WASHINGTON (4/25/08)—Rep. Todd Akin, a Republican from Missouri, signed on this week as the 149th official supporter of the Credit Union Regulatory Improvements Act (CURIA, H.R. 1537). Aiken has stood in the corner of credit unions before, perhaps most notably during the 2005 House Ways and Means hearing on the tax-exempt status of credit unions. Aiken wrote to then-Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.): “Taxing credit unions would be a tax on consumers.” He said additional taxes would put the existence of many credit unions “in severe jeopardy,” which in turn would harm “families and consumers” depending on them for financial services. Ryan Donovan, vice president of legislative affairs for the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), Thursday welcomed the addition of Akin’s name to the CURIA co-sponsor list and urged credit unions to continue and increase their work to garner lawmakers’ support for both CURIA and the Credit Union Regulatory Relief Act (CURRA, H.R. 5519). Donovan said it is a critical time for both pieces of legislation with Congress more than halfway through its longest in-session period for the year. "Credit union advocacy for regulatory improvements has to remain constant and at a high level until we accomplish the changes that are necessary to better serve credit union members," Donovan said. “There is no silver bullet—no magic number of co-sponsors—that will ease credit union regulatory improvements into existence. It is an important fight, but a tough fight, and credit unions must keep up their contacts with lawmakers at this critical juncture,” Donovan said. Among changes proposed by CURIA:
* Clarify the 1998 Credit Union Membership Access Act to allow all credit unions, regardless of charter type, to serve those in underserved areas. The bill would also update the definition of an underserved area, incorporating definitions from the Community Development Financial Institutions Act and the New Markets Tax Credit; * Increase the current cap on loans to members for business purposes (MBLs) from 12.25% to 20% of assets, allowing credit unions to assist more members start and expand small businesses and to promote economic growth. The bill would also exempt loans under $100,000 and those to nonprofit religious organizations from the MBL calculation; Establish additional consumer safeguards in the event of a credit union conversion to another form of financial institution; and * Reform the National Credit Union Administration's original prompt corrective action system to a risk-based approach more closely resembling the current Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. capital standard for banks.
CURRA is a more narrowly drafted bill, which features three significant provisions that would: allow all federal credit unions to apply to serve underserved areas, exempt member business loans made in underserved areas, and permit federal credit unions to offer payday loans to non-members within their field of membership. CUNA supports the more recently introduced CURRA, but emphasizes that credit unions need additional regulatory relief that includes the provisions in the broader CURIA bill.