UPI, 22 January, 1997.


TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Jan. 22 (UPI) -- A legislative task force appears set today (Wednesday) to recommend Florida lenders be permitted to charge graduated interest rates equaling 192 percent annually on title loans which use borrowers' vehicles as collateral.

The Motor Vehicle Title Loan Task Force will take a final vote on the proposal Thursday, but at its last meeting a majority of members supported the recommendation.

Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth objects to the proposal, saying the title loan industry ``makes the mob look good.''

Federal Bureau of Investigation statistics show recent loansharking arrests in Florida involved interest rates as low as 2 percent a week, or about 104 percent a year.

The task force was created to review Florida's current law concerning title loans, which was written by a lobbyist for the title loan industry and lets lenders charge rates up to 12 times above the state's usury laws.

The statute, which also frees the industry from most state regulations and comsumer protections, has angered Floridians who missed loan payments and had vehicles repossessed.

But the industry says it provides a much-needed service to consumers in need of quick, short-term loans they cannot get elsewhere.

The lenders say high interest rates are necessary because of the high risk involved.

The task force recommendation likely will be introduced into the Legislature this spring in the form of a draft bill.