Protesters upset about bill on loan oversight

February 15, 2002|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

A proposal to clarify state law dealing with banking and lending oversight is drawing an angry response from a Baltimore community organization, and yesterday its members tried to storm a committee chairman's office.

Chanting "criminal offender, predatory lender," about three dozen people briefly blocked the office of Del. John F. Wood Jr., chairman of the House Commerce and Government Affairs Committee, to protest a bill that would require all banking and mortgage company oversight be conducted by the state.

State troopers escorted the protesters -- members of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now -- out of the Lowe House Office Building.

ACORN is upset by legislative proposals that would stop the group's efforts to get some jurisdictions, including Baltimore and Prince George's County, to enact local laws regulating mortgage lenders involved with predatory lending. Such practices, which commonly target the poor and uneducated, deal with loans that include costly features such as balloon payments, high interest rates and repayment penalties.

"By passing this law, they are going to permanently enshrine the two-tier system for lending in Maryland," said Mitchell Klein, head organizer for ACORN. "One for the rich and one for the poor."

Del. Maggie L. McIntosh, a Baltimore Democrat who sponsored the House bill, agrees that something needs to be done about unscrupulous loans, but she said the state should do it. "Predatory lending is not just a Baltimore City issue, it's in every county," said McIntosh, the House majority leader.

She hopes her bill clarifies the law so municipalities do not regulate such things as check cashing and mortgage and title loans. But Klein, who believes the legislature has been too slow to regulate lending, hopes ACORN can persuade jurisdictions to act on their own.

The Maryland Center for Community Development also opposes McIntosh's bill.

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