<p>SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Illinois credit union leaders had no hot-button issues to impress on state legislators this year, but they still used "Lobby Day" on April 3 to visit with state legislators and reinforce the credit union message. They left confident that their movement has friends in Illinois. "It's kind of a light year, but we like to go whether we have issues or not," said Chuck Rutan, president of the University of Illinois Employees Credit Union. Rutan, who is also chairman of the board of the Illinois Credit Union System, said that not having a hot-button issue might even make for a better encounter with besieged legislators. John Bratsakis, president of Community Trust Credit Union of Gurnee, said he saw several state representatives and senators and got warm receptions from Democrats and Republicans alike. "We were able to see everyone we wanted to see," said Bratsakis, who is also the incoming chair of ICUS' legislative committee. "All of our legislators have been credit union supporters on both sides of the aisle," he said. Keith Sias, director of state government affairs for ICUS, said 125 credit union executives made the trip to Springfield. The group stormed the capitol after getting legislative update and briefings from capitol observers, including a journalist's look at the legislature from Rich Miller, who writes the daily "Capitol Fax" briefing and a weekly legislative column that is syndicated throughout the state. ICUS also presented its "Spirit of Service" award to state Rep. Joe Lyons (D-Chicago), who serves on the board of directors of Credit Union 1, based in Rantoul. The award, Sias said, was based on his service on his credit union's board, not on his legislative record. The one-day session also included an open house at the league's new legislative office in an office building in Springfield, cattycorner from the state capitol. Coincidentally, the league leases its space from Credit Union 1, which has a branch in the building. "The new Springfield legislative office will give us a more visible presence in the state capitol and enhance our image as a professional service organization," said Stephen Olson, ICUS executive vice president and COO. "In addition to having a base of operation for legislative activities, it confirms the League's commitment to its statewide constituency of credit unions." The current legislative session, which runs into May, is focused almost myopically on the state budget, but several issues of interest to credit unions are on the agenda. H.B. 4357, for example, attends to a little housekeeping on the state credit union act. Several of the bill's 10 sections bring state-chartered credit unions up to parity with federal credit unions. The bill, which has passed the House and is headed for the Senate, also clarifies the danger of insolvency of credit unions and redefines net worth to include secondary capital. The league has only two other issues it is monitoring in this year's session and it is working to derail both. H.B. 5840, which was requested by the state treasurer, would restrict credit card interest by making it almost impossible to raise the rate on an existing credit card account, Sias said. "Even if the cost of funds went up, we couldn't" raise rates, Sias said. The bill failed to pass the house by April 6, which was the deadline for the Senate to take up bills passed by the House, though Sias expects it to be submitted again in the next session. The only other issue lurking the halls of the capitol that the ICUS is watching is a so-far unsponsored effort by Bank One Corp. to win a special exemption from a cap on loan fees. Bank One moved its headquarters to Chicago several years ago, but it charter remains in Ohio. It has offered to reorganize as an Illinois bank, but only if it can keep certain pre-payment penalties and fees that currently exceed the limits imposed by Illinois, which limits fees to 3% of the loan amount. The measure would apply only to Bank One, initially, though that could change over time. ICUS opposes the move, and Sias said that Bank One is still looking for a sponsor. At this point in the legislative session, the legislation would have to be tacked on to an existing bill as an amendment. -</p> <p>[email protected]</p>

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