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PHOENIX, Ariz. – Taxation may be a hot button in other states, but so far the banking lobby in Arizona has hit upon credit union field of membership expansion as one of its causes this legislative session. Specifically, the Arizona Bankers Association opposes a bill backed by the Arizona Credit Union League to allow CU boards to set their own fields of membership. “This is something that’s been done in Washington State through regulation and we felt we could do it here through legislation,” explained Gary Plank, president/CEO of the Arizona League. He acknowledged that the Arizona proposal does chart new legal ground at least in this state and underscores the “renewal effort” as put forward through CUNA’s “Renaissance” program on future industry growth. However, Kurt Bauer, executive vice president of the Arizona Bankers Association, said the trade group objects to the bill, now bottled up in the Senate Rules Committee as one which oversteps “regulatory oversight and expansion of the common bond.” Also opposing the bill was Wells Fargo Bank of San Francisco which has a major branch presence in the state following its acquisition binge over the last decade. The bill, which apart from FOM authority also deals with giving state CUs parity with federals on approval of member loans of $20,000 or more, cleared the Senate Commerce Committee until the bankers group began raising objections. Regarding that bill, Plank said CUs are the only co-ops that are bound by strict rules on FOM “and it was time to loosen them up through legislation.” The issue had arisen over CU boards making member referrals as part of a CU’s FOM following legal questions raised by the superintendent’s office over group or individual membership. The League decided to clarify the issue through its FOM bill. Also before the state Senate Rules Committee is a bill drafted by State Superintendent of Banking Richard Houseworth to lengthen the examination cycle from 12 to 24 months on qualifying CUs that meet Camel standards. The department’s goal, said Houseworth, is to develop “the same arrangement we have with commercial banks and make the examination process less disruptive” for well-managed CUs. Houseworth said he was uncertain how his bill would fare in the Rules Committee, “but you’ll have to check with the League on their bills,” he told a Credit Union Times reporter. His office, Houseworth added, “remains neutral” on the FOM board bill. Bauer, who took over the top staff job at the Arizona BA in January after serving as a lobbyist for the Wisconsin Bankers Association, insisted the issue before state lawmakers is “expansion of the common bond.” As for taxing CUs, a subject fostering bitter fights in several other states from Utah to Florida, Bauer said that it has not become an issue in Arizona, “but we are well aware of what is going in elsewhere.” Legislative sources said Arizona, with its strong conservative and Republican bent, has been averse to raising taxes even though the state faces a budget shortfall and has been cutting payroll in many departments. [email protected]

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