For the second straight year, California lawmakers have postponed a vote on a bill that would create a new state savings bank charter.
Amid criticism from the governor's office that the proposed charter is redundant and a bank trade group's claims that it is risky, a Senate committee canceled a hearing on the bill last week.
If it is not voted on by mid-September, it probably would be shelved until next year.
The Western League of Savings Institutions has been pushing for a new charter in case Congress someday abolishes the federal charter. Though the state already has a thrift charter, the majority of the state's 50 thrifts have opted to be regulated by the Office of Thrift Supervision.
A bill to create a new charter was introduced in 1998 but was defeated after the California Bankers Association opposed some provisions.
The bill was expected to pass this year after it received the blessing of the California Bankers and unanimously passed the state Assembly in April. It was put on hold after attacks by the California Independent Bankers and the state Department of Finance.
The Department of Finance, which analyzes the fiscal impact of legislation for the governor, raised questions about the cost of regulating institutions that convert to the new charter. The department also wondered whether a new charter is really needed.
The California Independent Bankers chiefly opposes a provision that would let commercial firms own state thrifts.
"We do not want nonfinancial ownership of savings banks," said Craig Hudson, executive director of the California Independent Bankers.
Congress is at odds over the same issue; the Senate financial reform bill would bar nonfinancial companies from acquiring thrifts, but the House legislation would permit such transactions with the approval of federal banking regulators.
Mr. Hudson's group also has concerns about insuring thrifts under the proposed charter and about a provision that would let thrifts buy real estate and stocks.
Unlike federally chartered thrifts, which are insured by the Savings Association Insurance Fund, state chartered savings banks would be backed by the Bank Insurance Fund. In a letter to state lawmakers, the group argued that both insurance funds could be imperiled if existing federal savings and loans converted to the new charter.
"This could add risks to the Bank Insurance Fund not currently contemplated and could further concentrate risks in the Savings Association Insurance Fund as its deposit base shrinks," the letter said.
The new charter would also let thrifts purchase and develop real estate and buy equity securities on Wall Street. Commercial banks cannot buy real estate and are typically limited to investing in government-related bonds and securities.
Edward Levy, legislative counsel for the Western League, remains confident that the issues raised by both parties can be resolved.
"I think we can deal with their concerns," Mr. Levy said.