Regional Bank Bill Passes in Fla. House; Would Allow Mergers on a Reciprocal Basis

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A regional interstate banking bill has won near-unanimous approval in the Florida House.

Senate action on the banking bill is expected later this month. Passage is all but certain because 25 of the 40 senators are sponsors.

While some Florida lawmakers expressed misgiving about excluding large banks from outside the region, others voted them down, for now closing the door on allowing the nation's largest banks to open full-service Florida offices.

The House voted 113-2 on Tuesday for the bill, which has been cruising toward all-but-certain enactment because of strong support from Gov. Bob Graham and most of the Florida banking industry. The House also voted 113-0 for a bill letting savings and loans from anywhere in the country acquire Florida thrifts if their home states offer similar privileges.

The regional interstate bill would allow mergers between bank companies in Florida, 11 other southern states, and the District of Columbia, provided that they adopt similar laws.

One legislator, Rep. Michael Abrams, D-Miami, denounced the banking bill as protectionism for Florida bankers frightened of larger institutions from outside the region. He tried unsuccessfully Monday to turn the Florida bankers' arguments against them, arguing that the stepped-up competition they promise after big southern banks consolidate would only increase if money center banks gain full entry into Florida, too.

"I truly believe in the free enterprise system," Mr. Abrams said. "And where we have full competition, the consumers of this state will benefit. If you like regional banking, you ought to love this."

But love it they did not.

The House shouter down his proposal to let money center banks start buying Florida banks in 1987. Mr. Abrams acknowledged later that he offered the amendment only to focus attention on the case for letting money center banks into Florida. Loan Problems Cited

House Republican Leader Ronald R. …