressman Mark Sanford (R-1st). What makes the race interesting for the South Carolina League is that Sanford was a co-sponsor of H.R. 1151, the Credit Union Membership Access Act, while Hodges was a leading sponsor of the state’s recodified credit union act in 1996. Without choosing sides, Fowler said the League has encouraged credit unions to simply get involved in the race, because “regardless of who wins, it will be a win-win situation for credit unions. Whoever wins, we’ll have a friend in the governor’s seat. Whoever loses will know that credit unions supported his election.” Fowler said he is “99% sure” that state Sen. David Thomas (R-8th), chairman of the state Senate Banking Committee will prefile a new predatory lending bill before the legislature convenes in January. That will allow the bill to be assigned to a committee on the opening day of the legislative session in Jan. 2003. Thomas has already called a hearing on the measure for November or December. -

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