(From Missourians for Responsible Lending and Give Missourians a Raise)
The Missourians for Responsible Lending and Give Missourians a Raise campaigns today announced that they are suspending their legal challenges to the Secretary of State's rulings that petitions to end 400% interest rates on payday loans and raise the minimum wage did not qualify for the November ballot.
“Since beginning this campaign more than a year ago, we have faced an opposition unrestrained by money, morality, truth or concern for the economic dignity of our neighbors and family members,” said Rev. James Bryan, Treasurer or Missourians for Responsible Lending. “When lies and threats to pastors were unsuccessful, our leaders and volunteers were harassed in the streets. When stolen petitions did not deter us, we faced dishonest ad campaigns, fake petitions in the field and an interminable legal process. When the multi-million dollar effort to confuse and deceive voters did not work, our opposition chose to attack the entire initiative petition process.”
Hundreds of thousands of valid signatures were submitted to the Secretary of State earlier this year by Missourians demanding an opportunity to vote on proposals to rein in abusive lending practices and give hard-working neighbors and family members a well-deserved raise. Thousands of volunteers, more than 1,000 clergy and more than 500 congregations from every corner of Missouri came together -- when their elected leaders would not -- to move Missouri’s economy forward and end predatory business practices.
Despite Missourians’ clear desire to have both initiatives on the November ballot, we have reluctantly concluded that the legal hurdles erected by the payday lending industry, their allies and their lawyers are too high for us to cross before the September 21 deadline for finalizing the November ballot.
While we are suspending our legal challenge, we maintain that the hundreds of thousands of signatures submitted in support of the ballot and the thousands of volunteer hours used to collect them reflect the need and desire for reform of the practices that keep hard-working Missourians on the financial edge.
“We are sad to report that the payday industry and minimum wage opponents’ unprecedented legal challenges effectively disenfranchised thousands of Missourians. It is another example of big monied corporate interests displacing the people’s interests in the democratic process,” said Dr. Rev. Martin Rafanan.
“The people of Missouri have the right to place important public policy issues on the ballot. Initiative petitions should be a matter of volunteer efforts and debate,” said Rev. Dr. Jim Hill, President of Missouri Faith Voices. “Unfortunately, opponents have taken that right from the people, and subjected it into a battle of legal attrition.”
We are very disappointed, but we are not deterred in the fight for economic justice in Missouri. The out-of-state payday lenders and corporations who have spent so much to protect their 400% interest rates and poverty wages are hoping this setback means we will quit our fight. But they will not have that satisfaction. Polling has consistently shown that more than 60% of Missouri voters support both measures, and the pressure to cap the rate and raise the wage by legislation or ballot measure will not go away.
We will run the race set before us with endurance, and continue our fight for an economy that works for all Missourians.