The Time Is Now

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By Jack Hartings, Chairman of ICBA

Happy New Year, fellow community bankers! I hope you enjoyed the holidays and are looking forward to a prosperous 2016. This upcoming year has a lot of good in store for our industry, because ICBA continues to pursue even more successes for community banks nationwide. We certainly closed out 2015 with great wins in Washington, so I want to thank so many of you who stepped up to make change happen last year.

The financial services provisions in the transportation funding law Congress enacted last month are great examples of persistence and grassroots success. With so many community bankers sending messages asking members of Congress to scrap the proposed Federal Reserve stock dividend cut along with ICBA-led advocacy, we were able to achieve a big win—community banks with $10 billion in assets and less will be exempt from this backdoor tax on only our industry. Also, several beneficial regulatory-relief provisions from ICBA’s Plan for Prosperity on exam cycles, privacy notices and mortgage lending were enacted. (For more, read this month’s Washington Watch column)

Our successful effort to include these financial services provisions in the transportation law is a great example of staying at the table and keeping our issues front and center. You never know when an opportunity may arise to move regulatory relief through. Few would have thought a highway bill would become the vehicle that would allow multiple community bank regulatory relief provisions to be signed into law by the president.

ICBA remains steadfastly opposed to singularly taxing the banking sector to pay for federal highways, or for any other general government spending. We adamantly opposed the idea from the start, but our industry’s concerted efforts have protected many community banks from this bad precedent.

This brings me to a big point not talked about often enough—while ICBA’s grassroots advocacy is critical for getting legislation moving or passed, it’s just as critical for stopping bad policy ideas. Examples of terrible policy ideas that ICBA has helped kill in recent years include forming a U.S. Postal Service bank or establishing a single federal banking regulator.

That’s why it’s vital that we step up, stand up and speak up. If we don’t, nobody else will do it for us. We can’t afford to let Congress listen only to others about our industry, particularly others such as megabanks and nonbanks, that pursue interests and agendas opposite of those of Main Street America. Never before has it been more important.

Last year’s community banking successes showed firsthand the outsized reputation and influence we have in our nation’s capital. Let’s leverage that. ICBA makes it easy for you to engage with lawmakers and regulators. The association’s grassroots alerts tell you which issues are front and center. So visit ICBA’s Be Heard grassroots center at www.icba.org/beheard. See how you can advocate for the betterment of our industry.

Constructive change in Washington can happen, and it happens because of you. It happens because of ICBA. Let’s all make 2016 another great advocacy year for our industry.


Jack Hartings is president and CEO of The People’s Bank Co. in Coldwater, Ohio.

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