Northwest Credit Union Leaders Head to DC to ‘Hike the Hill’

A group of 21 credit union leders from across Oregon and Washington met last week in Washington, D.C., for “Hike the Hill” to draw attention to credit union small-business lending, or member business lending (MBL), as well as the need for supplemental capital.

“It was a fantastic group,” said Jennifer Wagner, Director of Legislative Advocacy for the Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA), “and we were able to get our message across to all of the Northwest congressional delegation that raising the MBL cap is about helping small businesses and creating jobs.”

Most of the congressional delegation was ready with questions.

“I don’t think the timing could have been any better,” said Mark Minickiello, the NWCUA’s Vice President of Legislative Affairs. “With everyone focused on jobs and a hearing on H.R. 1418 being held the same day we were in town, members were very interested in hearing that credit unions are offering a solution that could create 2,700 new jobs in Oregon and 6,100 new jobs in Washington in the next 12 months at no cost to taxpayers.”

Both S. 509 and H.R. 1418 would increase the member business lending cap to 27.5 percent. Now that both bills have received hearings before their respective bodies, they could be brought up for a floor vote on their own or inserted into a greater jobs bill.

The other hot topic discussed with lawmakers was the need for supplemental capital.

“Although our focus right now is on getting our MBL bill passed, with all of the attention brought on by Bank of America’s decision to start charging five dollars a month for their debit card and the Occupy Wall Street rallies calling for people to move their money, it was a great opportunity to explain how a big influx in deposits can have a detrimental effect on a credit union’s net worth,” Wagner said. “It was just a great real-world example for them. Once a bill is dropped on supplemental capital, I think our members of Congress will be ahead of the learning curve.”

Two other bills were often brought up for discussion during the visit by the members themselves.

H.R. 3077 was introduced on Oct. 3, 2011, by Representative Brad Miller, D-NC. The bill currently has 11 co-sponsors, including Rep. Blumenauer, D-Ore., Rep. DeFazio, D-Ore., and Rep. McDermott, D-Wash. The bill would amend the Federal Deposit Insurance Act to ensure that customers have the right to immediately close any account at any insured depository institution on demand, without cost to the consumer, and that consumers receive any balance in their account immediately. Since the bill only applies to FDIC insured financial institutions, it does not apply to credit unions, and the NWCUA has taken no position.

H.R. 3156 was introduced on Oct. 12, 2011, by Representative Jason Chaffertz, R-Utah. The bill repeals Section 1075 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the section that implements the Durbin Amendment) and also voids all rulemaking related to Section 920 of the act, which amended the Electronic Fund Transfer Act.

“Although CUNA (the Credit Union National Association) and the NWCUA opposed the Durbin Amendment, we have promises to fix it if the system is not working and we cannot yet show harm,” Minickiello said. “It’s also widely believed that the bill is not going anywhere, and it would be counter-productive to spend time on it while the Association is focused on getting the MBL bill passed.”

The bill currently has no other co-sponsors.

On a state level, the three major Democratic candidates in Oregon’s special congressional election will take part in a televised debate at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 18. The debate will be aired in the Portland area on KGW and will include Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, state Sen. Suzanne Bonamici of Beaverton and state Rep. Brad Witt of Clatskanie, all of whom are competing for the 1st District seat vacated by David Wu after his August resignation.


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Posted in Community Impact, Financial Education.