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BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – While credit unions in their neighboring state of Wisconsin planned to return to the strategy table to discuss their tactic for reintroducing a modernized credit union bill after three failed attempts at passage, credit union staff and volunteers met with members of the Minnesota Department of Commerce Aug. 8 to discuss provisions of that state’s new Credit Union Protection Act with took effect Aug. 1. Meeting with CU representatives at the Aug. 8 meeting were Deputy Commissioner Kevin Murphy, Chief Examiner Terry Meyer and lobbyist Jim Genia of the firm Lockridge Grindal Nauen. The House version of the bill (H.F. 2751) was introduced in January 2002 in the Commerce, Jobs and Economic Development Committee and was subsequently referred to the House Committee on Taxes. The measure was introduced in the Senate in February as S.F. 2650. Gov. Jesse Ventura signed the bill in to law in April. Among the provisions of the Credit Union Protection Act, it allows state-chartered CUs to: * convert to a community charter; * add groups with a minimum of two people and a maximum of 500 through a simplified and expedited process. Groups with between 500 and 3,000 people may be added if the commissioner determines that the group is too small to form its own CU. Groups with more than 3,000 people can be added if they receive the commissioner’s approval; * have multiple common bond groups between occupational and associational groups and communities; * assess reasonable charges for their services to members, including actual collection costs and attorneys fees if provided for in loan documents; * increase their borrowing limits to 50% of unimpaired assets; * pursue additional forms of capital including member investment shares, non-member subordinated debt, and member paid-in capital; * reimburse CU boards, supervisory committees and elected credit committees for expenses incurred while serving in their official capacity, including health and accident insurance; * allow their boards to adopt procedures for expelling members for cause. Minnesota Credit Union Network President/CEO Kevin Chandler was particularly proud of credit unions’ ability to pass the state’s Credit Union Protection Act because of the “fierce and outrageous opposition” credit unions faced from the banks on the bill. “It was an extraordinary effort by credit unions,” he said. Chandler told Credit Union Times that, “The bankers spent an extraordinary amount of political capital fighting us every inch of the way on this bill. They engaged in political chicanery as well by having it referred to the House tax committee in spite of the fact that there wasn’t a single tax element in the legislation, and they just threw everything at us that they had. We hired one of the most respected lobbying firms in Minnesota, Lockridge Grindal Nauen that has represented hundreds of clients at the capital. They said they’d never seen the sort of spite and venom from the opposition that was displayed by the banks.” Chandler went on to say, “The only thing that was able to overcome the strong opposition from the banks was credit unions’ grassroots efforts which resulted in hundreds of people showing up at the hearings, hundreds of calls and letters going to the House Speaker’s office urging the vote on the floor for our bill. The banks thought they had the House Speaker buttoned down and he would kill the bill for them. The grassroots support that we generated overcame that, and the bankers are still smarting about it. In fact, the new head of the Minnesota Bankers Association was quoted recently as saying that credit unions are eating their lunch unless something is done to stop them. “It’s amazing that the bankers focus so much of their efforts on such a small segment of the financial services industry,” Chandler said. -

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