WASHINGTON - Key Republican lawmakers in both the Senate and the House are getting ready for Regulatory Relief, round two.
In the Senate, Richard C. Shelby is expected to lead the effort. In a brief interview on Wednesday, the Alabama Republican said the time is ripe for a broad-based regulatory reform measure, which he plans to introduce early next month.
"I think the atmosphere has changed tremendously in the House and the Senate, and I think we have a great opportunity to approach legislation to do away with a lot of regulations that make no sense at all," he said.
"They're an impediment to the bankers of America, and they're just unnecessary paperwork," he added.
When asked what regulations will top his hit list, Sen. Shelby said only that "there are a lot of them that compete."
However, he added that the bill will be patterned after a measure that he co-sponsored with Sen. Connie Mack, R-Fla., in 1993. Substantial portions of that bill eventually ended up in President Clinton's community development banking bill that was enacted last year.
One 1993 Shelby-Mack provision that did not make it into the community development bill would have given "safe harbor" from community challenges to banks with outstanding Community Reinvestment Act ratings.
Legislative sources said they expect to see this provision in the new Shelby bill, along with a repeal of section 132 of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Improvement Act - the bank "micromanagement" provisions.
Industry representatives are giving Sen. Shelby's bill good odds for passage.
In the House, Rep. Bill McCollum, R-Fla., is leading the charge in the regulatory reform arena. He has already introduced two measures aimed at lightening the burden on banks.
One would exempt small banks from CRA, while the other aims to protect bank directors and officers who act in good faith when deciding to make loans to borrowers that end up defaulting.
Rep. Doug Bereuter is also viewed by industry representatives as an important advocate of lifting regulatory burden off banks. He introduced a companion measure to the 1993 Shelby-Mack bill in the Senate.
A member of Rep. Bereuter's staff said he expects the Nebraska Republican to introduce a broad-based reform measure, but that the proposal will surface "well down the road."
House efforts to lift burdensome bank regulation are lagging behind those in the Senate in part because the GOP "Contract with America" is absorbing so much energy in the lower chamber. Those efforts are likely to continue through the end of March at least.
Adding to the busy agenda is the bevy of banking measures introduced by House Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach on the first day of Congress.
"Chairman Leach has set such a busy agenda for that committee, between Glass-Steagall reform and regulatory consolidation and all the HUD issues," said Karen Shaw, president of ISD/Shaw Inc., a consulting firm that tracks bank legislation and regulation. "The Senate has said that it will wait and see what the House passes over, but this is an area where the Senate may take the lead."
Industry groups have not been idle in seizing upon the regulatory reform opportunities afforded by the new Republican majority on Capitol Hill.
The Independent Bankers Association of America has been shopping its "Financial Institution Regulatory Reform Act of 1995" to lawmakers. The bill is a lengthy wish list that calls for everything from overhauling the Financial Accounting Standards Board to Community Reinvestment Act exemptions for small banks.
Peter Kravitz, Senate lobbyist for the IBAA, met with the staffs of Sens. Shelby and Mack last on Tuesday to discuss the bill and said the reaction was positive.