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Owner of Paycheck Advance seeks change to ballot language on proposed cap of payday loan interest rates
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Owner of Paycheck Advance seeks change to ballot language on proposed cap of payday loan interest rates

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The owner of Paycheck Advance has filed a lawsuit seeking to keep a ballot initiative, which would cap the rate cash advance businesses such as hers can charge, off the ballot as currently worded.

If put on November's general election ballot and approved, the measure would cap payday loan rates at 36%, rather than up to 400% as currently allowed under state law.

In a complaint filed this week in Lancaster County District Court, Trina Thomas says the ballot title and explanatory statement prepared by the Nebraska Attorney General's Office is "insufficient and unfair." 

As sent, it would say: A vote "FOR" will amend Nebraska statutes to: (1) reduce the amount that delayed deposit services licensees, also known as payday lenders, can charge to a maximum annual percentage rate of thirty-six percent; (2) prohibit payday lenders from evading this rate cap; and (3) deem void and uncollectable any delayed deposit transaction made in violation of this rate cap.

Thomas' attorneys, J.L. Spray and Stephen Mossman, say she proposes dropping payday lenders from the language.

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They say the slang term is not part of the statute being amended by the initiative petition and is "deceptive to the voters as it unfairly casts the measure in a light that would prejudice the vote in favor of the initiative."

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They are asking a Lincoln judge for an expedited hearing on the matter. 

The move came just more than a month after sponsors of the petition drive, organized by Nebraskans for Responsible Lending, turned in 120,000 signatures for validation, well above the 7% of the state's registered voters needed to get on the ballot.

Secretary of State Bob Evnen then transmitted a copy of the measure to Attorney General Doug Peterson, who returned the ballot title and explanatory statement to be placed on the general election ballot if Evnen's office validates the petition.

Thomas' complaint challenging the language was filed electronically Monday evening. 

Aubrey Mancuso, who helped organize the petition drive, said for too long families have been caught up in cycles of debt because of unaffordable loans and the Legislature has failed to address it.

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Annually, supporters say, Nebraskans pay about $28 million in fees to payday lenders who typically offer small loans to those who may not be able to borrow elsewhere. Opponents to the measure say the cap would likely drive lenders out of business.

Other states, 16 in all, as well as the District of Columbia, have enacted 36% payday loan interest caps, and in 2006, Congress passed a 36% cap for active-duty military personnel.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7237 or lpilger@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSpilger

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Public safety reporter

Lori Pilger is a Norfolk native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been a public safety reporter for the Journal Star since 2005.

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