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Houston area Catholics in Austin for rally

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Houstonians are among the thousands of Catholics holding a rally in Austin, demanding a long list of reforms. One of the biggest issues they're calling attention to is payday loans.

Hundreds of Houstonians were up before the sun to take part in Catholic Advocacy Day at the state capitol. The Texas Catholic conference has reviewed and given its opinion on more than a hundred bills, and today these messengers will share the church's thoughts on the issues with state lawmakers.

"We can visit with our state legislators and express the moral and social concerns of our Catholic faith as it applies to public policy," said Deacon Sam Dunning with the Archdiocese Office of Justice and Peace.

Topping the agenda this year? Payday loan reform.

"When people go to payday loan institutions, they go with the expectation to get money they don't have at the time," said Rhonda Sepulveda with Catholic Charities. "When they're expected to pay 500 percent and above for interest rates and that further hurts and damages their situation.

In 2012, one study showed Texans paid more than $23 per $100 borrowed for a 14-30 day loan. Without a cap on APR, some loans had fees and interest that reached 500 percent of the loan. There is a bill designed to regulate payday lenders, but the church says it offers no meaningful restraint on rates and fees.

"They're not given the information. Sometimes it pushes them into almost indentured servitude," said Sepulveda.

Another high-priority issue is the push for school vouchers. The church is pushing the state for vouchers that it says create equal opportunities for students from every income bracket.

"Parents should have the right to send children to the school of their choice, not just Catholic schools, but private schools as well," said Dunning.

Check out the other bills the Catholic conference is endorsing and those it opposes.
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