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WASHINGTON-Several issues important to credit unions could receive the signature of the president by the end of the congressional session, while others are likely to flounder around until next legislation session, according to credit union lobbyists. With only about six weeks left to the scheduled legislative session-no one is sure how long it will really last, but predictions go through early November-credit unions are coming down to the wire on what can be accomplished in the legislative arena. The community has been preparing though. With NAFCU’s Congressional Caucus coming up September 21-24-NAFCU just announced the addition of Senate Banking Committee Member Tom Carper (D-Del.) to its growing list of lawmakers and other Beltway dignitaries to address the group-and about half of CUNA’s 46 scheduled Hike the Hills to come in September and October, there should be no lack of credit union information on Capitol Hill. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) was expected to introduce his version of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act (H.R. 2622) by the end of last week, CUNA Vice President of Legislative Affairs and Senior Legislative Counsel Gary Kohn told reporters. This legislation has a self-imposed deadline in that the preemptions in the Fair Credit Reporting Act are set to expire at the end of 2003. Without these provisions, credit unions and other lenders would have to dredge through each state’s credit report handling laws, which would increase the cost of compliance and, therefore, credit. Rumor is, Kohn said, that Shelby’s bill may only have a two-year extension on the federal preemption of credit reporting laws, which are due to expire at the end of the year. He added that the bill could go to mark up as early as the week of September 15 and could reach the House floor at the same time. The recent California privacy law, the toughest yet passed by a state, has also thrown a wrench into H.R. 2622′s progress. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) has asked that the bill not preempt state laws or at the very least include a grandfather clause. NAFCU sent a letter last week, urging passage of the FACT Act, as passed by the House Financial Services Committee in a 61-3 vote, as soon as possible. “As you are well aware, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) reauthorization provisions included in the FACT Act are absolutely vital to the nation’s credit system,” NAFCU President and CEO wrote. “Without passage of H.R. 2622, credit will become both more expensive and less available. The legislation also includes important consumer provisions that credit unions and their members support such as access to free credit reports, improved dispute resolution processes for consumers, and additional identity theft protections.” Both NAFCU Director of Political and Legislative Affairs Brad Thaler and Kohn said they expect an effort to pass the Veterans’ Affairs, Housing and Urban Development, and Independent Agencies Appropriations legislation by the end of September, which is the end of the federal government’s fiscal year, but it could take as long as through mid-October. According to Thaler, the Senate VA-HUD subcommittee cancelled its mark up of the bill shortly before deadline, but the full Appropriations Committee was scheduled to consider the bill last Thursday afternoon. The Senate is expected to amend the bill to include $800,000 in technical assistance grants for low-income credit unions and $700,000 in loans through the Community Development Revolving Loan Fund, he said. This is half-a-million less than NCUA’s total request, but also half-a-million more than the agency has received from Congress in the past for the fund. It is also $500,000 more than the House bill, which only allots $1 million solely for the technical assistance grants. The bill will also include an appropriation for Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund, from which many community development credit unions receive grants, and the borrowing ceiling for the Central Liquidity Facility. Finally, Thaler said he expects a conference report on H.R. 1474, the Check Truncation Act, by the end of September. Kohn said the bill has the “highest likelihood” to become law of many of the other credit union-supported issues. The bill is aimed at allowing banks to truncate their checks, which was a major problem after 9/11 when airlines were grounded. Credit unions have been truncating checks since the 1970s but the bill will allow them to do it earlier in the process for greater cost savings. Not so Fast Other major issues for credit unions, like bankruptcy reform and regulatory relief, may have to wait until next congressional session for a signature from President George W. Bush. The House may attempt to bring the Financial Services Regulatory Relief Act (H.R. 1375) to the floor in September or early October, Kohn said. According to Thaler, staff members of Financial Services Committee think they may have reached an agreement on the provision regarding regulation of Industrial Loan Companies, which had been the final sticking point. Still, the Senate has yet to act and Shelby has not indicated his next move though his staff has been looking into it. Additionally, though lawmakers still express interest in reforming the bankruptcy code, legislation to do so (H.R. 975) is currently floating in limbo. Kohn gave the bill a “fifty-fifty” chance of passage for this year. “There’s no indication yet that anything’s going to happen,” he admitted. “However we have had a series of discussions with Senate leadership with both the Republican and Democratic side and we do have reason to believe that there is an interest and a willingness to try to get this thing moving. If that is the case, then we’re confident they’ll find a way to get that done.” Individual Development Account legislation is doing about the same, according to CUNA Legislative Manager Leon Peace. The House Charitable Contributions bill (H.R. 7) includes an IDA-type provision that does not include tax credits. The Senate passed its CARE bill (S. 476) with an IDA provision April 9 by an overwhelming 95-5 vote. IDAs offer low-income households a matching savings account up to $500 and gives the financial institutions holding the accounts tax credits. Pension reform (H.R. 1776) is faring slightly better. If House Democrats, who were locked out of the mark up after walking out, are not accommodated, this bill could be pushed on to next year’s calendar. Following the Democrat’s exit, the originally bi-partisan bill was quickly approved by the remaining Republicans. While House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) is considering a second mark up of the legislation, the staff proceeded over the August recess with formal preparations for the bill as if it passed the committee. In a recent development, the House Financial Services Committee has scheduled a hearing for Sept. 10 on Government Sponsored Enterprise regulation, according to Thaler, and a hearing in the Senate Banking Committee can be expected before adjournment. At least two bills have been introduced to merge the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight with other agencies, one with the Office of Thrift Supervision and the other with the Federal Housing Finance Board, creating new agencies under Treasury. All this comes following the discovery of questionable accounting practices at Freddie Mac. Currently, the target adjournment date set by both the House and Senate is Oct. 3, but observers expect the congressional session to continue as far out as early November. [email protected]

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