Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA) writes about three bad bills considered and passed by the House this week:
Note: the three boldface bill titles are tounge-in-cheek.
The End to Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act
On Tuesday the House considered H.R. 772, the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act. This legislation amends nutritional disclosure requirements mandated under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. Under that law, restaurants with 20 or more locations must disclose how many calories are in their menu items. H.R. 772 delays this requirement and gives restaurants more flexibility in how they comply with it. If an establishment primarily receives orders from customers online or over the phone, the legislation exempts them from posting calorie counts in their facility. Instead, they only have to make the information available online.
Lose the Freedom to Make a Fair Mortgage Choice Act
On Wednesday the House considered H.R. 1153, the Mortgage Choice Act. With this legislation, House Republicans are once again attempting to weaken the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Under Dodd-Frank mortgage lenders are required to assess whether a borrower has the ability to pay back the loans they are requesting. This is called the “ability to repay” rule. That rule also caps points and fees on mortgage add-on products such as title insurance and escrow fees, limiting them to no more than 3% of the amount being borrowed. H.R. 1153 would lift the cap on title companies and other service providers that are affiliated with the mortgage lender, taking us back to the crisis days when countless homebuyers fell victim to high fees generated through steering and collusion. This bill is a giant step backwards for homebuyers.
The Let’s Incentivize Banks to Take on More Debt Act
On Thursday the House considered H.R. 4771, the Small Bank Holding Company Relief Act. This legislation directs the Federal Reserve Board to raise the small bank holding company threshold from $1 billion to $3 billion. This is the amount of debt a bank is allowed to take on. The threshold was just increased from $500 million to $1 billion in 2014 and there has not been enough time to fully assess the impact of that change on the industry. Tripling the threshold to $3 billion will lead to banks taking on more debt. It could also lead to more bank consolidation, with smaller community banks being taken over by larger institutions because now they can carry more debt.
While we may have been distracted by the budget debate, Republicans voted overwhelmingly for all three of these bills, all of which may reflect indiscriminate animosity to regulations.