After finally teaming up on expanded-powers bill, Wisconsin banks and credit unions have been shouldered aside in the waning minutes of the state legislature's session - by the Green Bay Packers.
The financial services bill was sidelined by legislation to help fund about $170 million of a $295 million renovation of Lambeau Field, where the Packers play. Legislators struck a deal on the Packers bill Friday, and a vote is expected today.
"It's ironic," said Kurt Bauer, the director of governmental relations for the Wisconsin Bankers Association. "For much of the session legislators were caught in the crossfire between banks and credit unions. Now it's the banks and credit unions that were caught in the crossfire of the Green Bay Packers."
The financial services package would have given Wisconsin's 330 state-chartered banks most of the same powers that federally chartered banks gained from last year's Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. And it would have let the 350 state-chartered credit unions open branches throughout the state and serve more relatives of credit union members.
The two sides had been pushing competing packages since fall. The state Assembly had passed the bank version and the Senate the credit union version.
Regulators helped broker a deal, but not until last Monday did the two sides agree to a compromise. The Assembly passed the compromise bill by voice vote late Wednesday night, but the Senate did not bring up the proposal. Instead it dealt almost exclusively with Lambeau Field on Thursday and Friday.
The compromise bill would have given each side most of what it wanted. As the credit unions had urged, it would have barred banks from sharing account information with affiliated brokerages or insurance agencies without explicit customer permission. And as the banks had urged, it would have barred credit unions from accepting virtually anyone in the state as a member, and would have prevented more credit unions from making commercial loans.
"It's not often banks and credit unions agree on anything," said Ron Halvorsen, president of the Wisconsin Credit Union League. "But in our meetings, we all came to realize there is a lot more common ground than anyone first imagined."
Legislators could still tackle the bill during a three-day veto session in May, but Mr. Bauer of the Wisconsin Bankers Association said the chances of that happening are slim. After May, the legislature is not scheduled to meet until next year.
"It's disappointing this bill didn't go through," said Kim Manka, a spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. "We really wanted this to happen. We finally had both sides agreeing on a compromise, which is a pretty unusual thing when you're talking about banks and credit unions."