After Inconclusive Skirmishes, Missouri Banks Map Battle Plans on Interstate and Concentration

Article excerpt

With the future of Missouri's branching and deposit concentration laws on the line, the state's banks have balkanized into three opposing camps.

And with the debate heading into its second year, the rhetoric is only increasing.

"Big money breeds big power, and it's a dangerous situation when you allow these banks to get as big as they're growing with nothing to stop their growth," said Jerry Sage, executive director of the Missouri Independent Bankers Association.

But his organization's efforts to get Missouri to opt out of the federal interstate branching law and maintain a 13% state deposit cap face continued challenges from a group organized last year to increase the cap to 30% and opt in early on branching.

The issues should be back in full force in next year's legislative session, said Mr. Sage, whose group will consider its impact this week at its annual conference in Lake Ozark, Mo. This year's state legislature took no action on either matter.

The Missouri Independent Bankers supported a bill to opt out of interstate branching. Finding its membership divided, the Missouri Bankers Association remained neutral on the issue.

And a group called Concerned Bankers for Missouri's Future introduced legislation to opt in early on branching. The measure got nowhere in the 1995 session, and the group doesn't plan to try again next year, said its leader, said Norman J. Tice, executive vice president, Boatmen's National Bank of St. …