Thursday, April 18, 2024

Executive News: Happy New Year!

We made it. I think.

While 2018 was a great year in so many respects, it was maybe not so hot in others. Certainly, the passage of S. 2155 has to be on the top shelf where we keep track of “great” things. So does the appointment of Jelena McWilliams as chair of the FDIC and Joe Otting as the new comptroller.

Photo of Roger M. Beverage
Roger Beverage, OBA President and CEO

On the bottom shelf, I would start with the results of the November elections. It’s not meant to be a partisan statement, even though it probably looks or sounds like it. But hear me out.

When Democrats regained control of the House of Representatives on Jan. 3, it also meant that Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) would be named chair of the House Financial Services Committee.
Chair Waters isn’t a big fan of what you do for a living.

If you’re a “big” bank of any size, she especially hates you.

I think that means we’ll see more action in the housing area (that’s her main interest) rather than in in the regulatory relief area.

I would bet a lot of money we’ll get to witness even more political gridlock in the new year.

Rep. Waters seems to be more interested in going after the president’s money dealings than she is in advancing further regulatory relief for community banks. Republicans on the respective banking-related committees are likely to offer more regulatory relief to help our members better serve their customers. If those efforts manage to pass the Senate, it’s a pretty good bet they will be dead on arrival in the House.

The partial government shut down earlier this month has already created more ammunition for the “never-Trumpers” and Democrats who have their collective eyes on the 2020 presidential race. Among the many choices Democrats will have to consider:

My former friend, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), has taken the first step towards a presidential run. (Not that I’m surprised, of course, but I do wonder how her new goal will impact her ability to shape banking issues in the Senate. I hope it means she will have less time to tend to Senate business during her “exploratory” efforts.)

Other current senators (and others) considering joining the group include:
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.).
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), (Ranking Member, Senate Banking Committee).
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.).
Former Virginia governor, Terry McAuliffe.
Former New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg.
Former vice president, Joe Biden.
Beto O’Rourke, former U.S. representative from Texas and the recent opponent for Sen. Ted Cruz for a Texas senatorial seat.
Former U.S. attorney general, Eric Holder.
Former Massachussetts governor, Deval Patrick.

And a whole lot more. There could be 20 or more candidates in the Democratic primaries, but no one knows for certain what any of these folks will ultimately decide.

One of our top priorities I suspect will be to continue to clarify what the legalization of marijuana means for our state’s banks. Both of our state’s senators are adamantly opposed to clarifying the rules about “banking” the marijuana business. So are at least three of our state’s congressional delegation.

Meanwhile, the 2018 Farm Bill that was just signed into law in December contains a provision that legalizes hemp! You can’t smoke it, or get high from it, but it has a number of commercial uses, including making “wearables” of some kind and rope.

Hemp has been outlawed for some time as a schedule I substance, just like its cannabis cousin, marijuana. I believe the legalization of hemp is the first step toward moving marijuana to another non-felony classification schedule of the Controlled Substances Act. There’s a growing consensus on this issue about legalizing “weed” in states (like ours) where the people have spoken.

Other areas of (probable) congressional interest include things like data security, CRA reform of some kind, potential AML changes, GSE reform. Much of what comes out of the House won’t make the agenda in the Senate, so it appears it’s pretty much a stalemate when it comes to major banking issues.
Stay tuned. And happy new year!