Congress is going to keep pushing municipal bond market reform in 1995, Edward Markey made clear last week. The SEC and the MSRB won't be permitted to rest, if he has any say. The question is, though, will he have much say?
Edward Markey is a congressman, a Democrat who represents a district just north of Boston, and he is chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees the Securities and Exchange Commission, which in turn oversees the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board. For the municipal bond market, Markey is arguably the most powerful person in Washington.
When he spoke at The Bond Buyer's Northeast Public Finance Conference in Boston last Monday, Markey said his subcommittee would hold hearings next year on bond disclosure and bond prices, and he promised to look into the need to register conduit bonds sold to finance privately owned business facilities. He also said he will be watching the National Association of Securities Dealers to see if it reforms sales practices for Treasury bonds.
The problem, an unexpected one, is that Markey may not be watching from the perch he has now. First elected t6. years ago, he was reelect.ed in 1992 by 62% to 28% over his nearest opponent. He is not in one of the70 or so too-close-to-call congressional races to be decided two weeks from tomorrow; he'll be back on Capitol Hill in January, reporters who watch Massachusetts politics say.
But it's conceivable that Markey will be returning to a Congress in which he no longer holds the chairmanship of his subcommittee, a post he has occupied since 1987. Last Friday, the New York Times reported that President Clinton considered Democratic control of the House in greater jeopardy than Democratic control of the Senate. The GOP hasn't run the House since a handful of years in the 1950s, but everything seems to be breaking their way, political news commentators report.
If Markey is replaced by Jack Fields of Texas, the ranking minority leader of the subcommittee, the emphasis on securities regulation may decline. Fields, who represents a district on the north and east side of Houston, may be more interested in energy-related bills than municipal bonds, and securities regulation may languish.
All across the country, political races are so close pollsters are unable to predict who is going to win, and the widespread uncertainty makes Nov. 8 much more arresting than the typical Election Day. Change may even be widespread enough to affect municipal bond legislative activity. That's a long shot, but it's worth watching.