<p>JUNEAU, Alaska – This year, Alaska's credit unions are trying a different approach at CUNA's Governmental Affairs Conference. Bob Teachworth, president of Denali Alaskan Federal Credit Union, is chairman of the Alaska Credit Union League's Governmental Affairs Committee. He expects about 30 people to attend the GAC from the state's 13 credit unions. In the past, those attending have divided into three groups to visit the offices of Alaska's two senators and one representative. This year the league reserved a room at the Capitol Hill Club for a three-hour luncheon buffet. "We hope they, or their senior aides, will come to us," Teachworth says. "What we want to do is give them an outline of key issues that are of concern to credit unions and discuss them as a total group, rather than splitting up into three." The committee also wants a give-and-take so they can learn what's on the minds of those representing Alaska in Congress, and how issues that concern credit unions mesh with overall priorities in Congress. Technology, including e-mail and fax machines, does help Alaska credit unions keep in touch with their Congressional delegation. Credit unions here also try to take advantage of the opportunity when their representative or senators are back in the home district. "After the Grass Roots efforts we had some recognition dinners for them. On Credit Union Day or other events if they're in town we try to get them to address us. There are many functions in Anchorage (where the Congressional delegation will be present) we will attend," Teachworth says. Basically, the topics of concern to Alaska credit unions on the national level are the same ones that rank high on CUNA's agenda. However, there are some specific items on stage in Alaska itself: A proposed revision of the state banking act. Right now it has an opt-out provision under the privacy laws. Credit unions would like to see the state act mirror federal legislation, which is opt-out. A bill that would require businesses to post payments made by mail effective the date of the postmark. Alaskan credit unions oppose that idea, pointing out all the state's credit unions offer grace periods. Certainly the state's credit unions face competition from banks. Wells-Fargo just purchased the largest Alaska-owned bank. Key Bank, and several smaller ones have offices. Teachworth has spoken to them about the bills in the Alaska legislature and learned the banks generally agree with the credit union stance. All 13 Alaskan credit unions are represented on the Alaska Credit Union League's Governmental Affairs Committee. The group meets once a month, generally in the Denali Alaskan FCU boardroom. There may only be two or three people in the room, with the rest of the committee participating by teleconference. It's a handy way to overcome Alaska's great distances, and Teachworth says it works well. He tries to e-mail the agenda to everyone ahead of time. The list includes Internet sites those interested can use to research a particular issue and get up to speed before the actual teleconference. About two years ago the Alaska CU League eliminated its paid staff. So the league is now handled entirely by volunteers. When someone calls the league office an electronic voice messaging system forwards the calls to Teachworth once a day. He then shares each call with whoever needs to respond. The treasurer, for example, is in Fairbanks and the chairman is in Juneau. "Actually, it's worked pretty well," Teachworth says. "I think the communication between all of us has increased tremendously." -</p> <p>[email protected]</p>

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