Not satisfied with “paper or plastic,” the Austin City Council’s team of micro-managers are seeking to interfere with payday lenders in a nefariously creative way, limiting the locations where such businesses may set up practice and how they may operate.

This new level of interference with small business suggests that the Austin City Council does not believe HB 2594, an overreaching bill regulating payday lenders that passed the Legislature and goes into effect on January 1, goes far enough. No, in Austin, our elitist council believes that no regulation is too much for their befuddled constituency. They even have the City of Fort Worth to look up to, which has been using zoning laws to limit the operations of short-term lenders since 2006. The Dallas City Council is trying to do something similar – though they were promptly sued over their effort, and the case is pending.

Picking and choosing small business winners and losers with zoning regulations is nothing new. What is a defensible business practice to one person is often offensive to someone else. More often than not, saying where a business can operate is a reaction to money and a powerful lobby, and not the interests of the citizens in question.

Austin’s constant desire to act as a quasi-parent/dictator in the name of protecting the citizenry from whatever Big Bad of the week is nauseating. This latest attempt is no better. Money is tighter every day as our economy flags and flails, even here where we are relatively much better off than some places. It doesn’t make sense to choke off resources, and it makes even less sense to choke off small business.

Are there bad guys in the system? Yes. Are there fools who will fall for easy terms and fail to pay their bill? Yes. Neither of these things is an excuse for the Austin City Council to step in as savior. This is a case of ideology run amok, willful misunderstanding of the role of government.

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