The prospects for major banking legislation are dim in 1985 and uncertain in 1986, according to Washington lobbyists, given the lack of a consensus on proposals and a crisis to expedite them.
The expiration next month of the 1982 law creating net-worth certificates and emergency takeover provisions will oblige Congress to decide whether to renew its bailout for troubled thrift institutions.
The Senate is likely to go along with a short extension, but House Banking Committee Chairman Fernand St Germain (D-R.I.) is skeptical and noncommittal thus far, aides say.
Apart from this issue, however, the legislative engine seems to be generating a lot of steam but little motion. Hearings reconvened last week in both houses on changes in the insurance system for depository institutions.
The idea of risk-based premiums, forcing institutions that engage in risky activities to pay a higher rate, is still a very controversial one in the industry, however.
M. Danny Wall, staff director of the Senate Banking Committee, said that if a consensus is reached on insurance, it could serve as a driving force for a comprehensive banking bill that deals with such controversial topics as interstate banking and additional powers for banks. Another possible catalyst for legislation might be the worsening farm bank situation.
In June, the House Banking Committee approved a measure that would authorize regional banks to make cross-border acquisitions in states of their choice provided the field is opened up to all banks nationwide in five years.
This would facilitate efforts by money-center banks to establish nationwide networks. The bill also closes the nonbank bank loophole that allows retailers and other enterprises to enter the banking business while grandfathering a substantial number of those already in existence.
St Germain hopes to move this legislation to the floor this fall. Another legal abnormality that will draw his attention this fall is the so-called South Dakota loophole. This permits a bank holding company like Citicorp to evade the prohibition against banks underwriting insurance by acquiring a nonbank bank in that state from which it can set up a nationwide insurance network.
The concept of interstate banking with a national trigger already faces obstacles in the House Rules Committee and growing opposition from bank groups. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Jake Garn (R-Utah), moreover, has vowed not to pass a trigger bill.
Garn still clings to the idea of additional powers for banks -- which passed the Senate overwhelmingly The concept of interstate banking with a national trigger already faces obstacles in the House Rules Committee. last year -- but has declined for many months to draft a new bill specifying just what powers will be included this time.
Since the Senate's action, however, popular sentiment has been turning against new powers for depository institutions, prompted by record bank failures and the Ohio and Maryland S&L debacles.
St Germain, one of the skeptics who feel deregulation has not brought promised benefits to customers, plans to concentrate this fall on consumer issues like lifeline banking and check hold policies.
He wants the federal government to set maximum periods beyond which banks would have to make clients' funds available and to hound the Federal Reserve to improve its check-clearing procedures.
In the past, major banking legislation resulted from the Bert Lance affair in 1978, the money-market fund pressure on interest rate ceilings in 1980 and the thrift crisis in 1982. There was no such incentive to precipitate legislation in 1984. Nothing looms on the horizon this year and as for 1986, bank lobbyists say chances are 50-50.