Home National news Metro Council rejects 24/7 Check Cashing Bill

Metro Council rejects 24/7 Check Cashing Bill

by PRIDE Newsdesk

A Bill requiring stores like Advance Financial 24/7 to close between midnight and 6:00AM was defeated.

A Bill requiring stores like Advance Financial 24/7 to close between midnight and 6:00AM was defeated.

A bill sponsored by Metro Councilman Jason Holleman calling for cash advance and check-cashing establishments in Nashville to close at midnight went up for a second hearing this Wednesday and was quickly shut down.

After comments from Councilman Phil Claiborne opposing the bill, quick motions were made to cutoff discussion.

Just in case you are unaware, there was a lot of controversy about the bill in the first place. If the bill was approved, the measures would mark the second set of new regulations to target Nashville’s fast-growing payday loan industry after the council in November voted to restrict new payday businesses as well as pawn shops from locating within one-quarter of a mile from where another already exists.

The bill would have primarily affected Advance Financial, one of the most abundant cash advance operations in the region whose brand, Advance Financial 24/7, is explicitly tied to their operating hours and seen on all their buildings.

Not surprisingly, Advanced strongly opposed the bill, as did the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Convention Visitors Bureau.

“You could say we are fighting it tooth and nail,” Advance spokesman and lobbyist Cullen Earnest told The Tennessean last month. “It’s a bill that attacks our industry or us, in general, because we are the only company out there that is operating 24 hours a day.”

Advance also pushed back against Holleman’s claims that the 24-hour-a-day shops increase the risk of crime (they say they haven’t had an instance of crime in their stores for the last two years) and claimed that taking away the late hours would result in 300 employees either being laid off or having their hours reduced.

An earlier article posted on our website explored rumors that the bill originated with, or was at least being supported by, one of Advance’s competitors’ in a story earlier this week.

In the story, Holleman is questioned on where the bill came from. Allegedly a lobbyist brought it to him.

“The conversation came up in context with a previous bill on the location of check cashing businesses,” Holleman said, “and there were businesses that were already in the process of getting an okay [to establish such a service] and then there was a conversation on businesses and interest in proposing a bill.” Holleman then speaks of image issues and redevelopment.

“The rumor mill is filled with suggestions on why Holleman sponsored the bill,” said Councilmember Emily Evans. “My presumption is that this bill is designated to interfere with Advance Financial for a competitor, so those that don’t operate 24/7 could be more competitive. But I don’t have any basis with which to say why.”

Holleman says he was meeting with the two lobbyists about the last payday lending-related bill to work through the council, one that restricted payday loan shops (as well as several other types of businesses including pawn shops) from locating within a quarter mile of another store.

That bill had adversely affected Buckeye’s shops, but was supported (or at least, not opposed) by Advance, who stood to benefit from a bill that prevented competitors from popping up all around their existing locations. Holleman says Weaver and Garrison were meeting with him about sponsoring a bill that would have exempted two stores that already had lease agreements in place. Holleman filed a bill to do just that, but now says the issue was ultimately worked out administratively and that he will defer a bill pertaining to that issue at tonight’s council meeting.

During that discussion, he says the issue of operating hours came up, as it had during the council’s discussion of the previous bill. Holleman says he thought operating hours should have been addressed then and that when he expressed an inclination to address them in a new bill, Weaver and Garrison said they were not opposed to the idea. He says it was only later that representatives from Advance told him they saw the proposal as weaponized regulation supported by a competitor.

Cullen Earnest, the spokesman and lobbyist for Advance, said Holleman’s sponsorship of both bills (one to allow certain stores to open and one to restrict others) is inconsistent.

“It’s hard for me to believe that there’s not a direct correlation between two bills that were filed literally side-by-side,” Earnest said. “I find that incredibly hard to believe, but I’ll take the councilman’s word for it. But it’s just too convenient for me to believe that would be the case. He’s saying out of one side of his mouth that he’s trying to fight against this industry, but at the same time he’s got a bill that literally allows for more stores to open. That doesn’t make sense to me. So the origin of the bill really is suspicious from my point of view.”

He claims 2,000 nighttime Advance customers signed a petition opposing the bill and that Advance employees have “taken it personally.”

But Earnest has nothing to worry about now; the bill was defeated on a 2-35 vote.

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