WASHINGTON-Reauthorization of the Fair Credit Reporting Act is going to dominate activity among Washington lawmakers concerned with financial services a great deal throughout the rest of the session, CUNA Vice President of Legislative Affairs and Senior Legislative Counsel Gary Kohn predicted. Two hearings on the reauthorization of certain provisions of the FCRA, enacted in 1970, are planned for shortly after Congress’ two-week spring break. The House Financial Services Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee has scheduled a hearing for May 8. The Senate Banking Committee will follow suit May 15. The provisions requiring reauthorization concern how credit report sharing is conducted among credit bureaus, financial institutions, and affiliates are scheduled to sunset at year-end. CUNA and NAFCU have spoken out in favor of reauthorizing this federal preemption in light of potential complications stemming from 50 separate laws, but are still wary of expressing their views regarding the privacy issues sprouting from the reauthorization situation. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), whom CUNA met with this month, has been reviewing the privacy laws to determine if greater protections are needed in addition to those in the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. Ranking Member Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.) has also been a strong proponent of greater consumer privacy protections historically. Already Senator Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) introduced the Economic Opportunity Protection Act of 2003 (S. 660) in March to reauthorize the information sharing provisions permanently and preventing states from writing their own laws on certain lending issues. Additionally, the National Uniform Privacy Standards Act of 2003 (H.R. 1766) was introduced by Congressmen Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio) and Ken Lucas (D-Ky.) on April 11 amending FCRA and GLBA to establish a federal preemption of privacy laws. CUNA, along with the Alabama Credit Union League, the National Federation of Retailers and Alabama retailers, met with Shelby earlier this month to present their views on reauthorization and gather intelligence on where the debate could be heading. Identity theft and simplifying disclosure statements are other related issues that have arisen in the debate. Congress sometimes includes a reauthorization or sunset provision in laws to “force” discussion on the issue and to ensure the law is kept up-to-date, NAFCU Director of Legislative and Political Affairs Brad Thaler explained. “Generally, because there is a level of congressional oversight and members of Congress realize the need to review them over time because things may change,” he said. Or, lawmakers may need more or garner more information on a subject. The advent of various technological advances has brought the issue of privacy to the forefront. Particularly with an issue as controversial as personal privacy, Thaler said, a delicate balance needs to be struck. “How do you balance reauthorization of the Fair Credit Reporting Act and keeping a national standard while, at the same time, protecting privacy?” he explained is the crux of the debate. Both CUNA and NAFCU lobbyists are keeping credit union faces in front of the lawmakers so their interests will be heard when the time comes. [email protected]

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