ANNAPOLIS, FEB. 8 -- Without debate, the Maryland House of Delegates unanimously passed a bill tonight that would remove the final barriers to full interstate banking.
The measure, if approved by the Senate, would be a sequel to bitterly contested legislation enacted three years ago that allowed Maryland banks to acquire or be acquired by banks in a few surrounding states.
The bill also would allow the acquisition of local banks by Citicorp, the giant New York bank that, in 1985, became the first out-of-state bank to begin limited operations in Maryland.
Citicorp has been struggling since then for permission to buy Maryland banks.
But until now, it has been denied permission by the General Assembly, whose members have contended the New York bank had not fulfilled its pledge to bring to Maryland an infusion of jobs and financial investments.
The tenor of the issue this year is far different from that in the past. In 1985, most of the state's banks waged an aggressive, unsuccessful campaign to prevent what they feared would be an invasion of Maryland banking by the nation's biggest financial institutions. This time, interstate banking expansion sailed through the House Economic Matters Committee with no visible opposition, aside from that of Mercantile Bank in Baltimore.
"We have no problem at all with the concept of this bill," said John Bowers, lobbyist for the Maryland Bankers Association, who said the group would, however, prefer it take effect six months later than the January 1989 implementation date approved by the House. "We think it provides an opportunity for Maryland banks to acquire banks in markets they have not hereto fore had an opportunity to look at."
"The whole trend around the country has been interstate banking," said Del. C. Lawrence Wiser (D-Montgomery), a member of the Economic Matters Committee. "To try to stop multistate banking is sort of like standing in the wind. You can't do it."
The original legislation allowed Maryland banks to acquire, or be acquired by, ones in the District of Columbia, Virginia, West Virginia and Delaware, provided those jurisdictions had a reciprocal arrangement. The reciprocity was expanded last year to include 10 southern states and Pennsylvania.
Since the law took effect, eight Maryland banks have been acquired by banks in other states. Two Maryland banks have made out-of-state acquisitions: Maryland National Bank acquired the American Security Bank in the District and Mercantile Bank acquired the Bank of Eastville in Virginia.
The House also passed a related bill tonight intended to accelerate the acquisition of former savings and loan institutions that were insured by the old Maryland Deposit Insurance Fund and have been converted to banks. The measure would exempt those former S&Ls from a state rule that prevents most banks from being acquired for three years after their formation.