WASHINGTON -- The term "CURIA" is practically off-limits for many Washington insiders for fear of jinxing the legislation that credit unions have been pushing for the third Congress now.
But if history repeats itself, chances for forward progress in the 110th Congress are good for the Credit Union Regulatory Improvements Act.
In the second session of the 108th Congress, CURIA garnered 69 cosponsors. That figure jumped to 125 in the 109th Congress. Of the 125 from last Congress, 114 have returned for the 110th Congress. Each Congress, legislation has to begin the process all over again.
Of those CURIA co-sponsors not returning this congress, former Democratic congressman from Hawaii, Ed Case, lost a primary bid for the senate seat occupied by incumbent Daniel Akaka (D). Congressman Lane Evans (D-Ill.) retired for health reasons; Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.) also retired. Former Republican Congressman Jim Gibbons (R-Nev.) successfully ran for governor of his state, as did 'Butch' Otter (R) in Idaho. Republican Representatives Anne Northup (Ky.), Rob Simmons (Conn.), Mike Sodrel (Ind.), John Sweeney (R-N.Y.), and Curt Weldon (Pa.) were swept out in the Democratic take-over of Congress. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) successfully ran for the Senate and has discussed introducing CURIA in that legislative body.
Additionally, Randy Cunningham resigned from office when he was convicted of bribery and other charges, but Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.), who replaced him after a special election and has returned for the 110th Congress, signed on to the bill almost immediately after getting into office.
Most co-sponsors will likely sign on again. However, observers witnessed previous CURIA co-sponsor Rodney Alexander (R-La.) go after NCUA Chairman JoAnn Johnson during a recent hearing on serving the underserved. He cited credit union advertising that he viewed as overstepping legal bounds--a regular accusation made by banker groups--and questioned her on credit union ownership.
California has the largest congressional delegation with 53, as well as the greatest number of co-sponsors at 27 on the bill last session. League lobbyist Ryan Donovan said longevity and meeting regularly with legislators in Washington, but especially in their home districts, is key. "One of the advantages we have in California is we have developed relationships with a number of members of Congress that have spanned the years," he said.
When someone from the league visits with lawmakers, they localize issues like CURIA, providing the number of credit union members in the district, the credit unions located there and how additional capital from a risk-based framework could help serve more constituents or how much more business lending could be done if the cap were raised. That way "the member of Congress is invested in the community and knows we're invested in the community," Donovan explained.
In Nevada, which Donovan also represents in Washington, the state had three of three co-sponsoring the bill last Congress, but with Gibbons moving on to governor, the league now has a new representative. However, the league's relations with Dean Heller (R-Nev.), who previously served as the Nevada secretary of state, are off to a strong start.
Michigan has also been a state that has been successful in bringing co-sponsors to the bill in the past. Nine of Michigan's 15 members of the House were signed on last year; Michigan Credit Union League President/CEO Dave Adams said he is hopeful those nine will re-sign plus another three. "I give a lot of credit to Michigan's grass roots involvement," he said. Michigan's federal political action committee raised $461,155.29 over the 2005-2006 election cycle, while their state PAC reached over $200,000.
The Michigan league also followed up its Capitol Hill visits during CUNA's Governmental Affairs Conference in February with thank you cards, which put their names in front of lawmakers one more time. Credit unions will also be meeting with them back in their districts.
However, just because some states have more co-sponsors than others, it may not mean much, Adams cautions. "There are often unique circumstances where the numbers don't necessarily tell the story," he said. At the end of the last Congress, 18 states had no co-sponsors on the bill.
North Carolina, a state that is home to a number of large banks, was one of them. North Carolina Credit Union League Senior Vice President of Association Services Dan Schline agreed with Adams' assessment. "In our view, there are a lot of different ways members of Congress, whether in North Carolina or other states, can show their support for credit unions," he said. He acknowledged that in Washington there has been an emphasis on the number of co-sponsors on the bill.
However, Schline said that all the representatives from North Carolina have "a good sense of the value we bring to our members." Even Congressman Patrick McHenry (R), who has tried to rein in NCUA authorities over credit union conversions to banks, has been supportive of credit union issues except on the issue of conversions. North Carolina credit union representatives also try to talk about CURIA "in practical terms" like additional authority to serve underserved areas, Prompt Corrective Action reform, and member business lending. --firstname.lastname@example.org