The legislatures of Iowa, Mississippi, West Virginia, and New Jersey recently approved interstate branching legislation - bringing to 31 the number of states that have acted on such measures. Puerto Rico has also adopted the practice.

Of the four latest states, only New Jersey has not enacted its measure; Gov. Christine Todd Whitman is expected to sign it this week.

Of the four, only West Virginia allows de novo branching by out-of-state banks. The three other states restrict acquisitions by out-of-state banks to branches that have existed for longer than five years. All four allow state banks to operate branches out-of-state.

The three latest measures to be enacted have different effective dates in 1997: Iowa's law takes effective June 1, West Virginia's takes effect on May 31, and Mississippi's on May 1. New Jersey's measure becomes effective when the governor signs it.

The Mississippi and West Virginia statutes each mandate that one institution may not own more than 25% of the deposits in the state.

Unless a state enacts "opt out" legislation, banks will be able to branch across the state's borders as of June 1, 1997, when the Riegle-Neal Interstate Banking and Branching Efficiency Act takes effect.

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