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<p>DULUTH, Ga. – If you’re in Washington for the GAC conference, take advantage of the opportunity to meet your Congressional delegation and discover the difference between Government 101 and the reality of life inside the Beltway – or back at your state legislature or town council. That advice comes from Heather Miner, government affairs specialist for Georgia Credit Union Affiliates. Miner, who moved into the job late last year, formerly served on the Bush/Cheney campaign in Georgia. She has also interned for Rep. John J. LaFalce (D-N.Y.) and worked on the political campaign of Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) Miner graduated from the State University of New York at Brockport with a bachelor’s degree in political science and international studies and attended the University of Georgia. “What I’ve found is there is nothing like hands-on experience,” Miner emphasizes. “Since I’ve been out of school, I’ve probably learned 10 times as much as I learned within a book. Every day you discover something new, especially when there’s an election taking place. “The more you become involved, the more skillful you’ll become. An issue we’re going to be working on is getting our Georgia credit unions involved in local politics and Chambers of Commerce,” Miner says/ Miner agrees the passage of H.R. 1151 a few years ago underscored the value of the sheer size of credit union membership. “When we go to a representative or senator and explain we represent 1.7 million credit union members in Georgia, it obviously raises an eyebrow. It’s definitely a bonus,” she says. “Since H.R.1151 we have seen an enormous increase in involvement and support from our members. Even though right now we don’t have an issue that’s hot, we can’t just relax and wait for another issue to arrive. We need to be prepared before anything happens. With that comes financial responsibility plus sharing our credit union philosophy with politicians and the media. The more we’re out there, the more we’ll be able to accomplish and to increase membership as well.” Political action committees are also important, Miner reminds credit unions. In 1999-2000, during the last presidential election, bankers ranked 21st among the top 50 PACs while credit unions were 23rd. That represented a major gain for credit unions. Miner believes the GCUA has already done a good job of establishing itself as a credit union voice in Georgia. She sees her role as helping Cindy Connelly, the league’s senior vice president of advocacy, continue building PACs and carrying out other activities. “It’s been a really good situation to come into,” she declares. “Members of the General Assembly banking and finance committees seem pretty informed. We need to continue to keep them aware of issues. “We definitely want to get some mail to them. I will be down there every week, in fact pretty much every day, talking with legislators about credit union issues. The bankers are down there already. We want to be as visible as we can,” she says. One specific issue the league is eyeing concerns predatory lending. The subject came up last year, but it hasn’t resurfaced yet this year. Insiders speculate it will. If and when it does, the legislature is expected to act quickly. “We certainly don’t want to see individuals hurt by high interest rates,” Miner states. “It’s an election year, so it’s basically going to be a light year. A lot of legislators will be out campaigning.” Although the league isn’t sure as yet what the predatory lending bill will look like, Miner said “predatory lending is an issue that could still possibly be pushed through.” -</p> <p>[email protected]</p>

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