Bill 'sets the template' for reform.

Author:Sichelman, Lew

INDUSTRY LEADERS at the 31st Annual Regional Conference of Mortgage Bankers Associations in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in early March hailed the introduction of bipartisan draft legislation in the Senate to reform the mortgage finance system. But at the same time, they warned the tunnel to final passage would be long and arduous.

Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) Chairman E,J. BURKE said he was "thrilled" the legislative proposal was introduced by Senate Banking Committee Chairman TIM JOHNSON (D-South Dakota), and Ranking Member MIKE CRAPO (R-Idaho). The legislation "sets the template" for debate going forward, Burke told the meeting, which attracted some 1,700 to the Trump Taj Mahal Hotel Conference Center.

But while "housing is an issue both sides of the aisle want to fix," added Burke, now community bank co-president, commercial and private banking, for Cleveland-based KeyCorp, "there won't be any real movement until after the midterm elections."

On the other hand, at the American Bankers Association's (ABA's) Government Relations Summit in Washington in late March, Sen. HEIDI HEITKAMP (D-North Dakota) said the Johnson-Crapo bill could make it to the Senate floor this year. At press time, the bill was scheduled for markup after lawmakers return from their Easter vacation.

"If we can get this out of the Banking Committee, which I believe we can, there will be a tremendous amount of pressure to bring this to the floor," Heitkamp said.

Heitkamp also predicted that the House would eventually scrap its version of a reform bill by Rep. JEB HENSARLING (R-Texas), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, and agree to whatever the Senate eventually approves. Hensarling's Protecting American Taxpayers and Homeowners Act--the PATH Act, for short--has been cleared by his committee but has yet to be brought before the full House.

But Rep. SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO (RWest Virginia), chair of the House subcommittee overseeing financial institutions, told she isn't optimistic about getting a housing finance bill to the president's desk before the November elections. "It's a huge undertaking with large ramifications, and so as time passes, I think probably hopes dim," she said in a quick, on-the-run interview after speaking at the ABA conference.

Meanwhile, other speakers on the opening day panel at the Annual Regional Conference of MBAs in Atlantic City lamented the high cost of adhering to new government regulation. STANLEY...

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