Congress appears to be nearing agreement on provisions that will facilitate creation of a secondary market for small business loans, but provisions in that same legislation that would facilitate a secondary market for commercial real estate now appear in jeopardy as the final two weeks left for lawmakers to deal on the issue wind down. The shakier status for creation of a secondary market for commercial real estate loans stems from concern that because the stakes will be higher, the risk of fraud and abuse and severe losses by investors in these instruments is much higher, mandating greater federal oversight of the market. And, in turn, it is the appropriate comfort level for federal oversight that their members will accept that divides the negotiators. That is the consensus of House and Senate staffers preparing for a House/Senate conference on H.R. 3474. The legislation is titled the Community Development, Credit Enhancement and Regulatory Improvement Act of 1994, but the shorthand is called the community development banking and financial institutions bill, but it has been turned into omnibus legislation dealing with many issues of concern to bankers and members of Congress, including regulatory burden relief, flood insurance, anti-money laundering provisions and high-yield mortgages. And, dont forget provisions dealing with the status of Jerusalem, Fair Trade in Financial Services and tree planting. Congressional staffers held their first meeting on the differing versions of the legislation June 16. They are working to lay the groundwork for a public conference for members on both the CDFI and interstate banking and branching bills the week of June 27th estimated to take three days. The objective is to complete work on all banking bills before Congress adjourns July 1 for the Independence Day recess. That would clear the decks for Congress to spend the remainder of its time on such controversial issues as health care reform; the hope is to adjourn the week of October 7th. The negotiators are seeking to blend provisions of legislation passed by the Senate whose sponsor is Sen. Alfonse M. DAmato, R-N.Y,. with legislation passed by the House whose sponsor is Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski, D-Pa. The DAmato bill would clear away the underbrush that serves as technical barriers to securitization of these instruments; the Kanjorski bill calls for the Treasury Department to certify companies to serve as secondary market agents. Based on comments by staffers attending the June 16 meeting, greater federal oversight, i.e. safeguards, will have to be included in the bill to win House support for including commercial real estate loans in the legislation. Rep. John D. Dingell Jr., D-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and a member of the conference committee on this provision, is especially concerned about the proper level of oversight, staffers said.
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