WASHINGTON -- Among all the credit union friendlies working on Capitol Hill, just two walked on the stage to standing ovations at CUNA's Governmental Affairs Conference last week: co-authors of the Credit Union Regulatory Improvements Act, Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) and Ed Royce (R-Calif.).
"I accept your nomination," Kanjorski quipped. And speaking of elections, he emphasized, there is nothing wrong with letting politicians know that you supported their campaign to help grab their attention. The remark came as he and Royce tried to create urgency for garnering Capitol Hill's magic number for co-sponsorships--219--equal to half the members of the House plus one to push the legislation through. Last Congress, the legislation garnered 125 co-sponsors.
However, the big announcement that was potentially to come at GAC did not; CURIA had not been introduced as of press time. Talking with reporters after his address, Kanjorski said, there is still disagreement over the member business lending provisions, specifically the business lending cap. Previous legislation would have increased the cap from the current 12.25% to 20%, the authority that the thrifts presently have. There was talk of pushing it up to 25% and NAFCU had advocated eliminating the cap as it was prior to CUMAA. Kanjorski said it will likely end up closer to 20%.
He said he expects to introduce the legislation late this spring with hearings to follow soon after. The business lending differences are not the only hold up, he said as reform of the government sponsored enterprises, terrorism risk insurance, and Katrina have taken precedent in the committee Kanjorski explained.
Another potential change to CURIA Kanjorski mentioned in his speech was pushing the minimum voter participation requirement for mutual savings bank conversions from the majority of those voting as is currently the case to the majority of 30% of the membership. Previous versions of CURIA included a 20% minimum voting requirement. "We don't want to stop conversions but we certainly don't want to see credit unions hijacked," he said during his address, by "smart aleck" lawyers.
Kanjorski told reporters later, "I would like it to be large enough for it to be representative."
Congressman Royce commented during his remarks, "As credit unions become more important...I want to make sure that credit unions are regulated in the most optimal manner." Credit unions not only need to be safe and sound, but their regulatory scheme must be contemporary.
He noted that banks and thrifts are already looking to reform their risk-based capital system while credit unions do not even have the framework in place. "With this legislation, we give credit unions the same safety and soundness standards that all the FDIC-insured institutions have lived under since 1992," Royce stated.
In rallying the troops, Royce hinted that the legislation is "getting close to success" and the president's desk.
Kanjorski said he would like to see the bill make it through the House this summer.
Congressman James Clyburn (D-S.C.) also said from the GAC stage that he supported CURIA, while House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) alluded to provisions in it and Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said he would "work with" credit unions on CURIA. Neither Hoyer nor Clyburn were signed on to the bill last year; a bill has yet to be introduced in the Senate though Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has shown a strong interest and was previously a co-sponsor in the House.
House Financial Services Ranking Member Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) had to cancel his appearance at GAC for a family emergency. However, his office sent over a statement that was read from the stage, saying "While my role has changed, my commitment to the credit union movement and the high quality, low-cost financial services you provide to millions of Americans remains as strong as ever...That means working to enact into law the credit union provisions left out of last year's regulatory reform bill, and opposing any attempt to expand the scope of the Community Reinvestment Act to include credit unions."
Bachus has not previously been a co-sponsor to CURIA. --email@example.com