Small banks seek reprieve from rules

Community bankers are asking for a reprieve from an onslaught of new regulations that they say disproportionally burden their institutions. 

Since 2007, some 900 proposed and finalized rules affecting the banking industry have landed in the Federal Register, according to figures cited by the Independent Community Bankers Association (ICBA.) The rules, however, rarely distinguish between the banking giants blamed for the financial crisis of the late 2000s and the small community banks that did nothing wrong, the association said in a statement issued Monday.

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“Community banks have little in common with Wall Street firms, megabanks or shadow banking institutions and did not cause the financial crisis or perpetrate abusive consumer practices,” ICBA President and chief executive Camden R. Fine said. 

An assortment of the most burdensome regulations amount to as much as 14 percent of community banks’ operating costs. And the new rules are continuing to mount: less than half of more than 230 rules required by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law are now on the books, according to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office. 

Fine argued that policymakers should “carve out” community banks from new regulations and use a tiered approach to rule-making that protects community institutions from onerous requirements meant to hold Wall Street accountable. 

HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES. The Obama administration is proposing to reform existing healthcare regulations and purge unnecessary ones, a move it says would save $3.4 billion over five years.

The Department of Health and Human Services has rolled out suggestions for changes at healthcare facilities that would eliminate red tape in the workplace.

Specifically, the proposals would help enable hospital workers and technicians to perform “tasks they are trained to do, without requiring the supervision or approval of a physician or other practitioner.”

“We are committed to cutting the red tape for health care facilities,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement. “By eliminating outdated or overly burdensome requirements, hospitals and healthcare professionals can focus on treating patients.”

The 114-page proposal covers a range of medical positions and services, including the preparation of radiopharmaceuticals such as cancer treatments for patients and eliminating “redundant data submission” to transplant centers.

President Obama signed an executive order in 2011 that ordered agencies and departments to root out unnecessary regulations.

HHS says it is “committed to the president’s vision of creating an environment where agencies incorporate and integrate the ongoing retrospective review of regulations ... to achieve a more streamlined and effective regulatory framework.”

Comments are due by April 7.

INTERIOR DEPARTMENT. A second wave of environmental testing and clean-up efforts in the Gulf of Mexico are slated to begin soon, according to the Interior Department. 

BP agreed to fund up to $1 billion for restoration projects in the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. The Obama administration quickly announced efforts to restore nesting grounds for birds and sea turtles.

The latest projects will cost about $9 million, according to the Interior Department. Trustees for the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) said they made an effort to win approval for the work in Florida, Alabama and Mississippi before the nesting season begins this spring.

“I appreciate the overwhelming support we have received from the public for these projects which go to the heart of the spill impact on nesting birds and sea turtles,” said Florida trustee representative Mimi A. Drew.

The trustees noted that some of the clean-up activities in the aftermath of the spill caused inadvertent damage to the environment. In Alabama and Florida, for example, lighting that was used had a negative impact on sea turtle nests, which are already vulnerable to attacks from predators.