With interstate branching now the books, several northeastern states are racing to be among the first to open their borders.

The banking departments in Connecticut and New Jersey have endorsed "opting in" to interstate branching, which would allow state and national banks to consolidate subsidiaries in those states before the June 1997 triger date. ..

Bankers and state officials in her states Haven't decided what positions to take, but expect some form of opting-in legislation to pass.

That is in stark contrast to states in the Midwest and Southwest, such as Texas, where bankers want to "opt out" of interstate branching to protect small institutions.

"We basically are hot to get us all reading from the same hynmook and preaching the same line and doing the same thing," said Clare Sykes, spokeswoman for the New York state Department of Banking. "We feel that if the Northeast has to come up with something first, then let's do it."

Richard S. Garabedian, an attorney with Silver, Freedman & Taft in Washington who follows national banking issues, and he is not surprised by such talk.

"You've had a lot of pressure for interstate branching up there. People cross state borders there all the time," he said.

But officials at the Independent Bankers Association of America are cautioning against hasty action.

The trade group opposed the passage of the interstate banking law and has encouraged state organizations to try to opt out of the law.

"I think there are very serious anplications if you opt in early," said Ron Ence, an IBAA lobbyist. But he acknowledged that "clearly there are going to be some States that-will look at it."

Most of the New England states already permit interstate banking 'through state laws. New York has a reciprocal national interstate branching law, which creates a basic framework for interstate branching should the state opt in. That law has also been copied by North Carolina, Alaska, and Oregon. Rhode Island also permits interstate branching.

A similar bill has been filed in the Massachusetts legislature by the Massachusetts Bankers Association, but no action has been taken.

A fight could develop in New Jersey, however, if the state legislature tries to permit out-ofstate banks to enter the state by establishing new branches. Community bankers in the Garden State oppose new branching because it would hurt their established franchises.

"Small bankers see it as an opportunity for them to cross state lines and follow their customers," said Thomas Curry, acting commissioner of the Massachusetts Division of Banks.

"It's viewed positively in the industry."

David E. Floreen, senior vice president of the Massachusetts Bankers Association, agreed.

"Several bankers are on borders and have essentially been precluded from expanding because it's too expensive to buy a bank and run two banks," Mr. Floreen said. "So branching for those institutions may make a lot of sense."

Pennsylvania banking officials "would like to see an early opt-in," said Paul H. Wentzel Jr., executive assistant to the secretary of banking.

But officials and bankers don't expect any activity until January, when lawmakers reconvene in Harrisburg and a new administration enters office.

In Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. bankers and state officials remain undecided while they study the law.

"We have some diversity within the banking community in Maine at this time." said Donald DeMatteis, superintendent of the Maine Bureau of Banking.

"Everybody's just in the initial stages of studying the bill and formulating positions that would have widespread support" and could be passed by the legislature.

"There's a lot of interest out there, but most people are taking a wait-and-see attitude," said New Hampshire banking commissioner A. Roland Roberge. "They wants chance to read the bill first."

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