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Attack of the Loan Sharks, Texas Lege EditionTen years ago, the eighty-third Texas Legislature had a chance to prove it wasn’t hopelessly corrupted by even the sleaziest of industries. That year, lawmakers considered modest reforms to the payday loan industry, which uses a loophole in state law to avoid a constitutional prohibition on usury in order to charge small-dollar borrowers interest rates often greater than 500 percent. For years, religious charities, faith leaders, and working-class Texans had been complaining about how predatory lending was trapping borrowers in a cycle of debt. During long and emotional hearings, they begged lawmakers for relief. Legislators were treated to a litany of small tragedies—grandma taking out a $500 auto-title loan to pay for medicine only to find, months later, that her balance had somehow ballooned to…

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