Do not weaken consumer protection ordinances: oppose HB610

My name is Jennifer Allmon, and I am the Executive Director of the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops testifying in opposition to HB 610. The Texas bishops support prioritizing the poor and vulnerable when addressing social and economic needs through public policy, including by opposing usurious loans, payday, and auto title lending, as well as protecting children, families, and communities from the harms related to sexually oriented businesses. HB 610 is an overly broad preemption bill that would allow certain businesses to sue to enjoin the enforcement of that local law if it regulates a license holder, defined very broadly in the bill, in a more stringent way than that imposed by state law. As currently drafted, the bill would weaken municipal consumer protection ordinances in areas such as payday lending and regulations for sexually oriented businesses.

For example, state law under Sec. 243.007, Local Government Code, grants authority to municipalities or counties to require that an owner or operator of a sexually oriented business to obtain a license or other permit for operation. They also pay a $5 fee per customer and make records available for a state inspection and audit under Chapter 102, Business and Commerce Code. HB 610 would allow a license holder subject to a “local law” (that they are authorized to issue under state law) to bring an action to enjoin enforcement if the law is more stringent than the requirements imposed on the license holder under state law.

Additionally, HB 610 would also erase protections in the over 46 cities that have already passed ordinances to limit predatory payday and auto title loans. The Texas Catholic bishops were directly involved in seeking these local ordinances in Dallas, El Paso, Galveston, Houston, Denton, Midland, Arlington, and Weatherford. Our perspective on this bill is informed by our direct service and ministry to the poor and vulnerable. These cities have recognized the need to keep borrowers from getting pulled into a cycle of debt and conserve charitable resources going to these borrowers. For these reasons, we request you oppose HB 610 and protect the ability of local communities to protect the poor and vulnerable as well as families and children.