WASHINGTON-An alert from Democratic Whip Senator Harry Reid (Nev.) announced that the Senate has reached an agreement on the consideration of legislation to renew the federal preemptions in the Fair Credit Reporting Act and add identity theft protections. The agreement, reached late last Tuesday, will permit no more than 25 amendments to be considered no earlier than the evening of Nov. 3, credit union lobbyists reported. Talks have been ongoing with California Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer to prevent a filibuster because they would like to change the bill to look more like the recently inked California privacy law (see related story page 8). Two of the 25 amendments are expected from Feinstein's office, NAFCU Director of Legislative and Political Affairs Brad Thaler said. One would make the California privacy law the national standards, but if that fails, as it is expected to, she has another in line that would prevent financial institutions from mining data from the electronic clearing of checks, which was recently signed into law in the Check 21 Act (H.R. 1474). CUNA Vice President of Legislative Affairs and Senior Legislative Counsel Gary Kohn said it is highly unlikely that all 25 amendments will be considered individually by the Senate. Many will either be added into the manager's amendment or senators will be strongly discouraged from introducing them. "We feel pretty confident they can get through it next week," he said of the time crunch. The extra week is worth the wait, Kohn added, noting that the bill could have been brought up last week. The Senate had reached a unanimous consent agreement to bring the legislation up last week, but supporters of S. 1753, the National Consumer Credit Reporting System Improvement Act of 2003, wanted to have another agreement to limit time for debate on the bill to avoid a filibuster. According to Thaler, the wild fires raging through California may have also played a role in delaying the legislation until the first week in November since Feinstein and Boxer want to get back to their home state over the weekend. The Senate will also first have to deal with the Foreign Operations Appropriation legislation and the Healthy Forests bill before the FCRA renewal comes up, he continued, which should take a couple of days. While NAFCU has not taken a position on the amendments, CUNA has come out in opposition to any amendments. "We will be opposed to all amendments, whether they're supposed to be helpful or harmful. In the judgments of [Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and Senator Tim Johnson (D-S.D.)], who have asked us to help them out, this bill's best chance to succeed-to get through before the end of this Congress-will be with a bill as clean as possible so that other than the manager's amendment, we will be opposed to any other amendment that's being offered," Kohn said. CUNA also recently sent a letter to all senators explaining this position on the renewal of the federal preemptions in the FCRA bill, slated to sunset at year-end. CUNA President and CEO Dan Mica explained that there were some amendments his organization might have supported if time were not running out on Congress. "Having said that, because of the critical need to ensure passage of this important legislation with a permanent extension of the federal preemptions now, we urge you to oppose all but the Manager's Amendment," he wrote. If the FCRA preemption provisions are not renewed by the end of the year, states may start writing their own consumer credit reporting and information sharing laws, making it difficult and costly for credit unions and other lenders to follow 50 different laws. If S. 1753, which passed unanimously out of the Senate Banking Committee, is not approved by the close of Congress, a one-year extension of the current law may be necessary so lawmakers can continue their work on it next session. Thaler said he is not aware of any legislation that has been introduced to do this, but that it would be easy to get through if necessary. [email protected]

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