Clearing the Way

By Bill Loving

As members of Congress head back to Washington this month from their summer recess, there’s something that should give them cleardirection on how they can help community banks prosper—it’s called The Community Lending Enhancement and Regulatory Relief Act of 2013 or CLEAR Act. With separate but similar versions introduced in the Senate and House, these bipartisan measures go a long way in driving ICBA’s overall agenda to ease excessive regulatory burdens on the nation’s community banks.

ICBA has long been at the forefront of this regulatory-relief effort in Washington—carefully molding and advocating its Plan for Prosperity legislative platform, which would promote a sensible regulatory environment that will help community banks to continue to serve their communities. Several CLEAR Act provisions directly derive from ICBA’s Plan for Prosperity.

That’s good news for us community bankers. And let me tell you, ICBA has our backs and is looking out for community banks big time on this. ICBA knows that regulatory burden is of the utmost concern for community bankers like you and me.

And relieving community banks of the untenable regulatory burdens they bear will go a long way toward allowing community banks like mine and yours to keep deposits circulating throughout our communities, leading to more jobs and a stronger economic recovery.

Keep in mind: That’s an important and positive message that Congress needs to hear. Spread the word with your representatives in Congress. Your voice is vitally important. Remember there is strength in numbers.

But before you take action, I want to give you some details on both the Senate and House versions of the bill so you have all the information you need to help in this effort.

The Senate bill (S. 1349). This Senate version of the bill was introduced in July, just before Congress left for the summer recess. Sponsored by Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), the bill would:

– exempt community banks from a variety of new mortgage reforms, including new escrow rules, to support the housing recovery;

– support additional capital opportunities for small bank holding companies; and

– provide exemptions for community banks from Sarbanes-Oxley internal-controls assessment mandates.

The House bill (H.R. 1750). The House version of the bill, which was introduced in April by Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.), would:

– exempt community banks from a variety of new mortgage reforms, including new escrow rules, to support the housing recovery;

– require rigorous and quantitative justification of new Securities and Exchange Commission rules;

– reduce annual privacy notice redundancies to cut paperwork;

– support additional capital opportunities for small bank holding companies; and

– exempt community banks from Sarbanes-Oxley internal-controls assessment mandates.

While both bills are gaining bipartisan support, there’s more work to be done. It’s vital that we all speak up and show our members of Congress how regulatory burden affects our ability to serve our customers and communities during this critical time. ICBA’s president and CEO, Cam Fine, hit the nail on the head when he said that this legislation is pivotal to unlocking the doors of local economic prosperity. I couldn’t agree more, so let’s show Congress exactly what that means to us.

So go ahead and get active, community bankers. We’ve got a good start thanks to ICBA’s Plan for Prosperity; now let’s make it to the finish line.

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