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AUSTIN, Texas – Appreciative and supportive of the Texas Credit Union League’s legislative efforts on their behalf, a group of 24 credit unions – representing more than 2 million members and $11 billion in assets – and credit union affiliates is augmenting League efforts with legislative clout of their own. The first known group of this kind in the country, the Credit Union Legislative Coalition was formed in the fall of 1998 just before the 76th Texas Legislative Session started in 1999, according to Buddy Schroeder, Coalition Chairman and CEO of United Heritage Credit Union here. Schroeder said the group’s founding members recognized a need for an additional voice to promote the efforts of credit unions, particularly the larger ones, across the state. Coalition founder Bob Rogers, CEO of EECU in Fort Worth, said the group’s small size and commonality of goals allows them to focus on issues of importance “in laser surgery fashion.” “The League has a broad obligation to its membership as a whole and by nature cannot easily fulfill some of our goals. The Coalition has a limited focus and can react quickly,” Rogers said. The group has a two-prong approach to the business they do. “We’re very active outside the legislative process,” Schroeder said. “We attend numerous events and work to heighten awareness of credit unions and understand the issues important to our members. ” “ Then when the Legislature is in session, we work with our legislative team to help push legislation that we’ve actively identified,” Schroeder continued. “We work to make sure legislation is not passed that will adversely affect credit unions, and promote legislation that will positively affect Texas credit unions.” The work of the Coalition has not gone unnoticed by legislators. “It’s no secret that the proactive measures taken by the Coalition have elevated the awareness of credit union issues,” said State Senator Florence Shapiro. “They come to the table prepared to discuss what they need and why the legislation is good or bad for the citizens of Texas – that’s a welcome approach.” “The Coalition is dedicated to addressing issues that positively affect credit unions, their members, and the citizens of Texas,” said State Senator Kip Averitt. “They stay on task and true to their goals, rarely citing what someone else is doing or not doing. That kind of positive focus has proven to be a valuable tool.” Schroeder said a key target for the Coalition during the 2001 legislative session was the State Finance Commission’s scheduled Sunset Commission review. The group successfully worked to ensure that the Credit Union Commission remained an independent regulatory agency and was not merged into the State Finance Commission during the review process. The Coalition also was instrumental in passing two major bills during the 2001 legislative session that will benefit all Texas credit unions. The first was HB2154, which allows credit unions to charge late fees, in addition to regular interest accrual on motor vehicle retail installments. Further, the bill allows for collection of interest on the amount of the installment unpaid at maturity of the installment until it is paid in full. “Until the bill was signed into law in September 2001 by Texas Governor Rick Perry,” Credit Union of Texas General Counsel, John Lederer said, “Texas law prohibited the charging of both a late fee and simple interest on a delinquent contract.” The Coalition also supported SB707, which helps to regulate collateral protection insurance. “As a result of the lack of rules, various groups brought a proposal to clarify the process so that all parties would be aware of their rights and duties,” Lederer said. “This bill establishes rules for creditors to ensure collateral if insured against loss and clarifies the liability and duties of all parties.” Additionally, the Coalition actively supported the passage of HB1535, a bill introduced by the Texas State Comptroller, which modernizes the Texas lien-filing system. The legislation creates an electronic system that reduces the administrative burden on lien holders with regard to processing, filing, and storage of paper titles. Melodie Stegall, the Coalition’s recently hired executive director, worked 15 years with retiring Texas State Representative Robert Junell, Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations. Stegall’s knowledge of the legislative process, campaigns and fundraising, and her contacts in the state legislature are expected to enhance the Coalition’s presence and heighten awareness of issues important to Texas credit unions. “The majority of our members are state-chartered credit unions, but we also have federally-chartered credit unions that see the value of a dual chartering system and understand that issues at the state level also affect them. Our associate members are credit union service providers. They have a definite interest in the strength of the credit union system, but they also serve as a source of information in areas where credit union experience may be limited. We work in tandem with the League. All Coalition members are also members of TCUL,” said Stegall. The Coalition, which annually holds two full membership meetings and four to six executive committee meetings, has filed articles of incorporation and is about to approve bylaws governing the organization. All coalition members pay dues; associate members have voice without vote. The Coalition will hold a September planning session to prioritize watchpoints for the 2003 legislative session. Schroeder said at this time no issues of particular concern exist, but “that doesn’t mean they won’t emerge.” Number one on the list, he said, will probably be ensuring that the Texas Credit Union Department is not negatively impacted by a legislature looking to rectify an anticipated budget shortfall. “Credit unions historically have had a good relationship with the State of Texas, but with a budget shortfall, nothing is sacred. As a result of Texas’ redistricting, we will have many freshmen legislators, and they’re more likely to support an expense cut than a tax increase their first year in office,” said Schroeder. “Our role will be to educate these legislators on what credit unions are and the important role they play.” -

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