Alabama’s looming Medicaid cuts would harm hundreds of thousands of people across the state – mostly children, seniors, and people with disabilities. The new #IamMedicaid campaign is a grassroots effort to remind lawmakers and the public of the real people with real lives affected by the state’s ongoing Medicaid funding debate. (Click here for a PDF version of this news release.)
“Alabama’s Medicaid debate is about more than numbers on a spreadsheet. It’s about people,” Alabama Arise state coordinator Kimble Forrister said. “Medicaid cuts would reduce health care access and make life harder for many of the most vulnerable Alabamians: children, seniors, and people with disabilities. Their voices must be heard in this debate, and we’re excited about this new effort to change the conversation around Medicaid.”
The 2017 General Fund budget leaves Medicaid $85 million short of the funding that the agency says is needed to avoid cuts to services like outpatient dialysis and adult eyeglasses. Without new revenue to maintain current service levels, Medicaid also will make deep cuts in its payments to doctors and other providers. Those cuts could result in the closures of many hospitals and clinics, reducing health care access for families across the state.
“Medicaid coverage is essential to protect the health and well-being of hundreds of thousands of children in Alabama,” Alabama Children First executive director Christy Cain said. “So many times, we get caught up in the numbers, and we forget those numbers represent real people with real lives and that they deal with real challenges.”
Posted April 20, 2016.
2016 legislative update: Time running short for payday reform as Alabama House committee holds hearing but doesn't vote
The fate of payday lending reform in Alabama this year could hinge on whether the House Financial Services Committee chooses to meet again before next week, and whether its members approve SB 91, sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur.
The committee chose not to vote on the bill after hearing nearly two hours of testimony Wednesday morning, including support from Arise and other advocates for payday lending reform. Payday loans are short-term loans for $500 or less, and carry annual interest rates of up to 456 percent in Alabama.
Because committee members didn’t vote after the hearing, they will need to reconvene to determine the fate of the bill, which the Senate passed 28-1 earlier this month. If the committee waits until next week to meet, it will reduce the chance that the bill can reach the House floor in time to pass before the 2016 regular session ends. Just five meeting days will remain in the session after this week.
Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville, presented Orr’s SB 91 to the committee and emphasized the urgent need to act swiftly. “This is the last chance for reform in this session,” Garrett said.
Orr’s bill would reform Alabama’s payday lending laws to be similar to those in Colorado, where prices for borrowers are substantially lower than Alabama’s. SB 91 would reduce interest rates on payday loans and give borrowers at least six months to repay their loans. It also would allow borrowers to pay down the principal in installments, helping them escape debt more quickly.
In addition to Arise, other supporters testifying in favor of SB 91 included representatives of Alabama Appleseed and the YWCA of Central Alabama, as well as Dr. Neal Berte, a former Birmingham-Southern College president who has been a tireless and persuasive advocate for reform.
The committee also heard opposition from payday lending industry representatives, who said Colorado-style reform would prevent them from making loans in Alabama. Colorado has many payday lenders that remain profitable while charging prices roughly one-third of that typically charged in Alabama.
Title loan bill also receives hearing but not a committee vote
The SB 91 hearing Wednesday followed a separate hearing on HB 526, an auto title loan bill sponsored by Rep. Rod Scott, D-Fairfield. That bill would create a special statute for title loans, removing them from the Alabama Pawnshop Act, which caps the maximum interest rate on title loans at 300 percent a year.
Under HB 526, interest rates on title loans in Alabama would be capped at 120 percent a year, in addition to numerous other provisions regulating the issuance of such loans. In an unusual twist, title lenders and consumer advocates (including Arise) both testified in opposition to the bill.
The committee heard testimony but did not vote in February on a reform bill – HB 326, sponsored by Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham – supported by Arise and other members of the Alliance for Responsible Lending in Alabama (ARLA). The bill would cap title loan interest rates at 36 percent a year.
By Stephen Stetson, policy analyst. Posted April 20, 2016.
ACPP executive director Kimble Forrister issued the following statement Tuesday, April 5, 2016, after the Alabama Senate voted 28-1 to pass SB 91, a payday lending reform bill sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur:
“The Senate’s vote for meaningful payday lending reform today was a big win for Alabama consumers. SB 91 would give payday borrowers a more realistic path out of debt by allowing them to make installment payments over time. The bill also would slash interest rates and place other overdue, common-sense limits on payday loans in Alabama.
“Today’s vote was a historic breakthrough for the growing bipartisan movement to rein in high-cost lending in our state. Now it’s the House’s turn to keep that momentum going and make life better for thousands of Alabama families.
“Thanks to all the folks who contacted their senators, especially the dozens of advocates who went to the State House. Thanks to Sen. Arthur Orr, the bill sponsor, and to Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison for her help in the floor debate.”
ACPP executive director Kimble Forrister issued the following statement Tuesday, April 5, 2016, after the Alabama Legislature overrode the governor’s veto to pass a General Fund budget that would force deep Medicaid cuts:
“We can’t build a stronger Alabama by taking a sledgehammer to the foundation of our state’s health care system. But that’s just what this inadequate General Fund budget would do.
“This budget would force devastating Medicaid cuts that could force many hospitals to close and lead many pediatricians to leave the state. These cuts could put health care at risk for hundreds of thousands of our state’s most vulnerable residents: children, seniors, and people with disabilities. And new Medicaid reforms to save money and keep people healthier would grind to a halt.
“Alabama’s children deserve a better future than this. Our state needs new revenue to prevent these Medicaid cuts and continue building a stronger, healthier Alabama for all.”
2016 legislative update: Plan to help restore voting rights to thousands in Alabama wins Senate committee approval
Thousands of Alabamians could see their voting rights restored under a bill that won a state Senate committee’s approval Wednesday. SB 231, sponsored by Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, would clarify the types of crimes classified as “crimes of moral turpitude,” a longstanding murky category of crimes permanently disqualifying offenders from voting in Alabama.
Ward’s bill, which Arise supports, now moves to the Senate. It could reach the Senate floor for a vote as soon as Thursday.
The Senate Judiciary Committee quickly approved the bill after adopting two technical amendments that tweaked the bill’s wording without changing the substance of the proposed reforms. Lawmakers had no other debate about the issue Wednesday.
Secretary of State John Merrill has endorsed SB 231, which fits with the state’s Prison Reform Task Force recommendations regarding ex-felons’ ability to re-enter society successfully as participating and productive citizens. The bill is one of more than a dozen proposals this year to expand or protect voting rights in Alabama. Other legislation seeks to allow early voting and streamline voter registration.
By Stephen Stetson, policy analyst. Posted March 16, 2016.
2016 legislative update: Payday lending reform gains momentum as second bill clears committee in Alabama Legislature
Payday lending reform continued to pick up steam Wednesday as an Alabama House committee approved a proposal to reduce interest rates and limit the amount that payday borrowers can borrow each year. HB 297, sponsored by Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville, now moves to the House.
The House Financial Services Committee weakened Garrett’s bill by adopting an amendment offered by Rep. Reed Ingram, R-Montgomery. Still, HB 297 may remain the best hope for payday lending reform in the House this year. (AL.com has more details on Wednesday’s committee debate on HB 297.)
HB 297, as amended, would cap annual interest rates on payday loans at 180 percent in Alabama. Current state law allows interest rates of up to 456 percent a year. Arise testified on Garrett’s original bill last week.
Garrett’s bill originally proposed lowering payday loan fees to $12.50 per $100 borrowed, a reduction from the $17.50 now permitted in Alabama. But Ingram’s amendment would set the fee at $15. Garrett’s bill also would have limited borrowers to six loans per year, or $2,500. The amendment would eliminate the limit on the number of loans per year, and raise the cap on annual borrowing to $4,000.
Those changes allowed the bill to earn the endorsement of state Banking Superintendent John Harrison, who spoke to the committee at length. Harrison’s support could prove important as the bill now awaits debate on the House floor.
“When you don’t have anybody happy, then you’re getting pretty close to getting something that is workable and that will absolutely protect those consumers, and that’s what we want to do,” Harrison told lawmakers.
The committee approved Ingram’s amendment after rejecting an amendment offered by Rep. Oliver Robinson, D-Birmingham. That amendment would have converted payday loans into longer-term debt instruments. Robinson’s amendment was supported by Reps. Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia; Mike Hill, R-Columbiana; and Thad McClammy, D-Montgomery.
Advocates were thankful to Rep. Merika Coleman-Evans, D-Birmingham, for calling for a roll call vote on each of the recorded votes on HB 297.
Senate expected to consider payday lending reform again next week
Payday loan reform is likely to be a topic again in the Alabama Senate once again next week. SB 91, sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, is expected to return to the Senate floor for debate. The bill cleared an important procedural hurdle last week, but the Senate delayed further debate on it.
SB 91 would reduce interest rates on payday loans and mirror many of Colorado’s 2010 reforms. Orr’s bill, which Arise supports, also would give borrowers at least six months to repay their payday loans, increasing affordability and reducing default risk. In addition, SB 91 would allow payday borrowers to pay down the principal in installments instead of the all-or-nothing, lump-sum payment now required.
By Stephen Stetson, policy analyst. Posted March 16, 2016.