WASHINGTON-The terrorist attacks of September 11 have left their mark, literally and figuratively, around the world. One area that may not initially seem so directly linked, but was very much affected, was credit union grassroots lobbying. According to CUNA Vice President of Political Action Richard Gose, the period between Labor Day and the end of the Congressional session is when credit unions really gear up for Hike the Hills. "They are maturing every year." Gose said in his Southern drawl. "These things have grown. We're starting to see a lot of people coming back." Hikers returning are continuing to hone their lobbying skills, he commented, and CUNA continues to tweak the process. Over the three years since CUNA formally started this program, CUNA has worked to update and improve the Hike the Hill program. Something they began this year and plan to focus on for next year is creating a dialogue with the members of Congress and staffers. For example, if a congressman has a lot of taxi drivers in their constituency, a credit union with a lot of members who drive taxis should talk about credit union business as it relates to taxi drivers (i.e. small business loans). CUNA also plans to combine the trips more with fundraising activities. CUNA hosted 22 Hike the Hills this year, down from the originally scheduled 37 due to the heightened security on the Hill and grounded airlines following September 11. However, CUNA already has eight scheduled for next year-Florida (twice), Arizona, Texas, Illinois, North Carolina (twice), and Maine-and anticipates close to 40 for next year, according to CUNA Grassroots Manager Gretchen Graf. Elections next year will provide an added buzz on the Hill. Elections will also mean that members of Congress will be leaving their Washington offices earlier than normal in 2002 to campaign back in their districts. "Let's get those Hike the Hills in there earlier and not bet on a lot of time after they're scheduled to adjourn," Gose recommended. He pointed out that many hikes this year were scheduled a few weeks beyond the set adjournment date of Congress, but with an election year that is not a safe bet. CUNA is not depending on redistricting and electoral concerns to give credit union lobbying a boost of energy – credit unions are creating their own. "One of the great shots in the arm next year will be Credit Union House," he said. The project is expected to draw credit union leagues, all 51 of which invested in the house, from all around the country to Washington. Credit Union House was created to provide a workstation for traveling credit union officials and their leagues while in Washington, but more importantly to provide a physical presence for credit unions on Capitol Hill. Many leagues and credit unions have already held receptions and meetings with their Representatives there. Additionally, the CUNA Board approved its Renaissance Commission recommendations at a board meeting this week. The meeting was originally scheduled to be held during CUNA's Annual Meeting in San Francisco shortly after the attacks, which had to be cancelled due to restricted commercial flights and other related issues. The year-long project was started to draw a roadmap for CUNA's legislative staff of what its members wanted out of lawmakers and the regulators. "The Renaissance Commission recommendations will provide not just the how, but the what of what we want," Gose explained. Leagues and credit unions will `hike the hill' armed with detailed ideas from the Renaissance report of what credit unions want from Washington. "It's important to make sure the Hill understands the process we went through. A lot of times, it's not just what you say but how you say it," he said. Credit unions also have legislation continuing from this session of Congress to either push or oppose on the Hill, including bankruptcy, regulatory relief, Independent Development Accounts, faith-based lending, and privacy. [email protected]

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