The state Senate is considering a measure to

constrain "payday lending" practices.

Texas leads the nation in businesses that offer short-term,

unsecured loans, typically to low-income borrowers trying to make

ends meet until the next paycheck. Lenders argue that the loans are

risky and warrant high interest rates and fees. Critics call the

loans "predatory" because borrowers often don't realize they have

alternatives.

Ron Rogers, who counsels low-income workers in the Rio Grande

Valley, one of the nation's poorest regions, says that in today's

economy payday lending is more widespread than ever.

"You see signs everywhere: 'Easy credit.' 'Fast credit' 'Get it

now.' Well, the least among us are ones that are the most

susceptible to falling for something like that. It's pretty

sad."

Rogers is president of the South Texas Adult Resource and

Training Center (START) in San Benito, where he says there are

only three banks but 15 payday lenders. Rogers says those lenders

are sucking what little wealth there is out of the community. START

steers would-be borrowers toward alternatives such as credit unions

and employer pay advances.

Rogers supports the pending legislation, which would cap fees and

the size of payday loans, and provide repayment options. He also

wants to limit interest rates, which he says can add up to as much

as 500 percent in the course of a year. About one-third of states

regulate payday loans, but with the industry's heavy footprint in

Texas, Rogers is fearful the bill will have a tough time becoming

law here.

"This industry has strong lobbyists, and many of the lobbyists are

associated with a lot of state senators and state representatives.

They are powerful."

SB 1862, the measure that passed the state Senate Committee on

Business and Commerce, would restrict payday lending to 35 percent

of a borrower's monthly income and cap fees at 15 percent. Its

author is Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth.