WASHINGTON - A letter signed by 2,100 groups and individuals - including more than 200 mayors - was sent to lawmakers Thursday to protest legislation that would dilute the Community Reinvestment Act.

"At a time when Congress is planning to drastically cut federal spending for community rebuilding, it makes no sense to eliminate CRA's effectiveness in bringing private capital to communities that need it most," said Seattle Mayor Norman Rice, who presented the letter to members of the House and Senate banking committees in a ceremony on Capitol Hill.

Copies of a similar letter, signed by 300 New York groups, were delivered Thursday to the district offices of Senate Banking Committee Chairman Alfonse M. D'Amato, R-N.Y.

Under a bill approved by the House Banking Committee in June, small banks would be exempted from the reinvestment law, and community groups would be banned from blocking merger or acquisition applications on CRA grounds. The Senate Banking Committee is expected to consider the legislation this month.

The letter to the banking committees was signed by a diverse coalition of groups, including the National Black Chamber of Commerce and the National Newspaper Publishers Association.

"We went through great pains to sign on sectors not often thought of as being strongly in favor of CRA," said Allen J. Fishbein, general counsel for the Center for Community Change.

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