Viewpoint: Community bank legislation and the Delaware way in D.C.

Sarah A. Long
Guest columnist

Amid all the political noise and partisan bickering coming out of Washington these days, something very unusual just happened in the U.S. Senate that Delawareans should know about.

A bipartisan group of 22 senators — 10 Republicans, 11 Democrats and one Independent — agreed to sponsor legislation that would make the first substantial reforms to the nation’s financial system since 2010.

The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act (S. 2155) promises to bolster economic growth through common-sense provisions, including the rightsizing of rules that apply to community banks.

The proposed legislation didn’t dominate the news cycle or fill the front pages, but if it can clear Congress, it promises to spur economic growth and job creation in Delaware and across the country.

Delawareans should be rooting for this bill and thanking Sen. Tom Carper and Sen. Chris Coons, who announced their support for this bipartisan legislation authored by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.). This shows what Congress can do when lawmakers of different parties, in good faith, work together to solve real problems — in this case, enhancing consumer protections and reducing regulatory burdens on community banks and credit unions, without compromising safety and soundness.

“After the financial crisis, Congress passed much-needed reforms to strengthen the banking system and help protect consumers by reining in predatory and reckless behavior. Seven years later, we know that many of those reforms are working well, while others require adjustments to ensure community banks and credit unions continue to be a valuable source of affordable loans for families and small businesses,” Carper and
Coons said in a statement.

This bill will give more creditworthy borrowers in Delaware the chance to get the mortgage they need to buy a home. It will allow more deserving small business owners to get the loan they need to expand and hire more workers. And community bankers will be able to spend more time serving their customers’ needs, instead of racking up hours a day complying with federal regulations intended for much larger institutions.

Carper and Coons should be applauded for their diligent efforts to ensure the proposed bill included a provision that allows all active-duty service members to receive quality, free credit monitoring, an important service they deserve but don’t currently receive.

Unfortunately, some in Congress are making false claims about this bill, arguing that it “rolls back” regulations. It does not. Rather, it makes sensible changes that represent seven years of lessons about what’s working — and what’s not — in financial regulation. Top financial regulators have also called for changes and voiced support for the proposal.

The good news is so many Democrats and Republicans support this bill that it stands an excellent chance of passing the Senate. It’s already cleared the Banking Committee on a strong bipartisan vote, which bodes well for success in the full Senate. If that happens, it will need to be reconciled with similar proposals in the House, but the prospects for this legislation are good.

Delawareans should join with people across the country to support this bill and applaud our senators who chose to break from the partisan pack and get something done.

We have so many challenges ahead. If bipartisanship can tackle much-needed changes in our financial system, then there’s no reason Congress can’t tackle other tough issues in the same way.

Sarah A. Long is president of the Delaware Bankers Association, a not-for-profit, private trade association that represents its members chartered to do banking business in the state of Delaware. 

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