WASHINGTON-In its efforts to make the Renaissance Commission recommendations “possible, plausible, and realistic,” CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Committee (GAC) has toned down some of the language initially included in the vision statements. Additionally, the list of 90 different recommendations initially used by CUNA staff to draft the report for the GAC has outlived its usefulness, and, upon approval by the entire CUNA board, CUNA’s legislative staff will work from the more broad vision statements, according to CUNA Vice President of Communications and Media Outreach Pat Keefe. CUNA Vice Chair Barry Jolette, president and CEO of San Mateo Credit Union and heir-apparent to the CUNA Board chairmanship, chairs the GAC. “In short, I think it’s fair to say that the GAC did its job.” CUNA Senior Vice President of Governmental Affairs John McKechnie said. “The GAC took its role very seriously as one that was to ground the work of the Renaissance Commission.” Much of the language involving the most contentious issues included in the Renaissance Commission-such as open fields of membership, alternative capital, separation of the NCUA from the insurance fund, and private insurance-have been altered to make them more generally acceptable to CUNA members, as well as more realistic to achieve. Brian McDonnell, president and CEO of Navy Federal Credit Union (the largest credit union in the world at $13 billion in assets), was among the dissenters of the more controversial issues. Additionally, service to persons of modest means was given a more prominent position in the mission statement and “volunteer-directed” was included in the definition of a credit union. “The committee members grasped a relationship between the merit of many of the actions being discussed and the costs and risks involved in achieving them.” the GAC report said. “The committee recognizes the value and importance of concordance and consensus among credit unions when it comes to forging new options and flexibilities for the future. With that as a point of departure, the committee believes credit unions will be more successful in their efforts to secure a prosperous tomorrow if prudent and forward-looking steps are taken today.” One of the key changes to the vision statements recommended by the GAC was to give service to people of modest means a more prominent position in the mission statement, reflecting credit unions commitment to this issue, GAC said. Also, the term “volunteer-directed” was added to the definition of a credit union after many commenters cited this as a basic characteristic of credit unions and in line with Treasury’s January 2001 report on credit unions, which named it one of the “five distinguishing characteristics.” Under powers and authorities, building “capital,” which could “damage credit union uniqueness,” was modified to read “additional capital” and emphasized that “these options should not dilute the cooperative (member) ownership and governance structure of credit unions.” Additionally, CUNA’s GAC said that credit union losses should come from this additional capital rather than the insurance fund. The committee also placed emphasis on the flexibility “additional capital” would provide credit unions options in offering services and adjusting to economic conditions. Language advocating that credit unions be given the “right” to define their own fields of membership, which was originally included in the draft vision statements, was removed in exchange for giving them “significantly greater flexibility.” The GAC report said that too many interpreted this as the elimination of fields of membership, which would be “too significant to the uniqueness of credit unions” and their tax-exempt status. In the final category of Regulation and Insurance, CUNA’s GAC recommended that NCUA “focus” on regulating activities that are unsafe and unsound, rather than only regulating these issues as in the original vision statements. GAC urges that NCUA take actions on the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF) separately from regulatory matters without creating any separate entity to oversee the fund. Many commenters expressed concern that dividing NCUA and NCUSIF would lead to lumping them in with other federal financial institution regulators. Additionally, the GAC report restricted private insurance alternative lobbying to state chartered credit unions, but all credit unions as initially intended. “Specific legislative and regulatory changes that produce movement in the direction of those Vision Statements should in general be supported, as long as they can be achieved without damage to credit unions,” the GAC concluded. Over a two-day meeting in Washington, D.C. and three conference calls, the committee assessed many issues as to the “value” and the risk to credit unions before changes were made to the original vision statements. In determining the value an issue may have for credit unions, the GAC considered whether credit unions would benefit from the change and how much; the challenge to credit unions’ tax exemption and the unique characteristics of credit unions; if the issue is divisive among the credit union movement; whether bankers will create large problems; and if it erodes the image of credit unions. CUNA President and CEO Dan Mica has often and loudly said that credit unions cannot define themselves by what the bankers say. “I feel very strongly that we have the right to dream, and we have dreamed.if opposition is such that you’re going to lose, you don’t pursue it at that time,” he said. Mica said that he is the first to state that credit unions do not have all the tools they need to pursue “all the things we need to do right now.” But, CUNA is working on filling its toolbox and building the clout it needs by increasing the Credit Union Legislative Action Committee and creating a physical presence for credit unions on Capitol Hill with Credit Union House. Mica explained that he still strongly disagreed with opponents of the Renaissance Commission who feel that credit unions need to be quiet and out of the bankers’ crosshairs. “They’re intent on giving us problems,” he said of the bankers. He added that what CUNA members expect is leadership and judgment. Mica also made a parallel to the war on terrorism right now and some of the more contentious credit union issues from the original Renaissance Commission recommendations, stating, “You can’t go into battle when you’re split down the middle.” CUNA feels confident that it has set up its Renaissance Commission report on the Hill with the proper political savvy. CUNA lobbyists presented the general idea to several financial leaders in Washington, not only to explain themselves, but to head off any preemptive banker strikes, according to Gary Kohn, CUNA vice president and senior legislative counsel. Lawmakers soon recognized the bankers’ remarks as “typical banker hyperbole,” according to Kohn. McKechnie described the response on Capitol Hill to the Renaissance Commission as “one of positive curiosity.” [email protected]

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