Washington Legislative Week in Review: A Primer for the 2014 Session

Washington’s politically divided state Legislature kicked off the 2014 session last week with plenty of big issues on the table, including funding for education and transportation, but the combination of election-year politics and a short session may make reaching any kind of consensus difficult.

In even-numbered years, the legislature meets for just 60 days. Here’s a look at what to expect before the 2014 regular session is scheduled to end on Thursday, March 13:

NWCUA’s Legislative Priorities for Washington

Mark Minickiello, the Northwest Credit Union Association’s vice president for legislative affairs, says the Association will focus on:          

  • Protecting the Credit Union Tax Exemption: Tax-reform discussions are likely to focus on closing “loopholes” as an alternative to raising taxes. That means tax exemptions will continue to come under scrutiny this year.
  • Improving the Washington Credit Union Charter: The Association has introduced legislation to give Washington’s state-chartered credit unions parity with federally-chartered credit unions for merger voting requirements. The bill fixes an omission in legislation passed last year. (See details below.)
  • Protecting Credit Unions from New and Burdensome Regulations: The foreclosure rate remains high in Washington and consumer groups continue to focus on changes to the Foreclosure Fairness Act (FFA); the Association will work to protect an exemption in the act for credit unions and community banks. The Association will also continue to work with other financial institutions to oppose legislation authorizing state agencies to require data matching to recover money owed, unless the new programs dovetail with existing data-matching requirements. The Department of Labor and Industries has proposed legislation, for example, that would require financial institutions to perform data matching in efforts to collect wages owed to unpaid workers.
  • Protecting DFI’s Reserves: The Association will continue to advocate for the protection of dedicated, non-appropriated accounts, such as those maintained by the Department of Financial Institutions, from being swept. Sweeps from DFI reserves could affect the operations of the division or result in fee increases for credit unions.

Bills the Association is Tracking

  • House Bill 2140 and Senate Bill 6029: The NWCUA-sponsored House bill and its companion measure in the Senate would change the voting requirement for members of merging credit unions from two-thirds to a simple majority.

    Legislation approved last year changed the voting requirement for merging credit unions’ boards of directors to a simple majority, but the requirement for voting by members was mistakenly left unchanged. The House and Senate bills would give state-chartered credit unions parity with the Federal Credit Union Act for both the boards of directors and members of merging credit unions.

    HB 2140 was introduced on Jan. 3 and referred to the House Business & Financial Services Committee, where it received a hearing on Jan. 14 and a “do pass” recommendation on Jan. 15. The bill was then referred to the House Rules Committee. Association staff testified in support of the bill; there was no opposition.

    SB 6029 was introduced on Jan. 14 and referred to the Senate Financial Institutions, Housing & Insurance Committee, where it is scheduled for a hearing on Jan. 21.

  • Senate Bill 5955: This legislation would establish the Washington Publicly Owned Trust (WASHPOT) to create a financial infrastructure for implementing I-502, the state’s marijuana reform law. SB 5955 was introduced on Dec. 4 and referred to the Senate Financial Institutions, Housing & Insurance Committee, where it received a hearing on Jan. 16.

    The bill would create a state bank and require every marijuana transaction to go through it. Association staff joined bank representatives in testifying against the bill, arguing not only that the existing financial services industry is prepared to serve marijuana businesses as soon as the federal government provides guidance, but also that a new state bank would be subject to the same regulations that currently prohibit credit unions and banks from serving this market.

  • Senate Bill 6294: This bill would create a state-run retirement savings plan called “Save Toward A Retirement Today.” It was introduced on Jan. 20 and referred to the Senate Financial Institutions, Housing & Insurance Committee, where it is scheduled for a hearing on Jan. 23.

    The bill is sponsored by AARP. Proponents say the majority of small businesses in the state do not offer retirement plans to their employees because of complexity and costs, and that this program provides a simple and inexpensive way for small-business owners and their employees to save for retirement.

    Note: NWCUA would like to know if your credit union offers retirement savings products or services for small businesses. If the state offered similar services, how would it affect your credit union? Please contact Mark Minickiello at mminickiello@nwcua.org.

Credit Union Day at the Capitol

Join NWCUA on Thursday, Feb. 6, for Credit Union Day at the Capitol in Olympia. This year’s event will include a legislative briefing (Gov. Jay Inslee and leaders from the state House and Senate have been invited), and advocates will also get a chance to “hike the hill” in small groups and share the credit union message in face-to-face meetings with legislators from their districts.

“Our goal is to have every legislator meet with a credit union representative from their district,” Minickiello says. Registration is free, and the day’s 10 a.m. start and 4 p.m. finish mean no overnight hotel stay is necessary and the time commitment is minimal.

There’s no need for business attire. “Instead of going to the branch that day,” Minickiello says, “we’re asking folks to point their car toward Olympia and help us make a big impact on lawmakers who may not even be aware of the wonderful things credit unions do.”

“If our state legislators don’t know anything about credit unions or the great things we do for our members and our communities, then they assume we are just like banks,” Minickiello says. “Come help us spread the word about how credit unions are different. Register today!”

Political Divisions

Democrats hold a 55-43 majority over Republicans in the House. Rep. Frank Chopp (D-43) serves as Speaker of the House; Rep. Dan Kristiansen (R-39) is the Minority Leader.

In the Senate, the Majority Coalition Caucus is comprised of all 24 Republicans and the two Democrats — Sens. Rodney Tom (D-48) and Tim Sheldon (D-34) — who caucus with them, creating a 26-23 majority. Republicans gained a seat in November when Sen. Jan Angel (R-26) was elected to fill the spot left vacant by former Sen. Derek Kilmer. Sen. Rodney Tom (D-48) serves as the Majority Coalition Leader; Sen. Sharon Nelson (D-34) is the Democratic Leader, replacing former Sen. Ed Murray, who was elected Mayor of Seattle in November.

Two committees will play a significant role in issues affecting credit unions:

  • House Business & Financial Services Committee
    • Rep. Steve Kirby (D-29), Chair
    • Rep. Cindy Ryu (D-32), Vice Chair
    • Rep. Kevin Parker (R-6), Ranking Minority Member
    • Rep. Brandon Vick (R-18), Assistant Ranking Minority Member
    • Rep. Brian Blake (D-19)
    • Rep. Susan Fagan (R-9)
    • Rep. Cyrus Habib (D-48)
    • Rep. Brad Hawkins (R-12)
    • Rep. Zack Hudgins (D-11)
    • Rep. Christopher Hurst (D-31)
    • Rep. Linda Kochmar (R-30)
    • Rep. Drew MacEwen (R-35)
    • Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos (D-37)
    • Rep. Derek Stanford (D-1)
  • Senate Financial Institutions, Housing & Insurance Committee
    • Sen. Steve Hobbs (D-44), Chair
    • Sen. Jan Angel (R-26), Co-Chair
    • Sen. Mark Mullet (D-5), Vice Chair
    • Sen. Don Benton (R-17), Ranking Member
    • Sen. Joe Fain (R-47)
    • Sen. Brian Hatfield (D-19)
    • Sen. Sharon Nelson (D-34)
    • Sen. Pam Roach (R-31)

Mark Minickiello will report from Olympia each week that the Washington Legislature is in session; look for his “Washington Legislative Week in Review” every Tuesday in Anthem. For more information, contact Minickiello at mminickiello@nwcua.org or 206.340.4812.

 

Questions? Contact Gary Stein: 503.350.2216, gstein@nwcua.org.

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