Rebeca Romero Rainey: In it for the long haul

Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) serve as the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee, respectively. Bloomberg/Getty Images

From millions in assessment credits to federal protections for banking cannabis-related businesses, ICBA is focused on winning significant, long-term victories in Washington.

By Rebeca Romero Rainey, ICBA

With 2019 coming to a close, it’s a good time to reflect on what the community banking industry achieved this year in the advocacy arena—and what remains to be done in the coming year. Fortunately for the local communities we serve, community banks have followed the historic successes last year with many notable policy victories in 2019.

There is perhaps no more significant advocacy win this year than the Federal Reserve’s decision to develop a real-time payments system—a longtime ICBA priority. Even more recently, the triggering of approximately $764 million in deposit-insurance assessment credits brings to fruition an advocacy effort that was instituted into law way back in 2010.

We also welcomed the recent agency announcement emphasizing the benefits of using a standardized approach to cybersecurity preparedness without mandating any particular assessment, as ICBA has long advocated.

These are far from the only advocacy victories of 2019, which also include:

  • The Senate vote to approve Michelle “Miki” Bowman’s nomination for a full 14-year term in the ICBA-advocated community banking seat on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors
  • Proposed delays to the effective date of the Current Expected Credit Loss (CECL) accounting standards for many community banks until 2023
  • Ensuring Subchapter S community banks received beneficial tax relief from tax reform
  • Adoption of a final rule raising the threshold for residential real estate transactions requiring an appraisal from $250,000 to $400,000, the first increase since 1994
  • The Labor Department’s release of a more favorable proposal on overtime pay
  • Implementation of pro-community bank policies from the 2018 farm bill
  • The October launch of ICBA’s “Wake Up” nationwide campaign to raise awareness of credit unions and their risky practices, costly tax subsidies and irresponsibly lax oversight
  • Passage in the House of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act (H.R. 1595), which provides safe harbor protections for depository institutions banking cannabis-related businesses (CRBs) in September with broad bipartisan support.

And most provisions of the landmark S.2155 regulatory relief law are in effect, including qualified mortgage, examination, Volcker Rule, Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA), simplified capital requirements for appropriately capitalized community banks and reciprocal deposit relief. Meanwhile, the agencies’ short-form call report fails to meet the intent of Congress and remains an ongoing ICBA priority, illustrating the fact that community bank advocacy never ends.

Other key policy battles heading into 2020 include:

  • Pushing back against tax-exempt credit unions, the Farm Credit System and new industrial loan companies attempting to mix banking and commerce
  • Advancing ICBA-backed cannabis-banking safe harbor legislation in the House and Senate
  • Maximizing community banking relief within policymaker efforts to reform the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) and Community Reinvestment Act (CRA)
  • Reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program
  • Ensuring community banks are represented in the debate over housing-finance reform.

ICBA continues to depend on and appreciate the limitless support of the nation’s community banks and our affiliated state associations as we work on these many issues. These initiatives, which have been years in the making, show that our beloved industry focuses not on short-term gimmicks and soundbites, but meaningful, big-picture achievements in Washington and back home.

While the nation’s largest companies recently updated their corporate statements of purpose to include the interests of customers, employees and communities, this is how community banks have always operated.

Notable campaigns

Consider ICBA’s “Wake Up” campaign. Building on the work of the ICBA Credit Union Task Force and ICBA’s eye-opening credit union study, which bolstered the long-time observations of community bankers with quantitative data, the Wake Up campaign is combining legislative and regulatory proposals with comprehensive research, grassroots advocacy campaigns and customizable resources to help community banks nationwide continue the call for policymakers to review credit unions’ $2 billion taxpayer-funded annual subsidy.

Meanwhile, ICBA continues to see the benefits of our advocacy in actions like the prospects for further movement of the SAFE Banking Act in the Senate. As of press time, the Senate companion bill, S.1200, already has more than 30 cosponsors, and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, has said he intends to consider some form of safe harbor legislation. ICBA was the first national banking trade association to endorse the SAFE Banking Act. And we do it without losing sight of those we serve. While the nation’s largest companies recently updated their corporate statements of purpose to include the interests of customers, employees and communities, this is how community banks have always operated. This is what drives our banks to remain rock-solid leaders in local communities nationwide, and it is what motivates our tireless advocacy efforts and opens doors to policy gains in our nation’s capital.

Thank you, community bankers, for your unwavering support in 2019. As we welcome the new year, let’s continue our steady push for additional policy victories that will benefit local communities and propel us into another prosperous new year.

Rebeca Romero Rainey President and CEO, ICBA
Connect with Rebeca @romerorainey