Dec 06 2017
Heitkamp Bipartisan Bill to Protect Consumers & Boost Economic Growth in Rural Communities Passes Senate Committee
Senator has Spent Years Working on Bipartisan Deal to Help Small Businesses, Farmers, and Families by Reducing Burdens on Community Banks & Credit Unions
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp helped pass bipartisan legislation she wrote and negotiated with Republican Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) and a bipartisan group of senators out of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.
The bill comes after three years of bipartisan negotiations that Heitkamp helped lead that would give community banks and credit unions the relief they need to better serve consumers across North Dakota, while also strengthening consumer protections. In the past 30 years, the number of community banks and credit unions has dropped by about two-thirds, yet more than 80 percent of North Dakota deposits still go to community banks, reinforcing that small financial institutions remain a key resource for North Dakota families.
Heitkamp announced the agreement last month after several years of work with Crapo, the Chairman of the Banking Committee, and Banking Committee members Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Jon Tester (D-MT) and Mark Warner (D-VA). The bill so far has support from 12 Republican senators, 11 Democrat senators, and one Independent senator.
“When Congress puts partisanship aside and works across party lines, we can forge ahead with real solutions that help our economy and rural communities – that’s how I try to work every day in the U.S. Senate,” Heitkamp said. “Unlike tax reform, which was written behind closed doors with zero input allowed from Democrats, this regulatory relief bill was written in good faith by members from across the political spectrum and it shows. For years, I’ve been working with my Republican colleagues on a plan to reduce red tape and give community banks and credit unions the freedom to focus on their customers, especially in rural areas where their services are needed the most. It’s a significant step forward that our bill passed in committee, and I’m proud to lead this bipartisan coalition fighting for families, farmers, and small businesses.”
“Community banks like Cornerstone Bank support small businesses, families, and farmers across North Dakota, but our efforts to grow and support our communities have been challenged by burdensome regulations,” said Gary Petersen, Chairman of Cornerstone Bank. “For years, Senator Heitkamp has fought to make sure we have the relief we need to support consumers, and we greatly appreciate her bipartisan work in the U.S. Senate to reach a deal that serves North Dakota and addresses our concerns.”
“This is a major victory for consumers not only across the United States, but especially in rural areas such as the Dakotas,” said Jeremiah Kossen, President and CEO of Town & Country Credit Union. “Senator Heitkamp’s bipartisan bill will ease the burden of regulation for credit unions and allow millions of Americans better access to mortgages and other loans, and we appreciate her efforts to strengthen the local financial institutions that keep rural America strong.”
Click here for additional statements of support from North Dakota and national financial institutions.
In a recent op-ed published in Roll Call, the Bipartisan Policy Center wrote that the legislation is “one of the first significant pieces of financial regulatory legislation in years with real bipartisan support,” and that it “should provide greater incentives to extend credit, particularly to Main Street small businesses, without undermining the progress made since the crisis in making the financial system safer.” Click here to read the op-ed in Roll Call.
In 2015, Heitkamp and a bipartisan group of senators came close to finalizing a deal, and she’s been working to find a path forward ever since. The bill comes after more than 20 Senate Banking Committee hearings on regulatory reform and economic growth since 2015 that Heitkamp has been part of, and more than 30 discussions she has had with top financial regulators about the issue.
The bipartisan bill would:
- Improve consumer access to mortgage credit;
- Provide regulatory relief for small financial institutions and protects consumer access to credit;
- Tailors regulations for banks to better reflect their business models;
- Protect consumers’ credit by including a fraud alert in consumers’ files for one year and providing a free credit freeze alert for parents to put on their children;
- Protect veterans’ credit by prohibiting a credit reporting agency from including medical debt in reports;
- Protect seniors by extending immunity from liability to certain people who disclose suspected exploitation of seniors;
- Protect tenants from foreclosure by a re-imposing bill to protect tenants that was repealed in 2014; and
- Protect consumers from cyber security threats by requiring the Treasury Department to submit a report to Congress on the risks of cyber threats to financial institutions and the U.S. capital markets.
Click here for a section-by-section summary.
In the U.S. Senate, Heitkamp has been a leader in supporting local banks and making sure they have opportunities to succeed without facing undue regulations. Last year, Heitkamp brought former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray to Bismarck to hear directly from small banks and credit unions about the regulatory burdens they face that can deter their focus on relationship lending. In March 2014, Heitkamp urged President Obama to carefully consider the concerns of community banks when naming a nominee for the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, and called on him to nominate someone to the Board who understands the lifelines community banks play in rural areas so those voices are heard. In August 2013, she brought Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) Chairman Martin Gruenberg to North Dakota to hear directly from bankers in the state about the importance of local and community banks to helping small businesses and communities thrive.
In 2015, Heitkamp brought the head of the federal agency overseeing credit unions to North Dakota to hear directly from local credit union leaders about their concerns with potentially burdensome federal regulations, and to learn more about the positive impact these smaller financial institutions have on communities and businesses across the state.
Also in 2015, legislation introduced by Heitkamp was signed in to law to reduce unnecessary burdens on community banks and local financial institutions by eliminating redundant, costly, and often ignored annual banking notifications, and instead require banks to alert customers only when privacy and information-sharing changes actually occur.
Heitkamp has long worked to improve how regulations are developed through her role as the ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management, which oversees the federal regulatory process. In April, she joined with Republican Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) to introduce the bipartisan Regulatory Accountability Act to make federal regulations smarter and more effective so they better support businesses, families, and jobs by modernizing the federal regulatory process that hasn’t been significantly reformed in 70 years. She has also fought against burdensome regulations for farmers and retailers, leading an effort to reverse across-the-board restrictions on agricultural retailers that sell anhydrous ammonia, a common fertilizer.