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The past several weeks have been among the busiest times for national CU trade group staffers and elected leaders. While many credit unions tend to operate in a slightly lower gear between Christmas and New Years, those representing credit unions at the national level must continue to operate at full speed; in fact, maybe even a tad faster than usual. For one thing, lobbyists must immediately turn their attention towards reprioritizing credit union issues. Even before the year ends, especially an election year, they must draw up a new “to do” list that outlines what they want to accomplish in 2003. For another, no time could be lost in gearing up to work with the new cast of players who are either newly elected or part of the annual shuffling and redealing of committee assignments. Republicans, now in charge of the White House, House of Representatives, and the U.S. Senate, immediately put their veteran colleagues in key positions of leadership. One of many examples: Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi, a proven credit union friend, is out as Senate Majority Leader. Senator Bill First of Tennessee was selected to replace him in that very important leadership position. Credit union lobbyists immediately declared Senator First friendly to credit unions while acknowledging that they need to get closer to him. Credit union policymakers and lobbyists must also take a hard look at the beginning of each new year at what worked, what didn’t, where things went wrong, why the bulls eye was hit or missed, and who really is CU friendly. CUNA for one appears to deserve kudos for being ahead of the curve in stepping up to the plate for the 12 months ahead. Within two days of ringing in the New Year, CUNA officials released their carefully drawn up list of 11 important issues on its legislative agenda. CUNA loyalists are going into 2003 armed with the knowledge that their trade association has already laid out a clear road map of where it will be placing its major emphasis. Many groups do something similar in general terms, but they owe it to their dues-paying membership to lay out specific priorities as CUNA has done. In case you missed it, here’s that list: bankruptcy abuse reform; financial privacy; regulatory relief; predatory lending; tax relief; pension reform; check truncation; deposit insurance reform; housing; credit union development; and credit union oversight issues. Although this list represents a very ambitious program of work, it by no means is all-inclusive. There are many other issues that will demand CUNA’s time and expertise. There are bound to be issues that crop up during the year that are not yet on anybody’s radar screen. There are also those old issues that can always be counted on to pop up their ugly heads again, such as legal maneuvers by banking lobbyists. And there will always be a host of NCUA-related issues to deal with. After developing a legislative strategy, among the biggest challenges CUNA faces every year are these: effectively communicating its game plan to its constituency, educating lawmakers (especially newcomers) about credit unions, and staying flexible enough to reprioritize the list as well as add to it quickly when necessary. As the year unfolds, CUNA will also be asked to explain over and over again why some issues are on the list and why other issues have been left off. Because of that and because feedback is always an important part of any communications process, it would be interesting for readers of Credit Union Times to make some comments on the list of 11 issues identified by CUNA via a letter (or e-mail) to Editor-in-chief Elaine Barr that she could consider for publication in Credit Union Times’ weekly letters section. Readers might want to comment on what’s on the list that maybe doesn’t need to be? Or what’s not on the list that definitely needs to be included? Or how they would rank the current 11 issues in order of importance? Or perhaps express their opinion on any one of them such as bankruptcy abuse reform. Is it the single most important credit union legislative objective for 2003 as it appeared to be last year? If not, what is? To prime the letter writing pump, here’s my take on just a couple of items on the list. Bankruptcy abuse reform is very important but I continue to question if it is THE most important issue facing credit unions in 2003. Financial privacy is definitely going to be a front burner issue if for no other reason than the new banking committee leadership has said it will be. Is it really as important to credit unions as politicians think it is? Also, regulatory relief and all that that term implies should be high on any credit union priority list every year. But what should it include? Credit unions have something to gain or lose in potential deposit insurance reform. Is this the time and place for credit unions to support private insurance? Any reader thinking of writing a letter to the editor best hurry. By the time readers read this, credit union lobbyists will already be totally immersed in the specifics of all 11 priority items and will have already met with every individual who can influence their outcome. But keep in mind that no credit union trade group, no matter how influential and effective, can do the job alone. Legislative successes for credit unions in 2003, like in any other year, will depend on an informed an active constituency. In other words, dear readers, the ball is now in your court. Comments? Call 1-800-345-9936, Ext. 15, or Fax 561-683-8514, or E-mail [email protected]

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Peter Westerman

Credit Union Times

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