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Strength in numbers shows in CUs Hill visits
WASHINGTON (3/23/12)--Credit unions continued to walk the halls of Congress on Thursday, the last day of the Credit Union National Association's (CUNA) 2012 Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC), ending a week in which credit union representatives from across the country packed into congressional offices.

With about 4,000 credit union advocates attending this year's GAC, some of the Capitol Hill meetings with each of the 535 House and Senate members moved out of offices and into larger meeting rooms.

Click for slide showIowa Senator Tom Harkin (D) discussed member business lending with his visitors. Click for more credit union and league visits to Capitol Hill.
Nearly 100 Ohio credit union representatives traveled to Washington this year. Among their meetings was one with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D), who is a supporter of increasing the member business lending (MBL) cap.

The credit union advocates discussed member business lending and other key issues, including regulatory burdens and the need for access to supplemental capital. Those were also the topics of discussion in a meeting the Ohio group had on the House side, with Rep. Jim Jordan (R), who met with representatives of several credit unions during a breakfast reception.

Credit union support has been strong in New Jersey, with six legislators from that state already co-sponsors of MBL legislation and two more backing the Financial Institution Examination Fairness and Reform Act (H.R. 3461).

Rep. Steve Rothman (D) said he would cosponsor both H.R. 3461 and credit union supplementary capital legislation during his meeting with New Jersey representatives, and New Jersey Credit Union League President/CEO Paul Gentile said the newfound support is "proof-positive of the value of taking time to meet face-to-face with our lawmakers."

"We had positive feedback from more than one office on the two newer pieces of legislation and we expect additional New Jersey cosponsors in the coming weeks," he added.

A delegation of Mississippi credit unions, led by the Mississippi Credit Union Association, met with Rep. Bennie Thompson (D), and during the meeting, Bill Bynum, CEO of $68 million Hope Community CU, Jackson, Miss., said the MBL cap prevents many credit unions from entering the member business lending market. The Mississippi credit union representatives also stressed that member business lending can serve as an important source of capital for African American entrepreneurs.

Among the many other credit union meetings on Capitol Hill, representatives from Louisiana credit unions met with Sen. David Vitter (R) to discuss the benefits of increasing the members business lending cap, and Vitter listened as executives from Louisiana credit unions individually shared their stories about the restrictions the member business lending cap places on their institutions, and the positive work they could do in their communities if the cap increased to 27.5% of assets.

One Louisiana credit union representative told Vitter that many credit unions cease making business loans when they near the 12.25% lending cap for fear of admonishment from National Credit Union Administration examiners.

Also, more than 20 credit union advocates from Vermont met with Sens. Pat Leahy (D) and Bernie Sanders (I), who are both MBL cosponsors. The group thanked the longtime legislators for their support, and asked them to encourage their colleagues to do the same. Association of Vermont Credit Unions President Joe Bergeron said his state's credit unions are stepping up to support "viable small business credit needs that others are turning away."

Access the slideshow to view other credit union advocacy efforts.


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