SPRINGFIELD — A bill that would prevent credit card companies from marketing their products on public university and community college campuses passed a skeptical House committee Wednesday.
State Rep. Sue Scherer, D-Decatur, the bill's chief co-sponsor, said it would help reduce predatory behavior that leads to students signing up for credit cards that will later cripple them with debt.
Despite the legislation — House Bill 4710 — passing 11-8-1, committee members of both parties were unsure, questioning whether the bill was ready for prime time and if it was even necessary.
Scherer acknowledged at the outset the bill needs work. As written, it repeals the Illinois Credit Card Marketing Act of 2009, a drafting error Scherer promised to fix via the amendment process.
"I really ask you to consider letting this out of committee so we can keep the dialogue going and bring it back with an amendment rather than just throwing the baby out with the bathwater," Scherer said. "I just have a strong feeling that if I don't at least get this out of the gate, it's just going to die. And I'm thinking of these kids whose lives are going to be ruined."
Scherer's press to get the bill out of committee is due to time constraints. Lawmakers are faced with an April 13 deadline to get bills passed out of committee, a tight window given the lack of session days for the rest of March.
But that was not the only concern.
"I've not been able to find any demonstrable numbers, research or data that says that the acts that we currently have are ineffective," said state Rep. Carol Ammons, D-Urbana, who voted present. "So that's one thing that's problematic about the bill altogether. I don't know if there's an amendment that needs to be done on this bill as opposed to research done to see if the current legislative actions are meeting the requirements."
Ammons also questioned what was considered predatory marketing, saying that a table set up on a university quad did not fall into that category, in her opinion.
But Scherer said there is an aggressive strategy on college campuses to sign students up for multiple credit cards in some cases, with poorer students most susceptible.
"It's the instances where the student is on their own and they don't have a wealthy parent paying their way. These are the adults that are hardest hit by this marketing because they don't have their parents teaching them the ropes," Scherer said.
Lobbyists from the banking industry testified against the bill, arguing it was an ineffective approach and hoping to steer the conversation toward increased student education on financial topics.
"We understand (Scherer's) issue, and we want to be part of the solution," said Ben Jackson, a lobbyist for the Illinois Bankers Association. "We are fully supportive of financial literacy. We believe very strongly that that's important. So that's where we hope to go with it."
Scherer said her staff is researching the topic and will ask the Legislative Research Unit to assist, hoping to provide the data to show the bill's necessity.
According to University of Illinois System spokesman Tom Hardy, the university's position on the bill is neutral. The Illinois Community College Board also is taking no position on the legislation.