The Houston City Council overwhelmingly passed restrictions on payday and auto title lenders Wednesday, avoiding rumored parliamentary maneuvers to delay the vote and calling on the state Legislature to follow suit. The vote was 15-2, with Councilwoman Helena Brown and Councilman James Rodriguez opposed. Rodriguez did not seek to delay the measure as had been speculated. Mayor Annise Parker for weeks has said Houston must join other major Texas cities by limiting a loan’s size and the number of times it can be refinanced and dictating how much principal must be paid down with each installment. The mayor said local action would send a message to Austin, where legislators have discussed but not passed payday regulations in their last three sessions.
Councilman Jack Christie sought to loosen some of the restrictions, and earned six votes for his failed amendment. But when the main item came up, Christie and other council members said they preferred the imperfect ordinance before them to going without consumer protections. “Something must be done; something should be done,” Councilman Andrew Burks said. “Our Legislature, they had the ball and dropped it. I don’t like this, but I have to vote for it because … this is the only thing on the table, and it does do something.” Councilwoman Wanda Adams, who said her office has helped seniors get back cars that had been repossessed after they defaulted on title loans, praised the outcome. “I’m so proud to know we are taking a stand in protecting our constituents throughout our community,” Adams said. “I think this is something right.” The measure will take effect July 1, with the city’s new budget year.