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Petition Efforts Focus on Payday Loans, Minimum Wage

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COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Two Missouri organizations are working together to push ballot measures seeking to cap payday loan interest rates and increase the state minimum wage.

Missourians for Responsible Lending and Give Missourians A Raise kicked off the two initiative petition campaigns at a joint event Saturday at the Boone County Commission Chambers. The group Grass Roots Organizing put on the event.

“We don’t want to compete,” Grass Roots Organizing Director Robin Acree told the Columbia Missourian. “We want to combine.”

The Columbia Daily Tribune reported that volunteers participated in training and immediately began canvassing for signatures. Each petition drive needs to collect roughly 105,000 valid signatures from six of the state’s nine congressional districts to appear on the November ballot.

The Give Missourians A Raise initiative seeks to boost the state minimum wage by a dollar to $8.25 an hour.

The Missourians for Responsible Lending initiative seeks to cap the interest, fees and charges for payday, car title and installment loans at 36 percent. Critics of payday lending have said the annual interest rates for such loans can exceed 400 percent.

Rep. Mary Still, a Columbia Democrat, told the 70 to 80 people who attended the kickoff event that they had the power to rein in “predatory” payday lenders. Still, who for two years has unsuccessfully sponsored payday loan legislation, said “wealthy special interests” had influenced the votes of too many legislators.

The crowd chanted “Beat back the shark attack, we’re gonna beat, beat back the shark attack.”

But opponents of the measure argue the proposal would make it harder for some Missourians to get credit and have raised more than $500,000 to campaign against it. Missourians for Equal Credit Opportunity received a $250,000 contribution from Missourians for Responsible Government, while Stand Up Missouri — comprised mostly of payday and short-term loan companies — has reported $281,000 in receipts to the Missouri Ethics Commission.

© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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