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CUNA map helps voters ID CU-friendly candidates

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WASHINGTON (11/6/12)--Are you wondering which candidates in your state or district are credit union friends? The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) has posted an interactive map listing pro-credit union candidates supported by the Credit Union Legislative Action Council (CULAC) and state credit union leagues for the 2012 General Election cycle.

The map lists U.S. Senate and House candidates, along with House district information. Users can simply scroll over their state to see which candidates have received CULAC and state credit union league support during this cycle.

"Users can know that by voting for these CULAC- and state-league-supported candidates, they are voting for a credit union friend," CUNA Vice President of Political Affairs Trey Hawkins said.

The map, like other CULAC efforts, highlights candidates from both major political parties, and independents. "First and foremost we look to help candidates that understand and support credit unions," Hawkins said.

Credit union advocacy and volunteer efforts continued in the days just before the election, with credit unions and credit unions also educated candidates about credit unions and their issues during this cycle. (See Nov. 5 News Now story: CUs ramp up for tomorrow's elections)

"Credit unions across the country have been extremely active in this cycle, and that kind of civic engagement is gratifying," Hawkins said.

CULAC has again been named as the most bipartisan political action committee (PAC) in opensecrets.org's list of the top 20 PAC contributors for this election cycle, and CUNA and CULAC have spent more than $1 million on independent expenditures and partisan communications during this election cycle.

Independent expenditures are advertising vehicles aimed at voters, while partisan communications are targeted specifically at credit union members.

CUNA spent $2.9 million on direct contributions to candidates and committees during this cycle, and that money was evenly divided between the two major parties: 47% of the funds went to Democrats, 51% went to Republicans, and 2% went to independent candidates.

At least 90 candidates have received maximum support from CULAC, including incumbents in highly competitive races, such as Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.), Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Rep. Frank Guinta (R-N.H.), Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa).

U.S. House candidate Chris Collins (R), retired Illinois National Guard General and U.S. House candidate Bill Enyart (D-Ill.), Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), Iowa U.S. House candidate Christie Vilsack (D) and Dan Maffei (D-N.Y.) are also among the candidates that have received such support.

For the CULAC candidate map, use the resource link.

Lame duck vehicles could drive MBL bill

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WASHINGTON (11/6/12)--A potentially busy lame duck session could provide opportunities for legislation addressing the credit union member business lending (MBL) cap to move through the U.S. Congress, Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Executive Vice President John Magill said.

"There are certain bills that must be addressed before Congress adjourns for the year, such as expiring tax laws including the payroll and Bush tax cuts, a farm bill, a Defense Authorization bill, certain treaties and extension of a number of other important tax extenders. It'll be a lively session and we continue to pursue all avenues that could result in the passage of an MBL bill in coming weeks," Magill said.

The lame duck session is scheduled to begin when members of Congress return to Washington on Nov. 13. The House is scheduled to be in session for 16 days. An official Senate calendar for the days following the election has not yet been released.

While CUNA is prepared for a straight up-or-down vote on stand-alone MBL legislation, Magill said that such a vote is unlikely to occur during the lame duck session. Instead, he said, CUNA is eyeing "a number of good vehicles that MBLs could hitch a ride on."

Addressing the so-called "fiscal cliff," via a combination of tax increases and public spending cuts, is one of the largest political priorities on the horizon. If legislators fail to compromise on these spending and tax issues by year end, $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction moves will be initiated on Jan. 2. Little may happen to change the oft-reported gridlock in Congress after today's federal election, with Republicans likely to retain a majority in the U.S. House and Democrats in the Senate: It may still be difficult to move legislation through Congress due to partisan divisions.

However, both parties will need to work together to avoid the fiscal cliff, Magill said.

Appropriations bills, various tax extenders, and the Farm Bill, which expired on Sept. 30, will also need to be addressed by Congress.

MBL language could be added to any of these priority bills, which are very important for members on both sides of the aisle, Magill noted. However, he said there will be plenty of competition for amendment slots on any larger pieces of legislation that move through the House or Senate.

CUNA and grassroots credit union supporters will need to be as visible as possible during the lame duck session to break through the noise and ensure MBL legislation is added to these larger bills, he said.

Senate leadership has committed to a floor vote on MBL legislation, and advocacy for MBL cap increase bills in the U.S. Senate (S. 2231) and House (H.R. 1418) will be the main focus during a late November National Hike the Hill. The Hike, which will bring credit union supporters, leagues and small business owners from across the country to Washington on Nov. 27 and 28, will increase the MBL cap lift's prospects for passage.

"We have the chance to do something good for our country's small businesses, our economy at large--and for the future of credit unions--if we can turn out, push this bill over the top and win this vote," CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney said announcing the advocacy effort. The MBL bills, which have bi-partisan support, would increase the credit union MBL cap to 27.5% of assets. H.R. 1418 has 140 cosponsors and S. 2231 has 21 cosponsors.

The credit union MBL legislation is among 26 items on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's list of unfinished legislative items, National Journal reported on Monday. However, National Journal noted that the length of that list means that some listed items may not be taken up before the year ends.

"Trying to predict a lame duck session is like trying to predict the weather for next June 1 with any accuracy" Magill said.

CUNA analysis shows the MBL cap increase would create 140,000 jobs and inject $13 billion in new funds into the economy during the first year after enactment. Both benefits would come at no cost to taxpayers.

CUNA also will watch the progress of other legislation of interest to credit unions, including bills that could ease credit unions' access to supplemental capital, provide ATM fee disclosure fixes, address cybersecurity issues, and change aspects of the financial institution examination process.

CUNA backs FHFA short sale changes but urges restraint

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WASHINGTON (11/6/12)--The Federal Housing Finance Agency's (FHFA) efforts to streamline short sales for mortgage servicers, lenders, and borrowers, and promote housing market recovery, are positive, but a broader application of new short sale guidelines could have a negative impact on home mortgage financing, the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) said in a comment letter.

Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) guidelines that went into effect on Nov. 1 will allow homeowners whose mortgages are held by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac to sell their homes through the short sale process, provided they have an eligible hardship and are current on their mortgage payments. The death of a spouse or home co-owner, divorce, disability and job relocations of 50 miles or more will be considered eligible hardships under the new guidelines. Additional approval from Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac will not be needed in these cases.

Military personnel who are being relocated due to Permanent Change of Station orders would also be automatically eligible for short sales, and would not be obligated to contribute funds to cover the shortfall between the outstanding loan balance and the sales price on their homes under the new guidelines.

The guidelines also streamline the short sale process for homeowners that have missed several mortgage payments or have low credit scores. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will also be permitted to offer as much as $6,000 to second lien holders to expedite short sale closings. The guidance also clarifies when applications and sales offers must be submitted for a home sale to be considered a short sale.

CUNA Regulatory Counsel Dennis Tsang in the letter encouraged the FHFA to limit the application of new short sale guidelines to short sales only and not apply them to other types of borrower situations in which the borrower would like to remain in the home. The guidelines could also interfere with the ability of creditors to pursue deficiencies under state law, the letter added.

CUNA urged the FHFA to closely monitor the implementation of the new short sale guidelines, and to solicit and incorporate additional feedback from mortgage participants regarding the short sale program throughout its implementation.

For the full CUNA comment letter, use the resource link.

Inside Washington (11/05/2012)

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  • WASHINGTON (11/6/12)--Banks are urging the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to change a proposed new regulation governing remittance transfers that takes effect in February. Under the rule, providers will be required to disclose the total amount of money that a recipient would receive through a transfer, factoring in the exchange rate, and any fees or foreign taxes, and the date that the money will be available. The time when the customer first requests the transfer, and when the payment is made also must be disclosed. Consumers will have about 30 minutes after the payment is made to cancel a transaction. Bankers say the tax information that the new rule requires them to disclose will not be accessible in the time required. "It is important that you understand that a database of all worldwide taxes and their related exemptions and exclusions that are applicable to international transfers and available in real time simply does not exist today," banking groups said in an Oct. 17 letter to the CFPB. Credit Union National Association President/CEO Bill Cheney last week reiterated CUNA's and credit unions' suggestions for fixing pending remittance regulations in a letter to CFPB Director Richard Cordray (News Now Nov. 5). In a letter to Cordray, CUNA said credit unions do not fear losing income as a result of these regulations--credit unions charge minimal fees for these services and some actually lose money on these transfers. However, they do worry that members will be forced to stop using their credit unions for such services and have to rely instead on other providers that will charge them much more …