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CU action can change conversation on Capitol Hill
WASHINGTON (3/1/11)--Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Chairman Harriet May, president/CEO of GECU, El Paso, Texas, and CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney offered highlights of “the most active year legislatively” in four decades for credit unions at CUNA’s Annual General Meeting during its Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC) Monday. They urged credit union leaders to “change the conversation” in Washington in 2011.
Click for slide show CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney welcomes the more-than 4,000 participants who have come to Washington, D.C. for the 2011 Governmental Affairs Conference, as well as for Capitol Hill visits to discuss key credit union issues with federal lawmakers. Cheney told credit unions that their presence in Washington will make a difference on issues such as protection of the credit union tax status, interchange rules, supplemental capital and more. (CUNA Photo)
The CUNA GAC runs through Wednesday. Among the highlights of last year that May pointed to was the selection of Cheney as CUNA’s new leader. “The board said in July when choosing Bill that he was the right man for the right time for CUNA,” May said. “That has proven to be the case. We needed an experienced leader who could hit the ground running, and effect a sure and smooth transition. Bill has demonstrated strong leadership right from the start in the advocacy arena and in his management of the association.” Dan Mica retired from the leadership position after 13 years at the helm. May also noted CUNA’s role in facing regulatory, legislative and economic challenges in 2010. She emphasized CUNA’s role as a thought leader in tackling critical issues facing the credit union movement. “As your national trade association, CUNA can be a catalyst that helps bring the movement together to devise solutions to meet its many challenges,” May said. Cheney offered a list of credit union highlights for 2010. Among the successes was the continued independence of the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). “We persuaded Congress to maintain the NCUA as the independent regulator of credit unions, and keep the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund separate from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.,” Cheney said. Credit unions also limited the impact of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, formed under the Dodd-Frank Act. Of significance was credit union representation on the council that oversees the bureau’s rules. “That’s a mandate that the impact on credit unions must be considered in any rulemaking done by the bureau,” Cheney said. Cheney noted that 14 members of Congress (11 House members, three senators) now hold their seats thanks to special electoral programs of CUNA and state leagues. Eight were elected in the past year. Other highlights: the preservation of the $250,000 share insurance level for credit union members, positive press for credit unions, a strong blow against unrelated business income tax, and progress on the corporate credit union crisis. But challenges remain, Cheney said. Two areas where CUNA will continue to push hard: business lending and interchange. Although credit unions did not win expanded lending authority, they achieved considerable congressional support on both sides of the aisle, he added. As for interchange, CUNA and the leagues generated more than one million contacts with Capitol Hill to voice credit union opposition to the legislation, Cheney said. Their message to Congress: Stop, study--and start over. "This legislation is a train wreck for consumers,” Cheney said. “We're gaining traction, but we're going to need your help." Cheney cited the continued tax exempt status of credit unions, alleviating credit unions’ regulatory burden, and supplemental capital as other challenges for 2011. It’s important that credit unions strive to form a unified vision, he said. In his remarks earlier at the GAC’s opening general session, Cheney urged credit unions to “change the conversation” in Washington with a collective voice that serves 93 million consumers and has a solid-track record of serving consumers during a recession when many banks turned customers away. Between December 2007 and September 2010, business lending by credit unions grew by more than 39%, while bank business lending declined by more than 18%. Overall lending by credit unions, for that period, expanded 7.6% while banks’ overall lending declined by 6.5%. “We’re here to stay,” Cheney said. “We have a big voice; let’s put it work. We have served, prudently, when others wouldn’t. We can continue getting the good press we have received; we just have to continue to tell our story.” As evidence of the credit unions’ ability to influence the conversation, Cheney cited a GAC speaker slate that includes House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio.), Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Rep. Shelley Moore (R-W. Va.), Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). Also, outgoing CUNA Chief of Staff Rich McBride was honored with a board resolution recognizing his 14 years of service with CUNA.


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