WASHINGTON - The House Financial Services Committee unanimously passed the "Municipal Bond Fairness Act" yesterday, which directs the Securities and Exchange Commission to require registered credit rating agencies to rate municipal bonds on the same scale as corporate and other debt, based on the likelihood of repayment.

The committee also approved a set of revisions to a "manager's amendment" that chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., said would allow additional distinctions between general obligation debt, which he believes is nearly as safe as Treasury bonds, and revenue bonds that are not backed by the full faith and credit of municipal issuers and therefore have some greater degree of volatility.

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