Magazine article American Banker

Regional Interstate Banking Nears Final Approval in Florida

Magazine article American Banker

Regional Interstate Banking Nears Final Approval in Florida

Article excerpt

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A regional interstate banking bill cleared its last major hurdle in the florida legislature Tuesday when the Senate voted 38 to 1 in favor of the measure.

After four floor sessions in which opponents offered a barrage of unfriendly amendments to slow or kill the bill, the Senate sent it back to the House with one minor change.

Approval there later this week is all but certain.

The lopsided Senate vote did not reflect the difficulty lobbyists had in winning support for the measure. Several senators who voted for it said they did so only because they knew they could not overcome the fierce lobbying by Florida's big bank companies.

"I do not plan to take on Southeast, Barnett, Sun, and Atlantic, because I know they have the votes in this room," said Sen. Harry A. Johnston, D-West Palm Beach. "But I think we are making a mistake."

The bill would allow bank companies in 11 other southern states and the District of Columbia to buy or merge with Florida bank companies if Florida institutions have the same privilege in their home territories. A similar bill recently became law in Georgia, and a comparable measure is near approval in South Carolina.

Lawmakers in North Carolina are expected to take up a regional banking bill this summer.

Opposed by Money Center banks

Senate approval came after lobbyists for Florida banks beat back several hostile amendments in recent weeks, most of them drafted by lobbyists for money center banks that wanted to kill the bill.

One would have prohibited Florida banks from making loans outside the state. Another would have gradually enlarged the list of states whose banks could come into Florida until, after three years, money center banks would have been allowed to acquire Florida institutions.

The only significant threat came last week when opponents added an amendment that would have required an out-of-state bank buyer to pay the same price per share to all stockholders of Florida banks. …

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