The California Legislature last week passed a bill that would establish a 10-member committee to study the impact of bank mergers on the state.

The group would determine how financial service-related acquisitions have affected community investment, charitable giving, and advancement opportunities for women and minorities.

The bill was drafted in response to NationsBank Corp.'s purchase of San Francisco's BankAmerica Corp., which resulted in the formation of today's Bank of America Corp. It was amended last spring to include all financial institutions that have recently entered California through acquisitions. The bill passed both the state Senate and the Assembly, and it awaits the governor's signature.

The committee also would determine whether the state should withdraw state funds deposited in institutions that have moved their corporate headquarters out of state. To ensure that state monies are serving California, the study also would examine ways to let independent banks participate in the distribution of state funds.

"This could give community banks a crack at the state's funds and allow them to enhance their stature," said Bill George, chief consultant to the state Assembly's Banking and Finance Committee.

If the bill is enacted, the 10-member investigative committee would be chosen next month from among members of the state Senate and Assembly. The group would have until November 2000 to provide its findings to the state Legislature.

The committee also would be asked to recommend measures to make California more attractive as a headquarters for national and international banks.

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