Senator Heidi Heitkamp United States Senator for North Dakota

Press Releases

May 24 2018

President Trump Signs Heitkamp Bill to Boost Economic Growth & Protect Consumers in Rural America

Senator Spent 5 Years Working on Her Bipartisan Bill to Preserve Access to Relationship Lending for Farmers, Small Businesses, & Families in Rural America

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a member of the Senate Banking Committee, today joined President Donald Trump at the White House for the signing of her bipartisan bill which she helped write and introduce over several years to boost economic growth in rural communities and protect North Dakota consumers.

The bill comes after five years of bipartisan negotiations that Heitkamp helped lead. Heitkamp helped write and negotiate the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act since 2013 and introduced it last fall with a bipartisan group of four other senators, including Republican U.S. Senator Mike Crapo from Idaho, the Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. The legislation passed the U.S. Senate in March with robust support from Republicans and Democrats, and is the most significant reform for community banks and credit unions in rural America in many years.

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 is the result of more than 20 Senate Banking Committee hearings on regulatory reform and economic growth since 2015 that Heitkamp has been part of, more than 30 discussions she has had with top financial regulators about the issue, and years of negotiations among a small group of senators that she played a key role in.

Heitkamp’s bill will now provide needed relief for community banks and credit unions so they can support consumers in rural areas like North Dakota, where regulations designed for big banks are making it harder for small lenders to provide mortgages or loans to expand small businesses and family farms. The bill also strengthens consumer protections for seniors, veterans and servicemembers, and those who are vulnerable or have fallen victim to identity theft. Several provisions Heitkamp specifically fought for were included in the final bill, including her bipartisan Supporting America’s Innovators Act to help encourage and boost investments in small businesses and startups in North Dakota and across rural America. Click here for a list of Heitkamp provisions included in the final bill.

“This is a great day for Main Street in rural America, and a big testament to what’s possible when members of Congress put partisanship aside and work together to help our communities grow and thrive,” Heitkamp said. “Since 2013, I’ve worked to negotiate and write this targeted bill to provide relief for the community banks and credit unions so they can serve farmers, small businesses, and families across rural America. Reaching compromise doesn’t always come quickly, but I never gave up the fight to get results for North Dakota. I appreciate the efforts of Senator Crapo and others who negotiated in good faith and ultimately came together to help rural America succeed while strengthening consumer protections for veterans and servicemembers, seniors, and everyone who faces the threat of identity theft. Today is a good day for bipartisanship and for showing Congress can work together to get results – just as I try to do every day in the Senate.”

Heitkamp’s bill received the endorsement of community banks, credit unions, and consumer advocates across the state, including Independent Community Banks of North Dakota and the Credit Union Association of the Dakotas. Click here for statements of support for Heitkamp’s bill.

Heitkamp’s Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act will:

  • Improve consumer access to mortgage credit and reduce paperwork for small lenders;
  • Tailor regulations for small banks and credit unions to better reflect their business models and the needs of rural communities;
  • Protect consumers’ credit by providing free credit freezes and unfreezes, and allows consumers to set year-long fraud alerts;
  • Provide free credit monitoring for all active-duty service members, and protects 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 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.

In the past 30 years, the number of community banks and credit unions have 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. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reports that small business lending is down 41 percent since 2008.

Background

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. In 2016, Heitkamp brought then 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.

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Contact Senator Heitkamp's press office at press@heitkamp.senate.gov