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<p>ST. LOUIS – Educational Employees Credit Union hopes its newly formed government affairs committee will give the $290-million CU additional clout in Missouri legislative issues. Chief executive officer Hubert H. Hoosman Jr., said the idea for the new committee was first discussed at a planning session last August and is still in the formative stages. Members of the CU’s board of directors will likely lead it. “I’ve been very fortunate to have a board of directors that understands the value of having strong political ties,” Hoosman said. Hoosman said his board has been encouraging him to be active politically since 1998, when the Missouri legislature revised the state credit union act. Since, he has been attending political fundraisers. No specific issue of legislative importance is motivating the credit union, Hoosman said. He said though that he was concerned about finding ways to regulate payday and predatory lending practices. Hoosman also denied that a battle over a pending field-of-membership expansion plays any role in the decision to form the committee. In February 2001, the director of the Missouri Division of Credit Unions approved EECU’s application to allow it to serve anyone who lives or works in St. Louis County and four other Missouri counties along the Mississippi River. The Missouri Bankers Association and two local banks appealed that decision to the state Credit Union Commission. John Smith, director of the credit union division, said at press time that the appeal is currently in the discovery phase and no decision is expected until at least the credit union commission’s Feb. 15 meeting. Hoosman said the credit union is also considering a name change, to reflect its broader membership base. EECU started life as Suburban Teachers Credit Union but now has more than 200 SEGs under its wing. Hoosman said the credit union has grown from $20 million in assets in 1982, to $198 million in 1994, to $290 million today. It has opened two branches in the last five years and Hoosman expects to add three or four additional branches in the next five years. Assets, he predicts, will approach $800 million by that time. Hoosman did note that term limit laws are increasing legislative turnover. “We have a huge amount of veteran legislators who are maxing out,” he said and his board wants to maintain strong ties to legislators. So far, several board members have met with Peggy Nalls, senior vice president for public and legislative affairs with the Missouri Credit Union System. Amy McLard, vice president of public and legislative affairs for the system, said Nalls and she discussed ways to help the board members, who would serve as the credit union’s legislative voice on a volunteer basis, give the credit union “a better voice” in legislative affairs. Neither Hoosman nor McLard expect the credit union’s representatives to supplant the MCUS as the principal voice for credit unions in the state legislature. “We are still the chief lobbyist for credit unions,” McLard said. “We coordinate that effort. What this does, it helps them . be a better voice for their credit union.” McLard pointed out that EECU has a large portion of their membership who are teachers, and “teachers are very political people.” She added that when a credit union has a governmental affairs committee, it streamlines the league’s relationship with the credit union. “We work with the government affairs committee and they handle transmitting that (governmental information) throughout their membership.” McLard said that there is no pattern as to which credit unions have their own governmental affairs group. Hoosman agreed that EECU’s committee was not designed to distance the credit union’s interests from the broader interests the league represented. “It’s not a separate voice,” he said. “We want a body in place to support the league.” -</p> <p>[email protected]</p>

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