Credit Union Day at the Capitol Matters – for Legislators and Advocates

Harborstone Credit Union’s Steve Kirby and Vicky Nelson will both be in Olympia for Credit Union Day at the Capitol – he as a state representative, she as a credit union advocate.

Steve Kirby won’t be “hiking the hill” with Northwest credit union advocates during Credit Union Day at the Capitol next week, but that’s not because he questions the importance of sharing the credit union message with legislators.

In fact, Kirby may have a better understanding than most of what’s at stake when advocates gather in Olympia on Thursday, Feb. 6, for a legislative briefing and the chance to meet face-to-face with lawmakers from their districts.

That’s because Kirby, who is a sales and services specialist for Harborstone Credit Union, is also a state representative. On Feb. 6, he’ll be in his office in Olympia, where he represents Washington’s 29th District and serves as chair of the House Business and Financial Services Committee.

“Every day is someone’s ‘day on the hill,’” Kirby says. “Whether it’s the Realtors, the bikers, the physical therapists or the community bankers, everyone wants to be heard. Credit Union Day at the Capitol is very important to insure that the credit union story is heard, too, and that the credit union model remains intact.”

Last year, Kirby teamed with Vicky Nelson, Harborstone’s business sales and services manager, to create a Governmental Affairs Roadshow that stopped at every one of the credit union’s 17 Washington branches. The goal: to make sure that every employee, at every branch, understood the structure, value and impact of the credit union movement – and why it’s important to play an active role in advocacy efforts.

“Credit Unions are unique in the world of financial institutions, but that’s not always readily apparent to our legislators,” Kirby says. “It never hurts for lawmakers to be reminded of the credit union story, and the best way for politicians to receive any input on any issue is from their own constituents. That’s probably the reason credit unions consistently enjoy strong bipartisan support whenever they have issues before the Legislature.”

Nelson certainly understands the importance of advocacy. She’ll lead a delegation of Harborstone employees to Olympia next week because “as a credit union employee, I am in a wonderfully unique position to share the importance of credit unions not only with our members, but also with our state legislators.”

Credit unions represent a good financial choice for consumers, Nelson says, and they have a powerful impact on the communities where they live. “We need to help our elected officials understand the impact that regulations have on credit unions,” she says, “and the resulting impact that they could have on their constituents.”

The timing of this year’s Credit Union Day at the Capitol – which will also include a hands-on Financial Reality Fair for students – couldn’t be better. As the Legislature continues to struggle with budget shortfalls, lawmakers’ attention remains focused on tax reform. That makes it imperative, says Mark Minickiello, the NWCUA’s vice president for legislative affairs, that every legislator understands the difference between credit unions and banks, and why the credit union tax exemption is so important.

“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. “That’s why our goal is to have every legislator meet with a credit union representative from their district.”

Registration for Credit Union Day at the Capitol 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 also 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.”

One of those “wonderful things” is financial education, and volunteers are still being recruited to play the role of merchants or financial counselors at a Financial Reality Fair that will be held in conjunction with Credit Union Day. There’s no advance training required — just the desire to give young people the skills they’ll need to be smart financial consumers.

At the Reality Fair, which will run from 7:30 a.m.-2 p.m., students will choose a career and a salary and then have to figure out how to create a budget that covers housing, food and other essentials. They’ll visit with volunteer “merchants” — apartment leasing agents, auto dealers and insurance agents, for example — to obtain the goods and services needed in everyday life. And just like in the real world, they’ll be tempted by entertainment opportunities and other non-essential services that can often wreak havoc on a family’s budget.

Armed with all of that information, students will then document their income and expenses, balance their monthly budget and get a “financial counselor” to sign off on their plan. It’s an important lesson to learn – and a great opportunity for legislators to get a first-hand look at the impact credit unions have on the community.

“Communication and advocacy begins with us. Strong participation from credit union staff spawns a positive message,” Harborstone’s Nelson says. “I believe in what we are doing for our members and our community. We must make our voices louder by getting more involved at the grassroots level, and Credit Union Day does just that. That is why I choose to make my voice heard.”

For more information about Credit Union Day at the Capitol, contact Melissa Lovejoy at mlovejoy@nwcua.org. To register for the free event, go here. To volunteer for the Financial Reality Fair, visit the Northwest Credit Union Association’s website here.

 

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

Posted in Advocacy News, Events.