SB582 Took a Step Forward Passing out of the Senate This Week

Editor’s update: SB 582 passed the Senate on March 10, by a vote of 29-0 with one excused. It will now move to the House for a reading and committee referral.

Senate Bill 582 passed out of Oregon’s Senate Business Committee Wednesday, on a 5-0 vote. It is expected to be on the Senate floor on Tuesday, March 10.

The legislation is a result of the Northwest Credit Union Association’s continuing efforts to improve and modernize the Oregon Credit Union Act to strengthen the attractiveness of the Oregon state charter for credit unions and to better address current operational and governance issues facing credit unions.  SB 582 is a short bill:  it contains one operational change regarding branching, one technical amendment related to membership of foster parents, and a change regarding governance in order to permit credit unions to compensate directors and supervisory committee members.

Offering testimony in support of the measure were Scott Burgess, President/CEO of Rivermark Community CU, Pam Leavitt, Policy Advisor, NWCUA, and Farleigh Wada Witt attorney Hal Scoggins.

The Independent Community Banks of Oregon filed written objections to SB582, in which they were critical of the credit union tax structure, and complained about an “uneven playing field.”

“If it is the will of the committee to move Senate Bill 582 to the floor,” the statement read, “the legislature should: 1) Provide parity for state?chartered Oregon banks with regard to applications and fees for establishing a new business location; and 2) Require state?chartered Oregon credit unions to regularly report and disclose the public benefit they provide in exchange for their exemption from income taxation.”

“Credit unions’ tax structure has proved its worth and withstood challenge after challenge by the banks,” noted Leavitt in opening remarks. “Organizations receive tax exemptions because it is determined by state and federal officials that the organization’s benefit to citizens exceeds the benefits collected by taxes and relieves the government of providing services.”

Indeed, committee members learned of significant benefits to citizens including the $103 million in direct benefits enjoyed by credit union members last year, and the $206 million ripple effect buying power those benefits created. The benefit analysis, an overall $1.6 billion economic impact and support for 14,000 jobs were published in The Credit Union Impact Report by an independent economic firm, ECONorthwest.

“The Oregon Tax Expenditure Report estimates a corporate tax on credit unions would generate a maximum of $4.25 million a year.  The cost/benefit analysis speaks for itself.  Oregonians benefit greatly from the value credit unions provide,” said Leavitt.

Retirement Saving Fund Bill

House Bill 2960, a bill establishing a state-run retirement savings fund for employees in Oregon, has its first public hearing in the House Business and Labor Committee on March 6. In its current form, HB 2960 would create an Oregon Retirement Savings Board charged with developing a contribution retirement plan. Further, it would require all employers to give their employees the option to contribute to the state-run plan through automatic payroll deduction – unless an employer offers an alternative plan which meets the board’s requirements. Contributions to the plan would be invested by the Oregon Retirement Savings Board. The bill stipulates that there may not be a guaranteed rate of return or interest rate on contributions, and the State will not be liable for any loss from the plan.  Proponents argue that a state-run retirement savings fund will increase Oregonians’ preparation for retirement. Opponents argue that 61% of eligible employees were enrolled in their companies’ existing retirement benefit plans.  NWCUA continues to monitor these hearings closely.

Governor Brown Appoints Jeanne Atkins to be Secretary of State

Gov. Kate Brown said she will appoint a veteran retired government and political aide, Jeanne Atkins, as secretary of state.  Brown bypassed several elected officials and picked someone with a lower profile who may not be interested in running next year for a full four-year term.  Atkins, 65, will be sworn in this Wednesday.  A spokesperson for the Governor said Atkins was someone that Brown “had been interested in the beginning” for appointment to the office.

Atkins had served as state director for Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., from 2009 before she recently retired, according to an announcement from Brown’s office.  Before that, she was chief of staff when Merkley was state House speaker.

She has also served in numerous other political governmental and nonprofit positions, including for United Way of the Columbia/Willamette, Planned Parenthood of the Columbia/Willamette, and the Women’s Equity Action League in Washington, D.C.

Several Democratic legislators, including Senate Majority Leader Diane Rosenbaum and House Majority Leader Val Hoyle, have expressed interest in the job.

Merkley quickly issued a press release expressing his high regard for Atkins, calling her “a true Oregon gem and supremely qualified.”

Questions about this story? Contact James Pearson: 206.340.4790, jpearson@nwcua.org.

Posted in Advocacy News.