Swipe Money Right Out of Oregon? Thanks, House Republicans.

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This is the third installment in a series detailing important legislative measures that Oregon House Republicans killed this session. Today, we look at yet another victim of House Republicans’ affinity for corporate special interests.

Skyrocketing credit and debit card swipe fees are harming small businesses and consumers, while padding the profits of large banks. Oregon lawmakers had a chance this session to show support for reining in swipe fee abuses—but it’s now been blocked by Republican leaders in the Oregon House.

What Happened

In Oregon, swipe fees have been affecting small businesses in a big way. David Yudkin, co-owner of Hot Lips Pizza, explained how $100,000 in yearly swipe fees could instead pay for health insurance for his full-time employees. Mickie McClure, owner of Tip Top Cleaners, shared how the fees limit her ability to hire another employee.

Check out this video, created by our friends over at Economic Fairness Oregon, for more businesses’ take on swipe fees:

Oregon business owners explain high toll of swipe fees from Economic Fairness Oregon on Vimeo.

And banks and credit card companies, including Visa and MasterCard, keep increasing fees, which means taking more and more money straight out of the hands of small business owners and consumers. In 2001, that amounted to $16 billion collected in swipe fees. In 2008, collections totaled $48 billion.

Last year, the U.S. Congress passed a new law to address the skyrocketing bank fees charged each time a debit or credit card was swiped to pay for a purchase.  The federal law would put an estimated $1 billion back into the pockets of businesses – money that’s now going to pay the outsized bonuses for corporate banks and credit card executives.

But before the law even had the chance to go into effect, lobbyists for big banks and credit card companies descended on the Capitol, demanding repeal of the law. The bank lobbyists found ready and willing partners in House Republican leadership, who may move to overturn the law.

Rather than sit and wait for US House Republicans to kill the needed reforms, chief sponsors Senator Rosenbaum and Representative Hunt introduced Senate Joint Memorial 18 to express Oregon’s support for upholding the protections provided in the Durbin amendment. This would tell our federal government that Oregon demands better protections for small businesses and consumers.

Such a good, common sense measure passed through the Senate easily and early. Yet when it reached the House, it was stalled in the General Government Consumer Protection Health Committee, co-chaired by Rep. Paul Holvey (D-Eugene) and Rep. Gene Whisnant (R-Sunriver). While Rep. Holvey, one of the measure’s co-sponsors was very supportive of getting a hearing for SJM 18, Rep. Whisnant blocked the measure by refusing to schedule a hearing. Because of the 30-30 split in the Oregon House, no bill can move out of committee without both co-chairs’ consent.

SJM 18 was a pledge to protect Oregon businesses and Oregon consumers. By allowing it to die in committee, Rep. Whisnant showed willingness to throw struggling, small businesses under the bus in order to provide for giant banks and credit card companies.

Call us cynics, but we can’t help but wonder if Rep. Whisnant’s decision had something to do with the fact that the Oregon Bankers PAC was the third largest contributor to his campaign in 2010.

But why not ask Rep. Whisnant himself? Give him a call or send him a direct email, and ask him why he killed this important measure:


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