RICHMOND, Va. -- The Virginia Bankers Association has thrown its weight behind an effort to get Virginia out of the so-called Southeast compact and into national interstate banking.

The association, which has been studying the issue since June, expects to propose legislation when the Virginia General Assembly meets in January, according to executive vice president Walter C. Ayres.

If successful, the state would follow Tennessee and North Carolina in opting out of regional banking restrictions.

"We did not find any real significant opposition," Mr. Ayres said.

Seeking a Sponsor

The bill, similar to one passed earlier in the year by North Carolina, would open Virginia to national reciprocal interstate banking by July 1, 1994. This means that banks from any other states with similar laws would be able to acquire in Virginia and vice versa.

Mr. Ayres said the association is now seeking a legislator to sponsor the bill.

Virginia is currently bound by the Southeast compact, which involves reciprocal agreements among nine southeastern states and the District of Columbia that restrict acquisition activity to that region.

NationsBank Leading Effort

Charlotte-based NationsBank Corp., which has made no secret of its interest in expanding to other regions of the country, encouraged the legislature in its home state of North Carolina to withdraw from the compact earlier in the year and has backed similar efforts in Virginia, Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina.

While bank trade groups in Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina have been waiting for NationsBank to show them some specific, detailed legislation, the Virginia association decided to tackle the issue on its own, according to Mr. Ayres.

"This is not an exercise to respond to the desires of one bank, but an exercise to respond to the desires of several banks," he said.

A Helping Hand

Trade association officials in Georgia and South Carolina say their members are receptive to the idea of national interstate banking. Both state associations recently received legislative proposals drafted by NationsBank attorneys.

Peter V. Davis, NationsBank's manager of state and local governmental relations, said his bank acted at the request of each association.

He said the legislation was basically the North Carolina bill tailored to each state.

Opposition in Florida

Mr. Davis said NationsBank has not yet submitted proposed legislation to the Florida Bankers Association, which is scheduled to discuss the issue in December.

NationsBank's lobbying efforts in the Sunshine State have run into hostility from both community bankers and Barnett Banks Inc., Jacksonville, the state's largest bank.

"Our policy is: opposed, opposed," said Walter Law, executive director of the Community Bankers of Florida.

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