Ritter will sign payday loan, campaign finance and direct file reforms into law

Gov. Bill Ritter will sign three influential bills into law Tuesday, remaking the payday loan industry, creating greater transparency in campaign finance and tempering the process by which youth are charged as adults in the state.

Payday lending reform, sponsored by Denver Democrat Mark Ferrandino, will extend repayment periods from two weeks to six months and lower interest rates to 20 percent on the first $300 and 7.5 percent for each $100 after that up to $500. Legislators said that the bill would provide time for borrowers to pay back loans without resorting to additional borrowing.

The campaign finance transparency bill was sponsored by House Majority Leader Paul Weissmann, D-Lousiville, and Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, and crafted in response that the United States Supreme Court ruling allowing corporations and unions to spend unlimited funds promoting candidates. The new law will bar foreign organizations from funding state races and requires organizations and individuals who give more than a $1,000 dollars to register with the secretary of state. Campaigns must disclose donor information.

Another bill will require campaign issue committees to disclose the same donor information as candidate committees. Colorado Ethics Watch recently highlighted the topic in pointing out possible problems of mis-categorization, arguing that issue committee Clear the Bench Colorado, which is asking Coloradans to vote supreme court justices off the bench, is about candidates not any one issue, and that it should be confined to candidate finance restrictions. Ethics Watch says the practice of non-disclosure of large donations to judicial campaigns could allow criminals to purchase safe judicial havens. The new bill would require disclosure.

Finally, Colorado will thin the tough 1993 law that gave power solely to district attorneys to choose which juveniles to try as adults. The new bill requires DAs to report more thoroughly on the factors that go into those decision. The bill moves the cases of the vast majority of accused 14 and 15 year-olds to the benches of judges, where prosecutors and defenders will be allowed to present evidence and where judges can consider mitigating factors. DAs would still be able to direct file the most extreme crimes. In the case of direct-filed 16 and 17 year olds, the prosecution will be asked to record their reasons for the decision and note a series of factors considered before making the decision. The bill was a compromise between the legislature, which asked for the removal of DA discretion on direct filing, and the governor and district attorneys council, which would have preferred to leave direct file whole.

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