In feisty radio interview, Saslaw fights back on car title lending, abortion regulation
Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D) faced down an unexpected caller on WAMU's Politics Hour -- Del. Glenn Oder (R-Newport News), calling to castigate Saslaw for sponsoring a bill to reverse a six-month-old ban on Virginia car title lenders giving cash to out-of-state drivers.
Oder led an unsuccessful effort to kill Saslaw's car title lending bill in the House, arguing that Virginia should respect the laws of neighboring states, which have essentially banned car title lending as a predatory practice.
"If it's a bad practice for Virginia to go into debt to pay for roads," Oder asked Saslaw on the radio, referring to warnings issued by Saslaw about Gov. Bob McDonnell's proposal to borrow more for transportation, "why in the world is it okay for us to allow businesses to make loans to people at over 200 percent interest, when we know the people they're lending to are already in financial trouble?"
Saslaw maintained that a bill he sponsored a year ago that has been interpreted by state regulators to bar out of state lending was never intended to do so. Instead, it imposed new limits on car title lending, including lowering interest rates from more than 300 percent to 230 percent a year and requiring that those loans not last more than a year.
"Quite frankly,all the consumer groups that are complaining about this were congratulating me about that," Saslaw said.
As for Oder's comments, Saslaw noted that Oder has voted for the state to take on significant debt for road building.
"Before you start casting stones, I'd tell you to get out of the glass house," Saslaw said.
Oder responded, "If I live in a glass house, go right ahead and throw stones at it. But my glass house said that people who get charged 230 percent interest, that's wrong."
That was just one highlight of Kojo Nnamdi and Tom Sherwood's entertaining interview with the blunt Democratic leader of the state senate.
The radio hosts also asked Saslaw about an amendment to regulate abortion clinics as hospitals that Republicans managed to slip onto an unrelated Senate bill in the House of Delegates, sending the issue directly to the floor of the state Senate, where two Democrats voted with 18 Republicans in approving the bill. Saslaw has faced some criticism for letting the bill progress to a point where Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) was able to break a tie and the bill passed.
Saslaw's response -- perhaps coming to a GOP brochure near you before the November election -- "Let me just say this: Over the last decade, it's no secret. I happen to be pro-choice. I've been pretty much responsible for bottling up or killing 80 bills."
He noted that most of those anti-abortion bills have died in the Senate's Education and Health Committee, whose pro-abortion rights membership, he said, he'd helped "engineer."
"One finally got through through circuitous means," he said. "Eighty of 81 ain't a bad batting average."
Saslaw also didn't mince words on the topic of redistricting, which the General Assembly will take up in April. Asked about speculation that Democrats could lose seats in the state Capitol after new legislative maps are drawn in response to the 2010 census, he responded, "If I lose a few seats in redistricting, and I'm in the majority, I'm not doing a very good job."
He said he anticipates that the Democratic-held state Senate will draw the Senate's new lines, the Republican-led House will draw delegate lines and the two chambers will not interfere with one another.
"Our goal is to make the Democratic districts, particularly the marginal ones, a bit bit better than they are now," he said.
Saslaw also reiterated his belief that the Democrats' best candidate to run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated with the retirement of U.S. Sen. Jim Webb (D) is former governor Tim Kaine (D), who sources have said will make an announcement about his as soon as next week.
But Saslaw probably annoyed grass-roots activists who have been rallying behind former representative Tom Perriello (D) for the job by indicating that he thinks no one, including Perriello, holds a candle to Kaine.
"That's not a state secret at this point in time. It's a big drop-off from Kaine to the next guy," Saslaw said.
Watch the interview here.
Rosalind S. Helderman
| March 4, 2011; 3:04 PM ET
Categories: General Assembly, Rosalind Helderman, Timothy M. Kaine, Tom Perriello
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