HARRISBURG -- House Republican leaders aren't talking about who quietly inserted controversial language regarding so-called "payday" loans into a 59-page budget-related bill as the Legislature passed a flurry of bills last week before representatives and senators left for their summer recess.
The inconspicuous paragraph, which was stripped out by the Senate on Wednesday before it voted on the fiscal code bill, is now delaying the state budget process. Because the Senate removed the language, the fiscal code bill must be passed again by the House, which adjourned last week until Sept. 23.
It's unclear if House members will come back before then to pass the bill, which directs the state Treasury and Revenue departments to collect and disburse funds.
"I'm not aware who put [the language] in there," said Steve Miskin, a House GOP spokesman, speaking Monday on behalf of Speaker of the House Sam Smith. "I'm not sure it's relevant anymore."
The payday lending language said it was the intent of both chambers to vote on a lending bill by Oct. 31. The language was nonbinding, Mr. Miskin said.
Such loans are widely condemned by consumer groups as harmful to low-income borrowers. No state has legalized payday lending since 2005, according to the Center for Responsible Lending, a policy group that opposes predatory lending.
The short-term, high-interest loans aren't allowed in Pennsylvania now due to caps on interests that limit annual percentage rates to under 30 percent, according to the state's Department of Banking and Securities.
In June, a Senate banking committee voted 8-6 to approve a payday lending bill, but the issue never made it to the Senate floor for a full vote.
Advocates of the Senate bill said it would contain protections for consumers such as limiting borrowers to no more than eight consecutive successful two-week loans and a ban on rollover loans.
Before stripping the language from the fiscal code, several senators said last week they thought the House's action would hurt support for the issue.
"I do not believe that the fiscal code, a bill that directly relates to our budget, is the appropriate place to address this," said Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, the sponsor of the lending legislation in the Senate.
"We didn't agree to include this paragraph in the fiscal code, and there was no mention of it in the bill's title -- a potentially fatal flaw," Erik Arneson, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, said in an email Monday. "Given those two factors, we saw no alternative but to remove it."
A spokesman for Gov. Tom Corbett said the administration has not taken a position on the lending issue and Mr. Corbett would want to see certain consumer safeguards in any potential future legislation.
He also said the governor's office would like the House to pass a fiscal code bill "as soon as possible," noting it contains language to implement funds for higher education and the cash-strapped Philadelphia schools.
Kate Giammarise: email@example.com, 1-717-787-4254 or on Twitter @KateGiammarise.