Before voting on lending practices, Hueso had his own salary

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MP Lorena Gonzalez and Senator Ben Hueso agree on a few points regarding banking options in the communities of southern San Diego that they jointly represent.

They agree, for example, that there aren’t many. They agree that the lack of banks has an impact on individuals and small businesses, which do not have access to capital to start new projects. They agree that this is pushing many of their constituents into the arms of predatory payday lenders.

But they differ on whether the state should curb some of the practices of these lenders, including capping interest rates on loans between $ 2,500 and $ 9,999.

Gonzalez is a co-author of AB 539, which would institute a 36% interest rate cap on loans in this range, ban payment penalties and certain other administrative fees, and set minimum and maximum loan terms.

Hueso was the only member of the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee who refused to vote on the bill this week; six other members voted yes.

Hueso sharply criticized the bill during a hearing on Wednesday.

“If your bill passes, where do these people go? They’re going to go to the black market, they’re going to go to the underground economy, they’re going to go to unregulated lenders. Growing up we had loan sharks in my neighborhood who hurt people if they didn’t pay. When someone is desperate, where does he go for help? Hueso said. “It’s hard for me to ignore the people who use these loans and who need them. it’s hard for me to listen to them say that if we take that away from them, they have nothing.

Supporters of the bill believe Hueso is also concerned about another group: the lenders themselves.

A Sacramento Bee editorial noted: “After the California State Assembly unequivocally passed AB 539 by a 60-4 vote, the industry rushed to cut campaign checks to senators from the States members of the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee of the California Senate. The committee now controls the fate of AB 539.

The most recent campaign fundraising statements that would show donations made after the Assembly vote will not be made public until next month.

But the information available shows that payday loan providers and the like and their associates donated nearly $ 24,000 to Hueso for the 2018 general election alone.

Gonzalez, for his part, also received $ 7,000 for his 2018 general election candidacy from Insikt Inc., a company that offers loans in low-income communities and markets itself as an alternative to payday loans.

When Gonzalez spoke about the bill in the assembly, she said she believed – as Hueso does – that they were necessary for some people who would otherwise not be able to access the money when they needed it. . But over time, she said, she came to see the need for reform.

“These stores unfortunately attack communities like mine where there is no other infrastructure. And we need to do more to bring people into our communities. We need to do more to encourage lending in our communities, not only to people who are going through tough times, but also to people who want to start a small business. We really need that kind of access to capital. But we have to stop what is happening. It’s just unacceptable. “

SB 330 Looms in the San Diego Mayor’s Race

“They are coming for our homes,” said Barbara Bry, San Diego city councilor, in a threatening fundraising speech for her mayoral campaign this week. “They”, presumably, are state lawmakers like Senator Nancy Skinner, author of SB 330, a bill that would limit new legislation meant to hinder development and streamline project approvals.

She slammed her opponent, Congressman Todd Gloria, for voting for SB 330. The email drew heavy criticism from environmentalists and the president of the San Diego Democratic Party.

As Scott Lewis pointed out this week, Bry was not always opposed to state involvement in local land use decisions. When running for city council in 2016, Bry wrote in an editorial for Voice of San Diego: “In discussing these issues, it is important to remember that the housing crisis cannot be fully resolved at the local level. . Reforms to state planning laws would ensure more efficient local land use practices and simpler environmental reviews for affordable housing. “

Lawmakers approve data privacy audit

Lawmakers this week asked State Auditor Elaine Howle to initiate an investigation into how law enforcement is using automated license plate reader technology.

Senator Scott Wiener, who introduced the proposal, said its aim was to protect the privacy of residents and ensure their information is used correctly during a joint legislative audit committee hearing on Wednesday.

“When misused, this data and the powerful analysis software that goes with it can be used as covert surveillance,” Wiener said.

The audit will include examining how information collected by local law enforcement agencies is shared or may be viewed by other agencies, including United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement . Voice of San Diego previously discovered that the San Diego Police Department shared the collected data through a network of cameras that scan license plates and record the date, time and GPS location of cars passing them with. federal agencies, including the border patrol. SDPD has since stopped sharing the data.

The audit will cover four agencies, not counting any in San Diego.

“Whether or not you think license plate readers are a useful public safety tool, there is a need to recognize the need to ensure that law enforcement acts as responsible custodians of our confidential location data. “, Dave Maass, Principal Investigator at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. lawmakers told lawmakers on Wednesday.

Assembly member Randy Voepel, who represents Santee, did not vote for the audit and at one point during the hearing waved his phone, saying privacy is dead and explaining how his wife uses her phone to track her location.

But wait! No more audits!

MP Tasha Boerner Horvath proposed two audits of the state’s higher education institutions which were approved on Wednesday after a nationwide college admissions scandal and an audit found California State University had accumulated a surplus of $ 1.5 billion.

So far, two University of California campuses have been linked to the admissions fraud scandal (and a Del Mar executive recently pleaded guilty to charges related to the scandal at USC).

As a UC Berkeley graduate, Boerner Horvath said she was saddened by the allegations in the scandal involving the university and believes that while the UC system does its own internal audit, a state audit “may help assure Californians that the University of California is doing everything it can to ensure the diversity and meritocracy we value.

The audit would review and assess system-wide policies regarding admission and review admissions for non-resident applicants and for special or attained talent, such as artistic and athletic talent, at Berkeley, UCLA and UCSD and whether students accepted under these special criteria have continued to participate in activities for which they have received special admission. The audit would also examine the relationships between universities, the College Board, ACT and private admissions consultants.

The other audit would look at campus-related costs within the California State University system, such as “student success” fees, material services and installation costs, and costs of student center. The audit would focus specifically on the State of Chico, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, State of San Diego and State of San Jose, examining the process for establishing, approving and implementing the tuition and the systems in place to ensure that they are used on what they are intended for.

Boerner Horvath noted that there were large disparities in fees between campuses. While the tuition fee for the academic year for a full-time undergraduate is $ 5,742, she noted that at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, that fee increased the total cost of attendance by thousands of students. dollars.

“It is essential that California State University provide additional transparency,” she said.

Golden State News

Katy Stegall contributed to this report.

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