By Kathy Pierce, NPA Government Relations Liaison
January 12, 2023
This week was the culmination of two years of hard work. Together with the Illinois Pawnbrokers Association (IPA), the Government Relations (GRC) team at the NPA worked to keep Illinois pawnbrokers excluded from the Predatory Loan Prevention Act (PLPA), enacted back in the spring of 2021.
You may recall that in April 2021, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) issued a press release. In it, they claimed pawn was governed by the PLPA and that consumers who believed they had pawn transactions that imposed more than a 36% APR cap should prepare to sue their pawnbrokers. Within the next 24 hours, the IPA had convened a zoom call. NPA’s Team GRC and President Boyd Naylor participated in that call.
Throughout May 2021, the IPA tried to reason with the IDFPR, presenting factual information regarding pawn. The IPA also tried to get an exemption from the legislature. It quickly became clear the IPA should sue the department to prevent enforcement of the PLPA against pawnbrokers. The IPA hired a major Chicago law firm and utilized the services of their main financial services lobbyist in Springfield at that point. In preparation to frame the complaint and file the lawsuit, the IPA was supported by the NPA and their legal team.
Soon afterwards, with added funding from the NPA and three multi-store entities, the IPA filed suit.
From early June to just after Labor Day 2021, Team GRC worked with the IPA and the law firm handling the lawsuit for the IPA. This work was primarily done to refine arguments and read/revise draft filings.
This collective effort culminated in the issuance of an injunction against enforcement of the PLPA against pawnbrokers and pawn transactions. In October 2021, the lawyer at the Illinois Attorney General’s Office handling the IDFPR’s side of the litigation informed the IPA’s law firm the department would not appeal the court’s injunction.
The IPA also hired a PR firm in Illinois to advise them on how to position the pawn industry in a more favorable light. Many of you have seen the video – either in its original, Illinois-focused version or as recently updated by the NPA for more generic PR purposes.
We knew the original sponsors of the PLPA and the IDFPR would seek to have the legislature amend the PLPA to cover pawn. And, in October 2022, as the current legislative session was winding down, they did introduce legislation to include pawn.
Since then, Team GRC, members of the NPA Board of Directors and numerous other pawnbrokers and partners have helped the IPA. This assistance came in the form of bill analysis, talking points, drafts of press releases and hand-outs to use in meetings with Illinois legislators. Those involved also helped us fact-check some pretty outrageous claims made by the proponents of the bill to include pawn. These individuals continued to do so as the legislative session wound down over the holidays, New Year’s and the first days of January, 2023. It would be challenging to put a number on how many times Team GRC and IPA representatives shared texts, emails, and phone calls over the course of the last month.
It is hard to take time out while a group is dealing with a major threat like the rate-cap bill in Illinois to tell the story of what it takes to handle issues that can arise. But now, we have the capacity through Team GRC to provide analysis, research, drafting of press releases and other documents used by IPA members in meetings and sent to the media and others. This is all part of the support TEAM GRC gives to state pawn associations when they need help. Granted, the rate-cap campaign lasted longer in Illinois than anyone expected two years ago. The last 60 days have been especially time-consuming.
So, in my new role as the NPA’s GRC Liaison, we will be communicating regularly. We will do this through alerts and updates, through briefings for state presidents and other state leadership. We will also have more frequent communication through zoom calls about legislative developments in the states this year and into the future.
You may not know that for the past several years, the NPA has subscribed to a state legislative tracking service that isn’t cheap, but worth every penny to us. I have taken over from Fran Bishop the weekday monitoring of the reports that are issued every night. Through this process, I am alerted to every new bill that mentions one of several basic search terms, such as “pawn” and “rate cap.” Lots of bills identified by this tracking service involve firearms. Just last week, the service reported – before the IPA had heard about it – the single-topic bill to include pawn in the PLPA had been merged with another bill to make it easier to enact. Because we knew it for some hours or minutes before (that a procedural tactic was being used by the bill’s sponsors), we had time to organize ourselves.
Team GRC and the NPA’s staff are here to help pawnbrokers. We CARE about you and your business and your ability to thrive in your business. I am here to answer members’ questions, and if I don’t have an answer, I will find you one. We also get requests to help in state legislative strategy sessions, which we are more than willing to participate in.
Next week, I hope to share at least some preliminary thoughts on being prepared for rate-cap legislation in your states. We need to continue what we started here to be diligent about proper messaging and keeping lawmakers informed.
Last, a little call to action!! Let’s do in DC in April what we just did in IL. Let’s share our voice and let lawmakers know WHO we are and what we do in communities nationwide. I look forward to seeing you at the Legislative Conference because we ALL have work to do TOGETHER.
GRC Liaison, NPA