NWCUA Backed Bills Advance in Oregon Legislature as Major Deadline Approaches

As Northwest credit union advocates gather in Salem February 11 for the 2016 Legislative Lunch at the Oregon Capitol, an important deadline looms. That will be the final date for legislative committees to either pass bills out of committee, or see them die.

While February 11 will mark the end of the road for numerous bills, several measures important to credit unions are advancing.

The Northwest Credit Union Association and member credit unions have already testified regarding HB4094, improving credit unions’ ability to offer financial services to legal marijuana businesses. They are working towards passage of a technical amendment to the bill, according to Pamela Leavitt, the NWCUA’s Policy Advisor for Oregon State Advocacy and Grassroots.

Because marijuana is federally classified as a Schedule 1 drug, offering financial services to marijuana businesses introduces a level of risk not present in serving other businesses, Leavitt explains. Even with the legalization of marijuana in Oregon, businesses in the marijuana industry are challenged in finding a financial institution to serve their needs.

Currently, Oregon criminal laws result in financial institutions being considered conspirators by association through their marijuana business clients. House Bill 4094 is intended to provide options for Oregon’s legal marijuana businesses by exempting them from these Oregon laws. The measure also requires the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) and Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to provide information on the license and permit holders in the marijuana programs they regulate when requested by a financial institution. The financial institutions may not disseminate, release or otherwise make this information available. 

HB4094 also:                                                                 

  • Exempts financial institutions providing services to licensed businesses in the marijuana industry from certain Oregon criminal laws;
  • Directs the Oregon Liquor Control Commission and Oregon Health Authority to provide, upon request, financial institutions with information on licensees or permit holders in the marijuana industry; and
  • Directs the Department of Consumer and Business Services to study any legislation or administrative action required to facilitate financing of businesses in the marijuana industry. Requires agency to report to Legislative committees by January 1, 2017.

Earlier this month, the Northwest Credit Union Association, along with Kevin Cole, CFO of Maps Credit Union, testified in first hearing on the bill and will be working to get a technical amendment passed to bill.

“Although we currently serve the cannabis dispensaries under the guidelines established in the Cole memorandum, we do so under constant threat of legal challenges,” said Cole in his testimony. “We support HB 4094 as a first step towards normalizing credit union services for licensed cannabis dispensaries. The bill provides protection from lawsuits against financial institutions that provide banking services to licensed cannabis businesses. Although most lawsuits designed to stop service to the cannabis industry in other states have been initiated under Federal RICO statutes, this state protection is important to help solidify the ability of financial institutions to serve not only cannabis businesses, but other businesses who serve the cannabis industry.”  

HB4131 – Data Match with the Department of Revenue

Another key area of focus in NWCUA’s policy advancement strategy is HB4131 which requires financial institutions to develop data match agreements with the Department of Revenue. The purpose of these agreements is to conduct quarterly matches to identify assets held by delinquent debtors. The bill also allows the Department of Revenue to enter into agreements with the Department of Justice’s Division of Child Support to access employer data on newly hired workers. Finally the bill creates criminal provisions for misuse of matched data. The bill envisions the Department of Revenue developing data exchange agreements. The department has identified 193 current agreements with financial institutions operating in Oregon. 

“Credit unions have worked with the Department of Justice under its child support data match program since the program was adopted in the late 1990s.,” according to NWCUA testimony. “Under that program, the Oregon Department of Justice and financial institutions doing business in this state enter into agreements to develop and operate a data match system using automated data exchanges to the maximum extent feasible. Under these agreements, financial institutions provide, for each calendar quarter, the name, address, Social Security number or other taxpayer identification number and other identifying information for each obligor who maintains an account at the institution; and owes past due support, as identified by the department by name and Social Security number or other taxpayer identification number. The law also allows the department to pay a reasonable fee to a financial institution for conducting the data match provided for in this section. The fee may not exceed the actual costs incurred by the financial institution.”

The Association is also actively monitoring HB4131 which would be established as a similar program, requiring financial institutions to develop data match agreements with the Department of Revenue to identify assets held at financial institutions by delinquent debtors.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to work with Representative Taylor to ensure that the bill provides appropriate protections for financial institutions, and enables the Department of Revenue to establish a new avenue to pursue collection of unpaid taxes,” said Leavitt. “In the past couple weeks, we provided several suggested changes that we believe will be incorporated in the final amendment.  We look forward to reviewing the final amendments and supporting the bill through the process.”

During the 2016 Legislative Lunch at the Oregon Capitol Thursday, credit union advocates will discuss important pending legislation and will present two Oregon lawmakers with the Community Impact Award. Look for highlights in next week’s Anthem.

Questions about this story? Contact Lynn Heider: 503.350.2225, lheider@nwcua.org.

Posted in Advocacy News.