2021 Northwest Credit Union Advocacy Wins Represent Disciplined Focus on Priorities

Northwest credit unions could have easily taken their eye off the advocacy ball in 2021. Turbulent politics, the pandemic, virtual environments, natural disasters — they all conspired to distract. But true to form, Northwest credit unions maintained a disciplined focus on credit union legislative priorities and came away with key advocacy wins.

As always, defending credit unions’ not-for-profit tax status, advancing updates to state credit union acts, and protecting credit unions from new, burdensome requirements were the top advocacy priorities. Across the board, credit unions and their advocates were successful.

Here is a snapshot of some of the remarkable accomplishments credit union advocacy paved the way for, from the beltway to the statehouses in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.

Federal

Northwest credit unions stepped up in a big way to defeat a proposal requiring financial institutions to report additional data on all account holders with more than $600 in gross flows to the IRS. In the largest grassroots mobilization ever, more than 51,000 Northwest credit union advocates sent messages to Congress in opposition to the plan, which was part of a wide-ranging effort to fund the Administration’s high-profile infrastructure plan. Their victory ended the threat of a huge increase in regulatory burden for credit unions, the undermining of credit union member privacy, and significant data security concerns. Additionally, Northwest credit union advocates also mobilized against proposed credit card interchange limitations and in favor of the SAFE Banking Act, which ensured its passage in the U.S. House of Representatives. While cannabis banking did not advance in the Senate, the continued advocacy for such legislation keeps the conversation strong.

Idaho

Despite a year of turbulent Gem State politics, as candidates for statewide office positioned themselves for elections in 2022, credit unions stayed focused on their key priorities during the 2021 legislative session in Boise. Three legislative proposals directly related to credit union operations were passed. The new laws protect financial institutions from losing their legal rights on secured assets when vehicle title processing is backlogged; align Idaho’s paycheck garnishment “look back” periods with federal law, and allow third-party vendors to electronically process vehicle titles and registration through the Idaho Transportation Department. In addition, the 2021 Idaho State Issues Working Group process has been completed, which provided recommendations for modernization and updates to the Idaho Credit Union Act in several critical areas that will be priorities for coming legislative sessions.

Oregon

Credit unions looked after priority legislative business in Salem as well, despite a virtual legislative session, looming wildfires across the state, and the state’s own political drama. Credit union priorities that became law in 2021 included an update that removed a requirement that credit union service organizations be majority-owned by a credit union; an update allowing Oregon regulators to approve mergers between credit unions with occupational and associational fields of membership; and a measure allowing financial institutions to electronically scan members’ identification cards.

Washington

As with other Northwest states, the pandemic created a new dynamic for lawmakers as they negotiated Washington’s first virtual legislative session. Credit union representatives found new ways to engage the legislative process and successfully advocated for a new law allowing credit unions to accept unlimited deposits from public entities, such as municipalities and school districts. That success was the direct result of credit union engagement and coalition-building that brought in support from municipalities and public entities from across the state. Additionally, a measure modernizing the Washington Credit Union Act is poised to pass in the coming 2022 legislative session thanks to Washington credit unions’ engagement and advocacy on the bill throughout 2021.

Looking to 2022

Opportunities to build on the advocacy success of 2021 await just around the corner for Northwest credit unions. At coming Day at the Capitol events in each state, and the CUNA Government Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C., hundreds of credit union professionals have the opportunity to tell lawmakers how their credit unions make a difference in the lives of their members and in the communities they serve. Click the links below to register or get more details about those events.

Posted in Advocacy News.