Oregon Sen. Jeff Golden (D-Ashland) has proposed legislation this session that would reintroduce a state bank concept for Oregon. Senate Bill 339 would establish the Bank of the State of Oregon and provide more significant support for community banks and credit unions. If created, the state bank would be guided by an advisory board of directors in its management and operation, and would be subject to a mandatory audit by the secretary of state. As of Monday, the bill had not progressed beyond Finance and Revenue Committee, where it was referred on Jan. 19.

Oregon lawmakers want cities to be allowed to put their cash in banks other than large, for-profit institutions. Bills in the Legislature — Senate Bill 339 and House Bill 2743 — would enable municipalities to create public banks, which are owned and run by a state or municipality. James Davis, who chairs the Oregon Public Bank Alliance, said cities then could deposit their reserves somewhere besides big banks. He said that would create the capacity for public municipal banks to provide bigger loans and bonding for cities when they want to build infrastructure, such as buildings and bridges.

The Fed’s policy tools – interest rate manipulation, quantitative easing, and “Special Purpose Vehicles” – have all failed to revive local economies suffering from government-mandated shutdowns. . The Fed must rely on private banks to inject credit into Main Street, and private banks are currently unable or unwilling to do it. The tools the Fed actually needs are public banks, which could and would do the job.

On Friday, the Comptroller of the Currency, Brian Brooks, proposed a new rule that would prohibit banks from refusing to lend to “entire categories” of lawful businesses. It is, Brooks explained, an attempt to stop the “weaponization of banking,” insuring fair access to loans for controversial businesses. He cited private prisons and weapons manufacturers as possible beneficiaries, but there can be no doubt about another reason for the rule (which may or may not have time to take effect before the Trump Administration departs): activists have begun persuading banks to stop some of their massive lending to the fossil-fuel industry.

New Mexico’s Alliance for Local Economic Prosperity announced that the Credit Union Association of New Mexico, a statewide trade organization that advocates for credit unions, has formally endorsed a public bank for NM. This is a key endorsement and bolsters the group’s growing alliance to advance upcoming legislation that will be introduced in 2021.

Now that the big banks have concluded their earnings season, with the top highlight being the collapse in loan loss reserve builds from $33 billion in Q2 to just $5 billion in the quarter ended Sept 30…. in what some have taken as a vote of confidence for the economy as bank risk managers clearly don’t anticipate another sharp leg lower in the economy (that may change if a second wave of covid forces new shutdowns), we can take a closer look at some of the other, just as notable observations within the US financial sector.