A Baltimore state senator indicated today that he and other legislators intend to fight a Senate bill proposing to eliminate the 10 percent ceiling on mortgage interest rates because such a bill would "let the bankers run rampant."
Sen. Julian L. Lapides (D-Baltimore) promptly jumped up on the Senate floor today after amendments to the bill were read and requested that action on the bill be postponed until next week.
"This is really an important piece of legislation," Lapides said. "I think some of us have not told the truth about whether mortgage money in the state is indeed scarce as state bankers claim."
The bankers claim that with the low ceiling, it has become unprofitable for them to grant mortgages because they can find more profitable ways to invest their money.
The bankers say they can only afford to give mortgages with 30 percent or more as a downpayment, which has eliminated many buyers from the housing market. As a result the homebuilders say fewer houses will be built and workers will lose jobs.
The bill, passed Thursday by the Senate Economic Matters Committee as emergency legislation, would eliminate the 10 percent ceiling and continue the prohibition on points. A point is a surcharge equal to one percent of the mortgage and is paid to the lender at the time of settlement.
Bankers and homebuilders insist points should be allowed as an incentive to entice more mortgage money into the state. The point issue also is expected to heat up the debate on Tuesday.
Lapides said a higher interest rate would be "fine for Montgomery County, but it's not good for the rest of the state."
Lapides said after the hearing that he would support legislation to raise the ceiling to 11 percent for a two-year period.
Sen. Harry J. McGuirk of Baltimore said the bill will be brought up on Monday night and then scheduled for discussion on Tuesday. If the bill is given its final form on Tuesday, "we'll probably pass the bill on Wednesday," McGuirk said. That will be in time for the house hearings scheduled for Thursday on usury bills.
In other action today, the Senate gave preliminary approval to a bill to prohibit providers of life, health, property and surety insurance from discriminating against present or prospective policy holders who are physically handicapped.