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Targeting all 535 offices CUs launch Hill visits
WASHINGTON (3/22/12)--Around 4,000 credit union representatives, with an advocacy strategy of visiting each of the 535 U.S. Senate and House offices, descended on Capitol Hill Wednesday during the Credit Union National Association's (CUNA) 2012 Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC).

Member business lending (MBL), supplemental capital, and an credit union regulatory burden are the top advocacy issues credit unions addressed with their lawmakers.

About 30 representatives from credit unions in Oregon and Washington piled into a congressional meeting room to thank newly elected Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) for her support of increased member business lending (MBL) for credit unions. Bonamici touted an increased MBL cap  as part of her election platform, and signed on as a co-sponsor of House MBL legislation as her first act after she was sworn in.

Click to view larger imageRep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), who received a standing ovation from the Northwest Credit Union Association-led credit union group, discussed her priorities for credit unions, and how she is handling her new job in the U.S. House, in a Wednesday meeting on Capitol Hill. (CUNA Photo)

Bonamici earlier this year defeated Republican opponent Rob Cornilles in a special election for Oregon First District U.S. House seat, garnering 53.8% of the total vote.

Scott Burgess, president/CEO of Rivermark Community CU, Beaverton, Ore., outlined the benefits of increasing the MBL cap, and Bonamici said increasing the cap is a "priority" for her.

"Increasing the cap truly makes a difference to small businesses," Bonamici said, adding that "small businesses are a huge part of the economy."

CUNA economists have estimated that increasing the cap would inject $13 billion in loans into the economy and create as many as 140,000 new jobs, with no cost to taxpayers.

South Carolina credit union advocates also met with their lawmakers. In a meeting with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R), South Carolina Credit Union League President/CEO Steve Fowler stressed that the average member business loan is about $219,000, an amount that most banks are not willing to lend.

South Carolina credit union representatives also noted that the 12.25% of assets lending cap is a barrier for many credit unions that want to enter the business lending market. The low cap can make the cost of setting up a program prohibitive.

The South Carolina representatives also met with Sen. Jim DeMint (R) and Reps. Jeff Duncan (R), Tim Scott (R), James Clyburn (D), Trey Gowdy (R), Mick Mulvaney (R) and Joe Wilson (R) during their time on Capitol Hill. 

Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe (R) and Susan Collins (R) and Reps. Michael Michaud (D) and Chellie Pingree (D) met with the Maine Credit Union League earlier in the week, and all four members of Congress, who are co-sponsors of House and Senate MBL cap increase legislation, reiterated their support for the bill.

They also praised credit unions for serving their members, and league President John Murphy thanked them for their continued support.

These credit union visits took place against the backdrop of 1,000 visiting bankers, who earlier in the week urged lawmakers to defeat MBL-cap-increase legislation and stifle other credit union priorities.

News Now will feature more coverage of credit union Hill visits in Friday's News Now.  A slideshow will be featured.


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