Call it "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington - the Sequel."

More than 100 community bankers from small towns throughout the country will converge in the nation's capital next week to buttonhole elected officials about their needs and concerns.

The Independent Bankers Association of America organized the three-day effort as part of what it has declared as National Community Banking Month. The event will include speeches by House Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Ricki Helfer.

"These bankers are coming at their own expense," said Elmer F. Ramos, director of communications for the IBAA. "These are people getting involved on a grass-roots level."

Though most states have celebrated some form of community banking recognition event in recent years, this is only the second year that it has been done on a coordinated national level. The governors in some states have issued official proclamations for the month; in others, the trade associations have organized special community events.

In Kansas, for example, the community bankers have hired a chemistry professor from Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., to travel to various elementary schools in the state to do a hands-on science show. The bankers want to show that they are involved in all aspects of their communities' development, the community bankers association there said.

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Timing is everything, the Massachusetts Bankers Association learned recently.

The trade group held its annual meeting in Palm Beach, Fla., May 15 and 16, just as the state House of Representatives was preparing to approve long-sought legislation reducing the state's bank tax to 10.5% from 12.54%.

But when lawmakers found out the targets of the tax cut were sunning it up in Florida, no doubt playing a lot of golf, the "bankers took some ribbing" from legislators, said Robert Fichter, executive director of the state bankers association.

The legislation also encountered opposition from the Tax Equity Alliance of Massachusetts, which opposed any reduction in taxes for banks at a time when they are reporting record profits and paying high executive salaries. Compiled by Christopher Rhoads and Jonathan D. Epstein

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