WASHINGTON — Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby offered a few hints Wednesday about what bankers might be able to expect from pending regulatory relief legislation due next month.

The panel is working on a bill ahead of a May 14 vote, but details about what the plan will contain remain few and far between. Shelby didn't offer many specifics about the package or where the process stands with fellow lawmakers on his committee, but did signal a few areas of interest at an Independent Community Bankers of America conference in Washington.

Jack Hartings, chairman of the ICBA, asked the Alabama Republican about possible changes to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's "qualified mortgage" rule, including a proposal that would allow more loans held in portfolio to be considered QM, along with relief from some escrow requirements and balloon mortgage restrictions.

"I think that would be a positive development," Shelby said, adding that his staff is looking into those issues.

Shelby added that he was working to extend the annual exam cycle for small, well-performing banks, though he cautioned he might not be able to push the schedule to two years, as some in the industry have been suggesting.

"We can't go 24 [months], but we'll certainly go past 12. If we have to go to 18 [months], 18 is better than 12," he said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, announced at the same conference that he plans to unveil data security legislation with Rep. John Carney, D-Del., as soon as this week. The bill would standardize how companies must protect consumer information and would establish national breach notification rules for when an attack occurs.

"One of the things we want to do is make sure the whole system is on alert, because quite honestly the system is only as secure as the weakest link," Neugebauer told ICBA attendees, adding that the legislation will be similar to a bill by Sens. Tom Carper, D-Del., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo.

Still, Neugebauer said his legislation will likely steer clear of the fight over who is liable for data breaches. Bankers and credit union executives have long argued that retailers, for example, should share the costs of reimbursing consumers and replacing stolen cards when the breach takes place at a retailer, such as Target or Home Depot, both of which have suffered attacks in recent years.

"One of the things that I'm trying to do is stay in the jurisdiction of my committee," Neugebauer said, noting that liability concerns would fall under the purview of the judiciary panel. "I think certainly down the road at some point in time the liability issues will be discussed."

Shelby added that while he'd like to bring a handful of Democrats onto the bill, he's not discounting other avenues for passage, including the appropriations process. "It might take that this year, because we're not giving up," he said. "We're going to do everything we can to give you some regulatory relief."

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