H 3543 gets its first State House hearing

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Public Bank bill panel at Thursday’s State House hearing, with Charles Grigsby, Barbara Clancy, Rep. Mike Connolly, Richard Krushnic, Steve Snyder, Mel King and Rep. Byron Rushing.

H 3543, An Act Establishing the Massachusetts Infrastructure Bank, had a hearing Thursday before the Joint Committee on Community Development and Small Businesses. Hub Public Banking volunteers joined with the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Byron Rushing and Rep. Mike Connolly, legendary community activist and former Representative Mel King, and Charles Grigsby, formerly of the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation and a member of the 2011 study commission that first looked into the viability of a public bank for Massachusetts. The panel’s testimony was supported by statements from Tom Sgouros, a Rhode Island policy analyst and consultant, and author of Checking the Banks: The Nuts and Bolts of Banking for People Who Want to Fix It, and Walt McCree, president and chair of the Public Banking Institute.

We’ll be posting some of the testimony given at the hearing in the next few weeks. If you are interested in learning what you can do locally to help move the bill, please contact us.

A step forward on public banking in Washington DC

This week the Washington DC City Council authorized $200,000 in the city’s FY2018 budget for a feasibility study for a public bank, following approval by the city’s Committee on Business and Economic Development last month.

As this post on the DC Public Banking Center’s blog notes, one of the catalysts for the vote was the city’s determination to review its banking relationship with Wells Fargo, after that institution failed a review of its community lending activities under the Community Reinvestment Act. This followed the 2016 revelation that the bank opened new accounts for existing customers without their permission, leading to legal actions resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements. In addition, the group DCReinvest has drawn attention to Wells Fargo’s funding of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.

Congratulations to the DC Public Banking Center, which has been educating and organizing since 2013—this is a big step forward both locally and for many other states and municipalities considering a public bank.

Support for a Massachusetts infrastructure bank

William Shelton, former director of Somerville Community Corporation, recently wrote a great essay for the Somerville Times in support of a public infrastructure bank, and our bill, H3543, ending with a call to to municipal managers and officials to help get more legislators informed and interested in the idea of a state infrastructure bank.

If you need a quick rundown of why a public bank would be a very good idea from someone who has worked in community development, read the article. It not only details what the bill would do, but goes into the widespread need for alternative sources of funding, and the reluctance that many cash-strapped towns feel about borrowing in an age where their residents face an uncertain economy and stagnant wages.

We know the time has come for a public infrastructure bank, but it’s great to get support from someone very familiar with the funding problems faced by cities and community developers.