Margaux Morisseau, who has led the unsuccessful yet good-intentioned fight for payday lending reform in Rhode Island the past three years says she is growing weary of the legislative process. But, she said, she certainly isn’t giving up.
“I’ve come to believe elections really matter,” she said. “A lot of the real work gets done during the campaign when people are worried about reelection. We’re planning our next steps soon. It’s time for us to come back even stronger.”
While Morisseau put together a powerful coalition of more than 50 influential groups and individuals, it wasn’t enough to out-influence the highest paid lobbyist in Rhode Island: former House Speaker Bill Murphy, who was paid more than $100,000 to kill the bill that would have reigned in these predatory high-interest loans.
After a late session meeting with House leadership and lobbyists from both sides, she thought they had a less-than-perfect compromise worked out that would have left interest rates alone but would have prevented borrowers “from taking out one loan after another.”
But, she said, “the other side dragged their feet. They were trying to run out the clock.”
Then on the last day of the session Bill Murphy and the payday loan sharks he represents simply said no to the compromise.
“Their opinion was the veto of the bill,” she said. “Bill Murphy is the highest paid lobbyist in the state for a reason.”
And his influence seemed to extend well beyond the House chamber. Morisseau wasn’t able to even get a meeting with, let alone the support of, any of the state-level office holders except Treasurer Gina Raimondo, who has been a stalwart opponent of the predatory practice. Governor Linc Chafee has not committed one way or another.