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Lawmakers Approve Ban on Wal-Mart Branch Banking

Missouri lawmakers approved legislation Wednesday to block Wal-Mart from opening branch banks in the state. Missy Shelton of member station KSMU reports.

The bill cleared the state House and Senate with unanimous support.

If signed into law, the measure would prohibit Wal-Mart from opening its own branch banks in Missouri.

The bill comes in response to Wal-Mart's application in Utah to run an industrial bank.

The bill sponsor is Republican Senator Delbert Scott.

He says Missouri lawmakers simply want to make it clear that Wal-Mart is not allowed to get into the business of branch banking.

Scott says, "There has always been a wall of separation between commerce and banking. And never has it been allowed to mix. And that's the fear that once we start mixing retail and banking, they get into each other's area and it's not a good consumer issue."

Since applying in Utah to run an industrial bank, Wal-Mart officials have said they do not intend to open branch banks.

Jorgen Schlemeier is the head of governmental relations for Wal-Mart in Missouri.

He says, "Wal-Mart's application for an industrial loan company was never intended to open up branch banking. What it was for was for doing what they call backroom processing for credit card processing and those kinds of things. It was never to open up retail banking. That's not what their application was all about."

Wal-Mart already partners with local banks and allows them to open branches in Wal-Mart stores.

Senator Delbert Scott says he believes that practice is good for consumers.

If Republican Governor Matt Blunt signed the bill into law, it would take effect in August.