Oregon and Alaska this year passed the first interstate branching laws in the West -- without opposition from community bankers.

Four states -- New York and North Carolina are the others now will allow unfettered branching across state lines with states that have similar laws.

Oregon's reciprocal interstate branching act became law on July 1. Alaska's law takes effect in January, according to Willis Kirkpatrick, director of banking and securities at the Alaska Department of Commerce.

Lack of Opposition

Banking regulatory officials in both Oregon and Alaska said there was no formal objection to the laws from community banking groups.

"Community bankers we talk to don't really care about interstate branching," said Cecil Monroe, administrator of Oregon's Division of Finance and Corporate Securities. "They feel they can compete with a local branch of a big bank."

The laws, modeled after New York's year-old statute, are designed both to allow cross-border branching and to preempt federal legislation.

"The idea is that the states will move far enough so that the federal government won't have to act," said Ellen Lamb, spokeswoman for the Conference of State Bank Supervisors.

Mr. Monroe said Oregon had wanted to act before less-appetizing standards were forced upon it by the federal government.

The laws are set up to benefit interstate bank holding companies the most.

Keycorp, based in Albany, N.Y., is the most obvious beneficiary of the Oregon and Alaska laws. Its Key Bank of Oregon in Portland is the state's fourth-largest bank, and the $25 billion holding company has banks in Washington, Idaho, and Alaska.

Washington Effort Fails

Until Washington and Idaho pass similar reciprocal branching laws, Key Bank can't merge its banks in the Northwest. A Washington interstate branching bill but it died in committee this year.

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