EDITORIAL: Calderons' flaw extends to payday-loan industry

The Fresno BeeNovember 5, 2013 

Senior Photographer

Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello at right with Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg at the Senate Chambers at the Capitol in Sacramento on Monday June 10, 2013.

MANNY CRISOSTOMO — mcrisostomo@sacbee.com

Legislators of both parties have enabled Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, while he has carried water for Indian casinos, for-profit colleges and other big-money interests. Now that Calderon is the subject of an FBI investigation, lawmakers are trying to put space between themselves and the Calderon family, hoping the public will forget.

They won't. If lawmakers really want to distance themselves from the Calderon legacy, they should take a hard look at reversing some of its most egregious giveaways. One place is the payday-loan industry.

Calderon and his brother, former Assembly member and state Sen. Charles Calderon, are two of the largest recipients of campaign contributions from payday-loan outfits, receiving more than $81,000 from the industry between 2003 and 2011, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics. The Calderons also have been the biggest impediments to effective regulation of this industry, which preys on low-income residents. As of 2011, some 17 states and the U.S. military had effectively banned the practice.

According to the Center for Responsible Lending, a consumer group that opposes payday loans, 82% of payday loan fees -- $474 million -- come from borrowers taking out a new loan within two weeks of paying off their last loan. How can cash-strapped families get out of this debt spiral? They can't, thanks to the likes of the Calderons.

Charles Calderon effectively legalized payday lending in California when he served in the Legislature more than a decade ago, with the maximum amount of each loan set at $300. He and Ron Calderon then attempted to push the cap to $500 in 2011.

In the most recent session, Sens. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, and Jim Beall, D-San Jose, tried to limit payday loans to four per year, with required underwriting and a longer minimum repayment period.

Yet the bill got watered down and ultimately defeated when it reached the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee, where Ron Calderon has been a longtime committee member.

If lawmakers want to cleanse themselves of the Calderon flaw, cracking down on payday lending would be a good place to start.

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