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Public Banking Bill Re-Introduced In the Washington State Senate

By On
• In Bellingham,

A budget proviso in the current state budget has provided funds for the development of a business plan for an eventual Washington state public bank. The business plan is due to the legislature in June 2019. At the same time, Sen Bob Hasegawa, a long-time champion of public banking, has re-introduced his public banking bill (SB 5949) so as to be ready to move forward as soon as the completed business plan arrives in Olympia. The plan is slated to answer many of the questions the public has, as well as counter many of the objections brought forward by the banking industry. Some of these objections were voiced at an initial public hearing on the legislation on February 21st. The hearing was requested by Sen. Hasegawa to bring the bill to the attention of the public and legislators. The February 21 hearing is likely only the first of many on the bill as it wends its way through the legislative process.

This from the Public Banking Institute:

“Long-standing public bank advocate WA State Senator Bob Hasegawa introduced a bill this week, SB 5949, that would create a public state investment trust and a commission to oversee it. A public hearing [on], Feb 21, ... consider[ed] Hasegawa’s proposed amendment* that would allow municipalities and other political subdivisions to cooperatively own the trust.

This bill introduction follows a positive interim report issued in December by University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Policy and Governance, which concluded that: ‘Improvements can be achieved by creating a state-chartered public cooperative bank.’ “

At last week’s hearing, described above, Sen. Hasegawa gave an excellent rundown on the new public banking bill (view the video here) at 12:20 on the video counter. The new bill is an enhanced version of the one submitted during the last legislative session. Hasegawa says the new version has an expanded “intent statement” whose several paragraphs appear on the first page of the current bill, SB 5949, SECTION 1.

In the meantime, we can support the concept of public banking by urging discussion of resolutions at the city and county level in support of a state bank. Having a state bank will allow us to deposit our city and county funds in a publicly owned institution, thus returning their earnings to us and not to the commercial/investment banks. You can write to the Bellingham City Council at ccmail@cob.org and to the Whatcom County Council at council@co.whatcom.wa.us. Send them a copy of this article and ask that they begin discussions of public banking at city and county council meetings.

*EFFECT: Allows for cooperative ownership opportunity for municipalities and other political subdivisions with the approval of the governing council or commission.

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About Dick Conoboy

Citizen Journalist and Editor • Member since Jan 26, 2008

Dick Conoboy is a recovering civilian federal worker and military officer who was offered and accepted an all-expense paid, one year trip to Vietnam in 1968. He is a former Army [...]

Comments by Readers

Dick Conoboy

Feb 28, 2019

Washington State’s public banking initiative is not happening in a vaccuum.  Over a dozen states are now looking into public banking or actually have legislation in process.   This from the Public Banking Institute today:

“The State of California steps into the public banking revolution with SB 528

The bill SB 528, introduced Feb 21 by CA State Senator Ben Hueso, would convert the California I-Bank — a state revolving fund with a 20 year history — into a true depository bank with a reserve account at the Federal Reserve.

PBI Chair Ellen Brown commented about the bill’s approach to convert the I-Bank:

“Adding a bank charter to the California I-Bank is a smart, commonsense plan. The I-Bank already does half the work of a bank: it issues loans in a market it understands well. After it obtains a bank charter it can do the other half: accept public funds as deposits and use the magic of leveraging its capital to expand the below-market loans for local infrastructure and development. Loans to municipalities and public entities have a very low risk of default. It will have low operational costs because there is no need for branches, tellers, or marketing.””

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Dick Conoboy

Feb 28, 2019

And this:

“New Mexico introduces a “memorial” to study a state-owned bank

The New Mexico legislature has taken up calls to create a state-owned bank by introducing a “memorial” to undertake a feasibility study. House Memorial 41, which has four co-sponsors, would be led by the Legislative Finance Committee and is supported by public banking advocates in the Alliance for Local Economic Prosperity (AFLEP). The memorial is now waiting for a place on the agenda of the State Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee.

The memorial specifies that the feasibility study include consideration of how the state-owned bank could help stabilize the state economy, keep revenues local, address infrastructure deficiencies, and enable young farmers to obtain financing, among other central needs. Importantly, the memorial also directs the Finance Committee to consult with public banking experts and advocates along with financial analysts, community bankers, and credit union representatives.”

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Dianne Foster

Mar 02, 2019

Thanks Dick for your persistence on this issue.  And To Bob Hasegawa for his persistence as well.   I was sorry to see the  L.A. initiative fail at the polls,  am assuming that big banks bought that election just as Costco did the alcohol privatization initiative.   The state legislatures may have a better chance.

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