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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Even with many favorable signs, the new Democratic leadership in the U.S. Senate presents a climate of some uncertainty for credit unions, particularly on community reinvestment type regulation, according to Peter Crear, CUNA’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. Speaking at the annual meeting of the New Mexico Credit Union League, Crear said the position of the new Banking Committee Chairman, Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.) on NCUA community service rules and regulations for community chartered CUs is not entirely clear. At least, said Crear, the industry knew that the outgoing chairman U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas), long considered a friend of the banking lobby, strongly opposed CRA rules as unnecessary. “He was outspoken on the subject,” said Crear. But with Sarbanes in charge, “I don’t have the same confidence that I had a week ago” about community service regulations, said Crear, adding also that it is unclear about Dennis Dollar’s confirmation as NCUA Chairman. That’s the case, said Crear, because Dollar, a Republican with Mississippi roots, had close ties to the outgoing Senate Majority Leader, U.S. Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) In his league speech which covered a range of topics, Crear said he was heartened by the industry’s overall health noting CU assets are now at $500 billion with 80 million members. This is despite the decline in the number of credit unions in the country, slipping from 16,000-17,000 10 years ago, to 11,000 today. He said the industry continues to enjoy a favorable reputation among the public, and he pointed to recent opinion surveys in the American Banker newspaper showing CUs rank at the top in “trustworthiness.” CUs have also kept pace, he said, in establishing Web sites, citing predictions that 60% of all CUs will have Web sites by 2002. The CUNA executive also praised CUs for being responsive to NCUA regarding Regflex, the NCUA performance policy offering CUs flexibility on lending and capital rules. Crear also said CUNA’s final Renaissance Commission report outlining the industry’s legislative and regulatory course for future growth should be ready by June 21, with a further airing slated for a CUNA Government Affairs Symposium in October. [email protected]

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