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<p>WASHINGTON-CUNA, NAFCU, and other financial services interest groups met last week with House Financial Services staff about the regulatory relief package that Chairman Mike Oxley (R-Ohio) tried to jumpstart last fall. Reg relief issues were placed on the back burner following the attacks of September 11. However, the House Financial Services staff called a meeting, prior to Congress even returning from recess, to inform interested parties of the progress on potential regulatory relief legislation. Credit union-related issues included in a concept paper during the meeting demonstrated that the group is eying the following areas: Providing NCUA with the authority to set the maturity limit on loans set currently in the law at 12-years with some exceptions; Allowing NCUA to set the credit union investment limit into credit union service organizations (CUSOs); Permitting expanded investment options for credit unions; Allowing state chartered, privately insured credit unions to join the Federal Home Loan Bank System (Congressman Bob Ney (R-Ohio) introduced this as stand alone legislation last session.); and Permitting minimal charges for land usage on military bases for buildings, such as credit unions, erected on base. These are very similar to the suggestions NCUA provided to the committee in August 2001 at the request of Oxley. NCUA’s four recommendations included permitting federal credit unions to perform check cashing and money transfer services to anyone; eliminating the 12-year maturity limit on loans and giving NCUA the authority to set the limit; ease the 1% investment limit on credit union service organizations; and eliminating reasonable proximity requirements for fields of membership. The agency also provided two alternatives: expanded investment options and clarifying the voluntary merger authority. CUNA and NAFCU were permitted to provide input into what should go on the list and both highly approved of NCUA’s final suggestions. During the meeting called by the committee, interested parties attending, including CUNA and NAFCU, did not make any remarks but were invited to write letters by the end of January with feedback on the future legislation. Both credit union groups plan to respond. CUNA Vice President and Senior Legislative Counsel Gary Kohn commented, “This is the first time that the Hill has done a regulatory relief bill that has included credit unions.” The caveat from Oxley on this reg-relief bill is that the provisions included be non-controversial, with the hopes of the legislation sailing smoothly, and quickly, through Congress, said Kohn. “This was a very positive step forward in the legislative process.” NAFCU Senior Vice President and General Counsel Bill Donovan added. “They showed a clear interest in candidly discussing what they would include in a first draft of the legislation.” While the concept paper did not include all the items credit unions had hoped for, Kohn said, “We are very pleased with the process and very pleased with what they did include.” CUNA President and CEO Dan Mica wrote a letter to former colleague House Financial Services Chairman Mike Oxley urging the congressman to continue with regulatory relief initiatives that he asked the federal financial regulatory agencies for last fall. “We are pleased to be working with you and your staff to achieve this important goal, as credit unions are currently the most heavily regulated financial institutions in America,” Mica wrote. CUNA pointed out that while H.R. 1151 was still considered a credit union victory, it did impose some serious restrictions on credit unions, which were already heavily regulated. However, CUNA Vice President and Senior Legislative Counsel Gary Kohn emphasized that CUNA was not looking to overturn any parts of the Credit Union Membership Access Act. The letter was prompted by the announcement of the House Financial Services meeting with interested groups. Additionally, a press conference held by the Financial Services Coordinating Council, comprised of bankers and insurance groups, did not list regulatory relief as a top priority for 2002. CUNA wanted to ensure that Oxley knew credit unions are keenly interested in the issue, according to the letter. [email protected]</p>

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