Washington Legislative Update: 2015 Session in Review

The Washington State Legislature adjourned on July 10, concluding the longest legislative session in Washington’s history — which ran for 176 days, including 13 days into its third 30-day special session. Lawmakers raised the gas tax to pay for state transportation projects, cut college tuition, and increased funding for the state’s education system. But the operating budget remained a point of contention between parties.

The Senate was finally able to come to an agreement and obtain the votes required to fill the $2 billion hole in the recently passed operating budget by delaying the implementation of I-1351, which reduces class sizes. The trade-off agreement also includes a delay of the end-of-course biology testing requirement for high school graduation. About 2,000 seniors who failed the end-of-course biology exam did not graduate, but they will after Governor Inslee signs the test-related bill.

“Credit unions faired very well during this year’s session,” noted Mark Minickiello, vice president of legislative affairs for the Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA). “Not only were again able to advance the credit union charter while protecting the credit union tax exemption, our advocacy efforts set us up nicely to continue improving the operating environment for our state’s credit unions in years to come. 

“These advancements are made possible by dedicated key contacts who develop relationships with their local legislators, contributors to our political action committee CULAF, our chapters that hold annual legislative events and the great turnout we continue to get for our Credit Union Day at the Capitol,” he continued. “The more that legislators get to know, hear and see how credit unions are impacting their constituents and the communities that they serve, the more they support credit unions. My deepest appreciation to all of our advocates on another job well done!”

NWCUA Priorities

The following credit union priorities were passed into law during the session.

NWCUA-sponsored Senate Bill 5757 addressing credit unions’ corporate governance and investments was signed into law by the governor on April 25, 2015, and will become effective on July 24, 2015.

The bill:

  • Simplifies and clarifies the duties of the credit union Board of Directors within RCW 31.12.255;
  • Eliminates the requirement to “declare” dividends to conform to common business practices within RCW 31.12.418. Now dividends may just be paid without the Board of Directors having to officially “declare” them;
  • Increases CUSO investment/loan authority from 1% to 5% within RCW 31.12.436;
  • Adds investment products related to employee benefits to investment authority under RCW 31.12.436(j); and
  • Clarifies that gifts of nominal value, insurance coverage, and expense reimbursements are not subject to the rules on compensation within RCW 31.12.365.

Senate Bill 5300 updating the DFI’s regulatory enforcement powers regarding credit unions and organizations providing services to credit unions was signed into law by the governor on April 25, 2015, and will become effective on July 24, 2015.

The bill accomplishes four NWCUA legislative priorities, including:

  • Updating parity provision to July 24, 2015;
  • Changing “Washington Credit Union League” to “Northwest Credit Union Association” within the permissible investments section;
  • Extending the timeframe for a membership meeting to vote on suspension of members of a committee or members of the Board; and
  • Lowering the member voting requirement from two-thirds to a simple majority for merger or conversion of a state credit union into federal, out-of-state or foreign credit union, or other type of financial institution, unless a greater percentage is required by a credit union’s bylaws.

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

Posted in Advocacy News.