Northwest Advocates Head to the Hill to Share Credit Union Message with Congress

It’s time to get down to business.

Oregon credit union advocates meet with Rep. Kurt Schrader in his Capitol Hill office Wednesday morning. Advocates will meet with all four Northwest senators and all 15 of the region’s representatives throughout the day.

Oregon and Washington credit union advocates are joining their colleagues from across the country today in “hiking the Hill” to share the credit union message with members of Congress. The Northwest delegation is expected to meet with all four of the region’s senators and all 15 of its representatives.

Attendees have heard from internationally known speakers, federal regulators and a slew of industry leaders this week. They’ve attended concerts and receptions, and handed out plenty of awards, too. But advocacy is at the heart of the Governmental Affairs Conference now under way in Washington, D.C., and much of Tuesday was spent preparing for today’s meetings with lawmakers.

“Our time with our elected leaders is so brief, so our message points have to be prepared, concise and specific to the person we’re meeting with,” said Jennifer Wagner, the Northwest Credit Union Association’s senior vice president for advocacy, who led separate sessions Tuesday for Oregon and Washington delegates. “These briefings are critical to preparing for successful conversations on the Hill.”

Preserving the movement’s tax status remains a priority, Wagner said, but advocates will also urge legislators to:

  • Require merchants to adhere to the same strong data security standards that credit unions must follow and to reimburse credit unions for the costs they incur as a result of merchant data breaches. Credit unions should also be permitted to identify the merchant at which a given data breach occurred when notifying members that their accounts have been compromised, if the source is known and if disclosure would not hamper an investigation;
  • Reduce credit unions’ regulatory burden by supporting bills that would address privacy notification standards, make the examination process fairer and more consistent, and make structural improvements to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau;
  • Ensure credit unions have continued access to a well-regulated, well-capitalized and liquid secondary mortgage market, and maintain the availability of the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage; and
  • Enact charter enhancements so that credit unions can continue to serve their members, including House and Senate legislation that would permit experienced and well-capitalized credit unions to apply for expanded business lending authority, and bi-partisan legislation that would permit credit unions to accept supplemental forms of capital consistent with cooperative principles.

Troy Stang, president and CEO of the Northwest Credit Union Association, prepares Northwest advocates for the Hill visits at a special legislative briefing.

Samantha Beeler, the NWCUA’s manager of political and grassroots advocacy, said many Northwest advocates got a jump-start on the process Tuesday. “Many of them did so by tweeting their senators and representatives,” she said, “letting them know they look forward to sharing the credit union difference and the importance of #DontTaxMyCU at Wednesday’s meetings.”

Wagner said today will be “a great day to be a credit union advocate.”

“And our timing couldn’t be better,” she said, “because we anticipate seeing a comprehensive tax proposal from the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday. The banks are sending their anti-credit union messaging to our members of Congress, so it will be nice to get on the Hill and set the record straight.”

The NWCUA will cap off the day of legislative meetings with a casual reception on the Hill for legislators and their staffers. It’s the last official gathering of the conference, and perhaps the best opportunity for advocates to make an impression inside the Beltway.

Also on Tuesday:

  • NCUA board members Rick Metsger and Michael Fryzel spoke to attendees at the morning general session. Metsger used his speech, which marked his six-month anniversary on the board, to introduce himself to credit unions, while Fryzel urged credit unions to make themselves “battle ready” and continually prepare for the challenges ahead.

    Fryzel encouraged credit unions to increase membership, provide opportunities for financial literacy and continue offering better rates on loans and savings while helping Americans prepare for retirement. He acknowledged the credit union system faces challenges, including new technology, an increased regulatory burden and competition with banks, but said that “I believe you are as great as any challenge you face, because nearly all challenges are not natural disasters but human-caused. Because they are human-caused, they can be human-fixed.”

    NCUA board member Rick Metsger marks his sixth-month anniversary at the agency Tuesday with a speech to GAC attendees.

     

    Metsger said the role of a volunteer credit union board member and that of a federal credit union regulator are not all that different. He should know, of course, because he’s been both.

    “When I was a credit union director, my job wasn’t to manage or micro-manage the operation of my credit union. It was to ask intelligent questions, help set policies, offer perspectives that others may not have considered and reassure our members that our credit union was not only safe today, but would be safe tomorrow and for the foreseeable future,” Metsger said. “My role at NCUA is similar.”

  • Legislation that would exempt certain housing loans from the member business lending cap will be introduced this week, Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) told attendees at the morning general session. The bill, known as the Credit Union Residential Loan Parity Act, would exempt one- to four-unit non-occupied dwellings from the cap.

    Royce said this type of housing loan makes up around 20 percent of credit unions’ MBL balances. “While this legislation is not a panacea to your business lending woes, it will provide relief,” he said. The regulatory relief measure would also help increase affordable housing stock, Royce said.

  • Members of the House Ways and Means Committee – which is expected to release its plan to overhaul the U.S. tax code today – provided no guarantees that the plan would not include a change to the credit union tax status, but Reps. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), John Larson (D-Conn.) and Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) all spoke out against changing the exemption and offered high praise for the role credit unions play in their communities.
  • House Oversight Committee Chair Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said current cyber-security rules “fail to give credit unions a way to deal with cyber threats” and that congressional leaders need to strengthen those rules without mandating additional regulatory burdens on credit unions and other financial institutions.” Issa said congressional committees need to bring together public and private sector stakeholders to draft rules designed to prevent data breaches like the recent high-profile attack on Target, but he warned that mandating change could lead to “a single winner.”

Today in D.C.

Here’s what’s happening on Wednesday, Feb. 26 — the last full day of the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference:

  • NWCUA President/CEO Troy Stang will introduce Reps. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Denny Heck (D-WA) during the morning general session, which will feature appearances by more than a dozen prominent lawmakers.
  • Oregon and Washington advocates will “hike the Hill” all day today, with visits scheduled from 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Advocates are scheduled to meet with all four of the Northwest’s senators and all 15 of the region’s representatives. Those visits will be capped by a Hill Reception hosted by the NWCUA at the Rayburn House Office Building.
  • Unitus Community Credit Union will be honored with two national CUNA awards at a special, invitation-only reception. The Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Award and Louise Herring Philosophy-in-Action Award recognize Unitus for its Money Quest Financial Challenge and its overall community involvement.


Look for a roundup of this week’s Governmental Affairs Conference tomorrow  in Anthem, and check out the NWCUA’s Facebook page for highlights, photos and more from Washington, D.C.

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

Posted in Advocacy News, CUNA, NWCUA.