Public Affairs Update | By Stephen W. Rice
Earlier this spring, Independent Bankers Association of New York State (IBANYS) Chairman Chris Dowd (Ballston Spa National Bank) and President and CEO John Witkowski led a group of New York community bankers to Washington, D.C., to participate in ICBA’s 2015 Washington Policy Summit. The summit included two intensive days of meetings and congressional meetings “on the hill” with members of the New York Congressional Delegation.
IBANYS scheduled appointments in the offices of 11 New York representatives as well as Sen. Chuck Schumer’s and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s. Among the visits was a session with Rep. Elise Stafanik, the youngest congresswoman ever elected and a champion of small business and community banking interests. We also met in the offices of House Financial Services Committee members Reps. Peter King and Carolyn Maloney.
We also discussed small business lending and regulatory relief proposals with Rep. Richard Hanna, who is a member of the House Joint Economic Committee and Small Business Committee.
We advocated for a number of our federal legislative priorities, including ICBA’s “Plan for Prosperity” and “Clear Act” – both urging regulatory relief for community banks and strongly endorsed by IBANYS; data and cyber security measures, and opposition to expansion of credit union powers.
We also continued to spread the news that more than 160 New York community banks (with their 1,200 branches and more than 25,000 employees) are the lifeblood of New York’s economy and communities, in rural areas, the suburbs and big city neighborhoods.
New York’s community banks: hold $127.4 billion in assets; $25.8 billion one- to four-family residential mortgages in portfolio; and make a disproportionately high percentage of small business and small agricultural loans throughout the state.
We also reiterated how Gov. Andrew Cuomo and State Financial Services Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky noted our contributions and our value in the NYS DFS Report on Community Banking.
During the general sessions, we heard from Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL). He stressed he is working to develop regulatory relief legislation that will have bipartisan support and will be “doable.”
Other speakers included Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX), who chairs the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Financial Institutions & Consumer Credit. He noted how excessive regulation on community banks impacts our customers and communities: “When we start impacting the health of our community banks, we impact the health of our economy.”
Federal Reserve Board Governor Daniel Tarullo focused on the need for federal banking regulators to explore simplifying capital rules for community banks, noting the Basel III rules may be particularly costly for them. (IBANYS and ICBA are supporting H.R. 1523, which would exempt community banks with $50 billion or less in assets from Basel III.)
As is the case in Albany and back home in the districts, personal advocacy by community bankers has a major impact on our legislators in Washington. We urge you to reach out to your congressional and state legislative representatives on a regular basis to make your voice heard! As always, thanks for your participation and support.■
Steve Rice coordinates government relations and communications for the Independent Bankers Association of New York State. He has worked in the New York banking industry and New York state government for more than three decades.