Senate backs payday loan and workers compensation changes in Saturday session


Meeting in a rare session on Saturday, the Florida Senate approved overhaul of payday lending regulations and supported expanded workers’ compensation insurance benefits for police and firefighters with disability. post-traumatic stress.

Senators voted 31-5 to pass a measure (SB 920) that would allow payday lenders to extend larger loans for longer periods. The industry-backed proposal has also made its way through House committees, although it has met with opposition from some consumer advocates.

The bill would allow businesses to provide “installment” loans of up to $ 1,000, with repayment over 60 to 90 days. Current law limits high interest loans to $ 500 for periods of seven to 31 days.

Supporters say the proposal was prompted by potential federal regulatory changes that could affect the shorter-term, lower-dollar types of loans made by payday lenders in Florida. Additionally, proponents argue that payday loans play a key role for many low-income people who do not have access to other types of credit.

In brief comments on the Senate floor on Saturday, sponsor Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, hinted at the problems, saying the bill would ensure the “short-term credit market” survives amid the changes. potential federal.

But some consumer and religious groups have fought the proposal, arguing that payday loans can put borrowers in a “debt trap.”

“We have seen members of our congregations and those in the communities around them fall victim to the debt trap created by this type of loan supported by this bill,” said Rachel Gunter Shapard, of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Florida. , in a press release. the week.

The bill was opposed on Saturday by Senator Daphne Campbell, D-Miami; Senator Anitere Flores, R-Miami; Senator René Garcia, R-Hialeah; Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami; and Senator Annette Taddeo, D-Miami. The matter now goes to the House, with the 60-day legislative session scheduled to end on Friday.

Senators met mainly on Saturday to review a school safety program stemming from the February 14 mass shooting that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County. The Senate began on Saturday morning what was to be hours of discussion on the package.

Along with the payday loan legislation, senators also voted on several other bills. Among them was a measure (SB 376) that would expand workers’ compensation benefits for first responders suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The bill, sponsored by Senator Lauren Book, D-Plantation, was approved 33-0. The Chamber also resumed Friday its version (HB 227) and is preparing to give its approval.

Under state workers’ compensation laws, injured workers generally cannot receive compensation for mental or nerve injuries unless they are accompanied by physical injuries, according to an analysis of Senate staff .

First responders, however, may receive benefits for the medical treatment of mental or nerve injuries without accompanying physical injuries. But they may not receive compensation for lost wages in such situations.

The bill would allow law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and paramedics to receive compensation for lost wages in certain circumstances if they suffer from PTSD.

State CFO Jimmy Patronis, whose role includes serving as the state fire marshal, released a statement on Saturday noting testimony about first responders who suffered from PTSD.

“Today we are nearing the finish line and getting a little closer to ensuring that first responders have access to the mental health benefits they deserve,” Patronis said.

Photo used under Creative Commons.

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