House Subcommittee Schedules Hearing to Explore MBL Legislation

Legislation to raise the cap on member business lending (MBL) continues to gain momentum, as the House Financial Services subcommittee on financial institutions and consumer credit has scheduled a hearing on the matter for 2 p.m. on Oct. 12, 2011. As part of the annual “Hike the Hill,” Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA) representatives will be on hand in support of the legislation, known as the Small Business Lending Enhancement Act (H.R. 1418/S. 509), which would raise the cap to 27.5 percent of assets for certain credit unions from its current 12.25 percent.

“Annually, we take small group of Northwest credit union leaders to D.C. to have very intimate and specific conversations with elected officials,” said NWCUA President Troy Stang, who will be joined by some 25 regional credit union leaders and NWCUA officials. Stang said the group’s agenda includes conversations about regulatory burdens and supplemental capital in addition to MBLs.

“As it relates to this particular hearing, our timing on the hill is impeccable because this is one of the important steps in the process for this bill to become a law,” said Stang, who will attend the Oct. 12 hearing with Phil Jones, President/CEO of Harborstone Credit Union in Washington, and Gene Pelham, President/CEO of Rogue Federal Credit Union in Oregon.

Having already had a hearing in the Senate, the House subcommittee hearing represents an important next step in the bill’s methodical journey through Congress. While it serves no direct function in terms of moving the bill forward toward passage, such hearings are intended to educate Congress on the specific details and opinions related to a given issue that is on the table.

In reality, they also serve as a high-level indicator that the committee is aware of and interested in the issue at hand. Because the movement of every piece of legislation is tracked, the hearing then becomes part of the bill’s history and gives elected officials considering it a subtle indication of the bill’s significance. And because these hearings are reported and are part of public record, they often raise public awareness of issues as well.

But while the hearing is an overwhelmingly positive sign, the committee will look to paint a complete picture of the issues, meaning those in opposition to MBL legislation will raise their voices as well.

“Holding the hearing and getting people on the record as supporting it is extremely helpful,” NWCUA Director of Advocacy Jennifer Wagner said. “But I’m sure the banks will be invited to testify, so there will be testimony in opposition as well.”

In fact, current MBL legislation, with its upcoming hearing and the backing of a CUNA-sponsored ad campaign, has now gained enough traction to attract the attention of the American Bankers Association (ABA), which released a “call to action” to its members this week asking them to vocally oppose the legislation and offering a number of talking points.

The NWCUA is releasing a “call to action” of its own today, detailing the specifics of the ABA’s statement and offering specific suggestions for showing support, and will continue promoting the importance of MBL legislation to the credit union movement and to the recovery of the U.S. economy.

The Senate’s version of the legislation was introduced by Mark Udall, D-Colo., and has 20 cosponsors, including Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., while the House version of the bill was introduced by Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., Rep. Jaime Herrera-Beutler, D-Wash., and Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., are all among the legislation’s current 82 co-sponsors.

“I am pleased to hear the House Financial Services Committee has announced they will hold a hearing in the coming weeks to examine the need to raise the cap on member business lending,” Rep. Schrader said. “Credit unions continue to serve as an integral part in our ongoing economic recovery by providing much-needed credit to small-business owners in our communities. Through the hearing process, I hope the committee members will see the value in moving this legislation forward so we can give our credit unions the ability to further help aid their members and the growth of our economy.”


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Posted in Advocacy News, NWCUA.