Senator Bob Duff & Representative Paul Doyle:
Co-Chairmen of the Connecticut General Assembly Banks Committee
By Katie Curnutte
The lives of state Senator Bob Duff and Representative Paul Doyle have run parallel paths since they were children, and now, as Co-Chairmen of the Connecticut General Assembly’s Banks Committee, the two politicians share similar hopes and goals for Connecticut’s banking industry.
“I knew what I liked from day one,” Bob Duff said of politics. The first-term Senator, who also served for three years in the state’s House of Representatives, is a Realtor by trade, but began cultivating his interest in politics before he even reached high school.
As a child, Duff sat around the table with his parents and grandparents and listened to their frequent political discussions. What he learned stuck, and when he was eight years old he started writing letters to the mayor of Norwalk – his hometown, where five generations of his family have lived.
“[Politics] is something I’ve always been interested in,” Duff said. “I always found politics exciting and the issues of the day exciting.”
He worked on political campaigns in high school, and continued to follow his interests as a political science major at Lynchburg College in Virginia and as an intern for U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd.
Paul Doyle’s story is similar.
“I grew up in a household of politics,” he said.
His parents were politically active, and as soon as Doyle was done with college – he earned his bachelor’s degree from Colby College in Maine and his law degree from the University of Connecticut – he started volunteering. He worked on the Democratic State Central Committee in Hartford as an executive assistant and also served on the Wethersfield Town Council. He was then elected to the state Legislature, where he is currently serving his 12th year. Doyle practices law in Rocky Hill.
Duff became a state politician in 2002, when he ran for and won a seat in the State House. When a Senate seat opened up three years later he was elected senator, representing Norwalk and part of Darien. He was a member of the Banks Committee during his time in the House (from his first year in the Legislature), and enjoys working on the issues addressed there. One of his main priorities is to ensure that any laws passed are fair to both consumers and the banking industry, and that the Legislature does not take away the positive initiatives that have been built up for the state’s banks.
Doyle shares that goal. The overall dilemma with passing new banking laws in Connecticut is that the laws generally affect only state-chartered banks, which nonetheless have to compete with national banks. So Doyle hopes to preserve the balance that Connecticut banks currently enjoy.
“It’s my job to maintain a level playing field,” Doyle said.
The co-chairs of the Banks Committee also share other similar concerns. Duff expects the state’s economy to remain healthy, but the cooling of the housing market will affect banks that conduct a lot of mortgage business.
“I think the state’s economy is going to get stronger,” he said. “[But the cooling of the housing market] is one of the question marks on the economy.”
Doyle has also noted the slowing of home sales, but hopes it is not enough to have a big impact on the economy. He is concerned, however, about the impact of rising energy prices on the overall economy.
“I remain optimistic that our growth will continue,” he said.
The state’s economy on its own will remain healthy, Duff said. But it remains to be seen how factors like the federal budget and energy prices will affect the state. Outside factors could either help or hurt the state economy, he said.
“Connecticut alone will do very well,” Duff said.
The coming legislative session will likely see some of the typical issues raised, Doyle said. Predatory lending and reverse mortgages are usually controversial subjects, but oftentimes no legislation will come out of the discussions.
One issue Doyle hopes will come up is how Connecticut can attract new banks. There is a need for branches in urban areas, and state investment money could be used to make commitments to those banks. Doyle would also like to see business taxes addressed in next session, but is not sure if it will happen.
Duff believes the issue of a favorable business environment should always be at the forefront of the legislative session, but said that building a good business climate involves more than taxes. Issues like transportation, education and health-care access should also be discussed.
Overall, both Doyle and Duff believe Connecticut’s state-chartered banks are doing a good job.
Duff takes pride in the banks and credit unions that are chartered in the state, and believes the Legislature should look at ways to help them by making Connecticut more business-friendly. “Connecticut banks are doing a great job,” he said.
They are good corporate citizens, bring in jobs and do a lot of good work for the state. A regulatory environment that supports the banking industry is necessary to grow the industry, he said.
Doyle also wants to encourage state-chartered de novo banks in the state, and believes that with their excellent recognition of their role and good customer service, state-chartered banks are doing an excellent job.
“I think Connecticut banks are doing a better job than national banks,” he said. “I think they do a better job of helping their customers.”
Duff is also concerned about incidents like the recent losses of personal information from banks and other entities. He indicated that he will hold hearings investigating the banking industry’s handling of customers’ personal information.
The 2006 General Assembly begins its work on Feb. 8. Banks Committee hearings and meetings have historically been held on Tuesdays or Thursdays. The meetings are held in the Legislative Office Building in Hartford and are open to the public. For more information about the Banks Committee, please visit www.cga.ct.gov/ba/.
Both Senator Duff and Representative Doyle have Web sites that provide constituents the opportunity to contact them. Senator Duff’s site is located at www.senatedems.ct.gov/Duff.html and Representative Doyle’s information can be found on www.cga.ct.gov/hdo/HDO028.asp.