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Lawmakers won't take up bank privacy issue

By Dave Thompson

Bismarck, ND – North Dakota lawmakers won't be discussing the state's new bank privacy law during this week's special session.

The law is the target of a repeal vote next June. Opponents didn't like a provision that would allow banks to sell a customer's financial information -- unless that customer says no.

There was talk of suspending the measure until the referral vote. But House majority leader Wes Belter says that couldn't be worked out.

"After extensive discussion and research in the Republican House caucus, it became evident that simply suspending Senate Bill 2191 without short-term, temporary amendments would present problems for our North Dakota financial institutions. Consequently, the House Republican caucus felt we must let the referral process go forward and let the people of North Dakota vote on this issue without any implied interference from the Legislature."

Fargo Representative Rick Berg says tinkering with the bill might give the impression that the Legislature is doing an end run around the referral effort. Berg says if the law was suspended, the 1985 banking law would be back in effect -- and that could hurt those banks that operate across state lines.

"In Fargo, we have two banks that operate in multi-states. North Dakota law would have to be applied to their customers in other states, even though the neighbors of their customers in other states would have a different set of laws in their regulation. The other section that's a concern is just in the processing. The services that banks currently offer to the customers, be it ATM, Internet banking -- again, it was an issue that was not contemplated in our 1985 legsislation. And as a result, there would be a barrier for banks to provide those services."

Berg says when the vote is taken -- the Legislature will have to decide what to do next. Berg believes another special session could be necessary.