Legislative Update for Aug. 31, 2012

Federal Legislative Outlook

The NWCUA’s second Hike the Hill trip is coming up next month—thank you to those who have committed to attend. It is proving to be a well-timed trip, as CUNA has called an unofficial fly-in to leagues and associations able to come out that week. The focus of the fly-in will be a press event with some of our MBL coalition members, pressuring Congress to act on our MBL bill. In between Hill meetings, we will participate in as many of these press events as we can. We are also hosting a Joint Hill Reception at Credit Union House with our colleagues from the League of Southeastern Credit Unions. It will be a fun networking event with credit union leaders from Florida and Alabama and also with Hill staff and a couple members. Congresswoman Bonamici will be dropping by to say a few words and accept a CULAC check.

As we look ahead to another important Hill visit, we would like to share the following legislative update from CUNA, which gives a thorough overview of our current priorities and plans, both as a regional and a national credit union movement.

When Congress returns in September, there will be only a handful of legislative days before the election, and the outcome of the election will greatly influence the amount of work that can be completed before the new Congress is seated in January. If the conditions come together properly, the lame duck session has the potential to be massive. Considering only the items that Congress needs to get done before the end of the year, it is easy to see how Congress could fill up the seven weeks between the election and the end of the year. Congress will need to resolve how to handle expiring tax cuts, the spending cuts which will automatically go into effect as a result of the sequestration process, the deficit facing the postal service, expiring welfare programs, expiring unemployment benefits, and the debt ceiling, just to name a few. Of course, then there is the matter of funding the government for the next fiscal year, which may be addressed through a six month continuing resolution. With so much left undone, the conventional wisdom is that November and December will be particularly active in Washington. Of course, the outcome of the elections is going to play a very significant role in whether those on Capitol Hill want to tackle these issues at the end of the year, or let the next Congress (and perhaps next President) deal with the problems. We must prepare for a very active lame duck session, understanding that no one will know exactly what type of lame duck will unfold until after the election.

Under that backdrop, let’s take a look at where some of our priorities stand.

Member Business Lending

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised a vote on our MBL legislation before the end of the year, and we continue to prepare for that vote. Hundreds of meetings have been held by CUNA staff, leagues and credit unions since GAC, and every day, we have more confidence in our ability to win an up-or-down vote on the Credit Union Small-Business Jobs Act. We are exploring every opportunity to advance this legislation before the election; we understand the banks have priorities that they would like to see addressed in the short term as well. The overwhelming message we have received from senators is that they would like to see a legislative package that includes provisions for credit unions and banks which could benefit small businesses. Combining the Credit Union Small-Business Jobs Act and the banks’ extension of the Transaction Account Guarantee Program (TAG) could produce exactly that type of package. We’ve been working closely with key leaders in Congress to ensure that TAG does not move without MBLs.

Three years into a concerted effort to grow MBL programs, Northwest credit unions have outpaced credit unions’ national growth in small-business financing by 3 percent. Read a full report here.

Regulatory Burden

Reducing regulatory burden is a key priority for CUNA, and in the Legislative Affairs department that means using our resources to urge Congress to encourage – and in some cases, direct – regulators to reduce burden on credit unions. To that end, there are four areas that we are focusing on with respect to Congress and regulatory burden: ATM Fee Disclosures, Privacy Notification, Remittances, and Exemption Authority.

ATM Fee Disclosures: In July, the House of Representatives passed our ATM Fee Disclosure bill (H.R. 4367 / S. 3204) by a vote of 371 – 0. The House vote was the culmination of months of effort that began when a credit union CEO attended a Hike the Hill meeting in Washington and raised this as an issue that Congress should address. But 371-0 votes don’t just happen because someone had a good idea for a bill. This took the work of Leagues, credit unions and CUNA staff to generate the support of the 145 House cosponsors and work to address the concerns of the consumer groups.

Now the bill is in the Senate where it is being stalled by unrelated matters. The Senate Banking Committee leadership has combined the ATM bill with a piece of legislation designed to protect the privilege of information submitted to the CFPB. This combined legislation (S. 3394) is being held by Senator DeMint (R-SC) for reasons unrelated to either issue. Senator DeMint has had a hold on the stand alone privilege bill (S. 2099) because he wants an up-or-down vote on the repeal of the Dodd-Frank Act. He is unlikely to release his hold on S. 3394 unless he gets that vote; and, he is unlikely to be granted that vote. So, we’re at a standstill right now. To be clear: we support moving the ATM bill as quickly as possible – whether it is combined with the privilege bill or on its own. We have been working with others to resolve the hold situation on the combined bill; but we also believe that the ATM bill could move quickly if it was put forward as a stand-alone measure.

Privacy Notification: Earlier this summer, Representatives Luetkemeyer (R-MO), Sherman (D-CA), and Meeks (D-NY), introduced H.R. 5817, the Eliminate Privacy Notice Confusion Act. This legislation would amend the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act to require financial institution to send privacy notification to consumers only when their privacy policy has changed. We are working to lay the ground work for this legislation in a manner similar to our efforts on the ATM bill, and we have received positive response from Members and staff with whom we have discussed this issue. We have included talking points regarding this bill in our briefing material. Even though time is short, it is not outside the realm of possibility that we could get this bill through Committee this year if we are able to generate from momentum by adding cosponsors in August.

Remittances: As I mentioned last week, Representatives Blain Luetkemeyer (R-MO) and Yvette Clarke (D-NY) are circulating a Dear Colleague letter encouraging Members of the House to sign-on to a letter encouraging the CFPB to delay and study the impact of its proposed remittances regulation. CUNA has been working with a number of other trades to develop this letter and encourage support for it. If you are contacted by any Representative’s office, we hope you will let them know that we support the Luetkemeyer-Clarke letter. I have attached a copy of the letter to this email for your information. We understand that the following members have added their names to the letter: Campbell, Canseco, Clarke (NY), Guinta, Hastings (FL), Huelskamp, Huizenga, Marchant, Neugebauer, Posey, Schweikert, and Stivers. The deadline for Members to add their name to this letter is this Friday.

Exemption Authority: CUNA has had the opportunity to testify before the 112th Congress 17 times, including 7 appearances this year. Most of these hearings have given us the opportunity to discuss our concerns with the “crisis of creeping complexity” credit unions face with respect to regulatory burden. As the CFPB has started using its rulemaking authority, we have been using these appearances to push for the CFPB to use its authority under Section 1022 of the Dodd-Frank Act to exempt credit unions from its regulations. We have also taken advantage of the opportunity to raise concerns with the proposals to integrate the RESPA/TILA disclosures, the QM and QRM proposals, as well as the remittances rule. We will continue to seek these opportunities to encourage Congress to put pressure on the regulators to reduce regulatory burden on credit unions.

Supplemental Capital

We continue our efforts to educate members of Congress regarding the importance of capital reform for credit unions. The number of members sponsoring our supplemental capital legislation has increased steadily, as this continues to be an issue CUNA staff and Hike the Hill participants raise in their meetings with lawmakers.

Taxation

While we see no immediate threat to the credit union tax status, we are mindful that Congress is likely to engage in comprehensive tax reform next year. While we have always felt prepared for a tax battle, we are taking steps now to be even more sure. We have developed a plan and we are evaluating resources in the event that the tax status comes on direct threat later this year or in the next Congress.

Candidate Interviews Scheduled in Washington

As part of an ongoing schedule of interviews to determine credit union support in the November elections, Washington Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna met with the NWCUA Washington Governmental Affairs Committee on Aug. 30 to reiterate his ongoing support of credit unions and ask for their support.

McKenna touched on a variety of topics with the group including his vision on regulation. If victorious, McKenna noted he was looking to refresh state government with new people and new ideas. People from the private sector who have a broad experience and know what it’s like to be regulated. He will be pulling together stakeholder groups after the election to discuss cabinet level positions, looking for customer feedback. He reiterated his position is not to regulate just for the sake of regulating, but to regulate when there are problems.

McKenna indicated his support of the Washington State chartered credit union B&O tax exemption, subject to period review by the Joint Legislative Audit & Review Committee (JLARC). JLARC reviewed the credit union tax exemption in 2011 and recommended its continuation.

McKenna also said he will work hard to resist the sweeping of funds out of dedicated accounts such as what’s happened to credit unions over the past several years with reserves swept from the industry-funded Financial Services Regulation Fund into the State’s General Fund. He also expressed his concern over what he described as a lack of economic literacy for teens and young adults.

Candidate interviews continue next week. Interested credit unions are encouraged to send a representative. Please RSVP to Christine Duncan at cduncan@nwcua.org. Interviews will take place in the NWCUA Training Room located at 33301 9th Avenue South, Suite 200, Federal Way, WA.

Wednesday, Sept. 5

10 a.m. – Troy Kelley, Democratic candidate for Washington state auditor
12 p.m. – Reagan Dunn, Republican candidate for Washington state attorney general
1 p.m. – Bob Ferguson, Democratic candidate for Washington state attorney general
2 p.m. – Suzan DelBene, Democratic candidate for Washington’s 1st Congressional District

Thursday, Sept. 6

8:30 a.m. – Jay Inslee, Democratic gubernatorial candidate for Washington
10 a.m. – John Koster, Republican candidate for Washington’s 1st Congressional District

11 a.m. – James Watkins, Republican candidate for Washington state auditor

Washington Primary Election Report

The Washington primary took place Aug. 7, and 94 of 98 credit union-supported candidates advanced to the November general election, giving credit unions a preliminary 96-percent success rate in the state. Get all the details in this full report.

NCUA Low-Income Designation

The NCUA sent a letter in August informing more than 1,000 credit unions that they are eligible for Low-Income Credit Union (LICU) designation. Read about the mixed reactions in the industry in this full report.

CULAC Update

How could we elect champions without your contributions? Thank you again to everyone who participated in CULAC Month in July! If you have not yet sent in your contributions, please make sure to mail them to CULAC, along with a spreadsheet of who contributed, no later than Sept. 15.

Checks and spreadsheets go to: CULAC, 601 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Ste. 600, South Bldg., Washington, DC 2004-2601.

If you have questions, please contact Mark Minickiello.

CULAF Update

With the 2012 elections right around the corner we’re busy distributing checks to worthy candidates. If your credit union is interested in hosting a check presentation, please contact Pamela Leavitt in Oregon or Mark Minickiello in Washington.

Credit Union Advocates on the Move

Credit union advocates are participating at every level of our political advocacy process. By demonstrating our interest in campaigns and elections, credit union people can make sure that candidates gain an appreciation of the political abilities of the credit union movement, and learn more about our issues and structure. Even in races where you have supported the candidate who lost the election, you still have won because credit union people will have established a reputation of being actively involved in the political process. We must be seen as an active, viable, and important constituency.

Here is some of the most recent activity:

  • Tory McVay of OnPoint Community Credit Union attended an event for Senate Democratic Leader Diane Rosebaum;
  • Mark Turnham and Sue Greeshields of NW Priority Credit Union attended an event for their member, Senator Rod Monroe;
  • Diane Owen of Clackamas Federal Credit Union helped interview a candidate in her area, Shemia Fagen;
  • Paul Kirkbride and Gayle Evans of Unitus Community Credit Union meet with incoming legislator Jessica Vega Pederson;
  • Oregon GAC Chair and CEO of Valley Credit Union Jean Wheat-Palm attended an event in Salem for Senator Peter Courtney; and
  • Char Shinn of Oregonians Credit Union has met with several candidates in the Clackamas County area to discuss credit union issues.
  • As the roll-out of the Credit Union Congressional Action Teams (CAT Teams) continued, thank you to Jill Nowacki of Maps Credit Union and Steve Pagenstecher of Valley Credit Union for meeting with Congressman Kurt Schrader’s district field representative, Trevor Sleeman. Once again, this meeting provided value to both parties and opened the door for a long-term relationship.

With only a little more than two months left before Election Day, many more credit union advocate meetings will be organized. These meetings are so important as we prepare for the 2013 legislative session in both Oregon and Washington. We hope you will get involved!

 

Posted in Advocacy News, Federal, NCUA, NWCUA.