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ATLANTA – It’s still too soon to know for sure if Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue will sign a credit union-supported payday lending bill that was recently passed by the state House and Senate and was sent to the governor’s office. But the Georgia Credit Union Affiliates is hoping he will because “even though the bill doesn’t outlaw payday lending, it puts severe restrictions on them,” says GCUA SVP of Advocacy Cindy Connelly. “There’s still a lot of back room maneuvering going on,” she says, noting Gov. Perdue indicated he “was interested in the issue and was aware of the military’s position that something needs to be done about the payday lending practice” in the state. The version of the payday lending bill that was passed by the state House and Senate is actually an amended version of an original bill-Senate Bill 157- introduced by state Sen. Don Cheeks (R-23) which would have made payday lending illegal in Georgia. The amended bill by Rep. Johnny Floyd (D-132), chairman of the House Banks and Banking Committee, makes payday lending a “strongly” regulated industry. Connelly said GCUA supported both bills “in concept” but when it learned that Cheeks supported Floyd’s amended bill, then GCUA threw its support behind that bill. Specifically, the bill requires payday lenders to be licensed and sets a maximum interest they can charge at 60% a year or 5% a month which meets the state’s usury cap. It also makes first and second-time violators guilty of a misdemeanor, but on the conviction of a third or subsequent offense violators will be considered guilty of a felony and punished by imprisonment for a minimum of one year and maximum of 10 years or by a maximum fine of $1,000 “for each proven unlawful loan transaction.” In addition, victims of payday lending abuse can bring civil action against alleged violators, and prosecutors can charge violators with racketeering, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. “We’re not sure Gov. Perdue will do anything with the measure right away,” said Connelly. “We’d love to see him sign it because it’s one of the strongest pieces of payday lending bills that have been passed. The penalities included are quite severe.” -

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