Gov. George Bush said he will sign legislation that would make Texas the first state to "opt out" of the federal interstate branching law.

A spokesman for the governor said Thursday that Gov. Bush could sign the bill, which passed both houses of the state Legislature unanimously, as early as today.

The law would prevent some of the country's biggest banking companies from turning their Texas-based banks into branches of larger regional or national banks based elsewhere. Subsidiaries of BankAmerica Corp., NationsBank Corp., Chemical Banking Corp., First Interstate Bancorp, and Banc One Corp. hold the lion's share of the Texas market.

"We're very pleased," said Christopher Williston, head of the Independent Bankers Association of Texas, which spearheaded a massive multi-industry lobbying campaign to pass the opt-out legislation.

States have until June 1997 to opt out of the branching provisions of the Riegle-Neal Interstate Banking and Branching Act, which otherwise take effect automatically.

The Texas law, however, has a four-year "sunset" date, assuring that the issue will be debated again in 1999. The sunset date was put on the legislation in a compromise with the big banks.

Before agreeing to the sunset amendment, however, supporters of the opt- out idea made sure language was inserted by the state House clearly stating that Texas could only ever authorize interstate branching by enacting a state "opt-in" law.

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