Senate Approves Thrift Branch Moratorium

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WASHINGTON _ The Senate voted Wednesday to temporarily prohibit most thrift institutions from opening branches nationwide. The legislation would block a practice that supporters say would help the industry cope with troubled times by clamping a 15-month moratorium on Bush administration regulations that took effect in early May. Those rules allow financially healthy, federally chartered savings and loan institutions to open branches or purchase other thrifts outside their home states, practices that had been restricted by the states. "The moratorium gives Congress at least an opportunity to look at the issue, without having the status quo dramatically changed," said Sen. Wendell Ford, D-Ky. Ford sponsored the measure with Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas and Sen. Dale Bumpers, D-Ark. Bush Proposes New Bank Bill

WASHINGTON _ President Bush on Wednesday sent Congress draft legislation aimed at lifting "excessive regulatory burdens" from banks, savings institutions and credit unions. The bill, part of the president's electionar drive to remove regulations dampening economic growth, weakens or repeals provisions in the banking law he signed in December. That law was needed to authorize a taxpayer loan to the depleted government fund insuring bank deposits and Bush said at the time he did not approve of many of the provisions added by the Democraticntrolled Congress. The new bill will "enhance the availability of credit in the economy by reducing excessive regulatory burdens," Bush said. Court Rules Cigarette Makers May Be Sued Under State Laws

WASHINGTON _ Cigarette makers may be sued under state laws for allegedly deceiving the public about the dangers of smoking, the Supreme Court ruled. By a 7-2 vote, the justices said federal laws requiring warning labels on cigarette packages do not shield the companies from all suits based on state personaljury laws. …