- Associated Press - Monday, January 26, 2015

DENVER (AP) - A failed proposal to reduce finance charges on some credit cards became the latest casualty Monday for Colorado Democrats trying to find a new focus in the minority.

The Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee voted 6-1 against a bill that would have capped finance charges on credit cards from Colorado lenders at 12.5 percent, instead of the current 21 percent limit.

Even a Democrat voted against the proposal, the latest in a slate of efforts by Senate Democrats to address income inequality and reduce costs on the middle class.

Last week a separate Senate committee rejected a Democratic proposal to make permanent a 6 percent cap on tuition at public colleges and universities.

So far, it seems that Democrats in the Senate minority for the first time in a decade aren’t having much luck sewing together their agenda.

The sponsor of the credit card bill, Democratic Sen. Jessie Ulibarri of Commerce City, argued that his cap would have sent a message that Colorado is reducing the squeeze on borrowers.

“People are going further and further in debt because of incredibly high interest rates,” Ulibarri said.

He recognized that banks opposed his bill, but he added, “I’m pretty confident that the banks are doing just fine.”

But financial institutions and Republicans on the committee said the limit wouldn’t help most people. Colorado can’t cap finance charges at federally chartered banks, which serve the majority of the market.

The banks also argued that high-interest lending helps the working class access credit in the first place.

“Credit card is one of the highest-risk forms of lending,” necessitating high interest rates, said Jenifer Waller of the Colorado Bankers Association.

Even some Democrats seemed to side with the banks. Two Democrats missed the vote entirely, deciding to stay in committees with better prospects of success. And Democratic Sen. Linda Newell of Littleton said she feared the bill would only make Colorado banks less competitive.

“I just think that would be unfair and potentially hurt the people that are struggling,” Newell said.

Democrats have more bills pending aimed at helping the working class, but those bills face long odds.

Ruling Republicans have sent two such bills to a committee known for killing minority proposals. One of the bills would expand free lunches for needy students in four-day school weeks; the other would lower interest rates on student loans.

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Kristen Wyatt can be reached at https://www.twitter.com/APkristenwyatt

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Online:

Senate Bill 34: https://bit.ly/1uq0Cfq


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