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2003 was a year of great achievement for credit unions. Here at CUNA there are some we are particularly pleased about given our role in the process. Congress passed two major bills for consumers and credit unions, which CUNA worked for vigorously. The “Check 21″ bill (which would revolutionize the way share drafts and checks are processed, making more a more efficient system) and the reauthorization of the national system of credit reporting (through the “Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions” Act). CUNA worked with members and the leader of the Financial Services Committee to develop, introduce and then pass through committee, for the first time, “regulatory relief” legislation including a credit union component. In the meantime, following more than a year’s work by CUNA and other industry players, a proactive bill seeking regulatory improvements for credit unions was introduced in the closing days of the congressional session. This bill represents a major accomplishment for credit unions, in that it looks forward and is not the result of adverse events affecting credit unions. The effort to convince the Small Business Administration to allow more credit unions to participate in its guaranteed loan program has to stand as a top achievement. The decision was announced immediately before CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference, and highlighted during SBA Administrator Hector Barreto’s speech at the GAC. CUNA followed up by developing and unveiling during the conference a “turn key” business lending program that helps credit unions take advantage of the SBA decision. Further, CUNA established a complete business lending training and development program for credit unions to help them further develop such loan programs. In the meantime, CUNA stood up for credit unions by fighting such key legal battles as the bankers’ assault on NCUA’s field of membership decisions in Utah, and in making sure that all credit unions (federal and state chartered) were adequately represented in the California credit card case. We continued our commitment to develop credit unions into a force with which to be reckoned. Our political action committee, CULAC, has now grown to be the sixth largest among trade associations nationwide in contributions to federal candidates (ahead of such groups as the American Bankers Association). To show the muscle behind our punch, our Project Zip Code has (as of early December) counted more than 44 million credit union members across the country – which shows to legislators just how important credit unions can be to them. We worked with national consumer and cooperative groups to show how credit unions offer better deals to consumers, and how the cooperative nature of credit unions benefits them (as most recently evidenced by the “Dateline” TV program report on auto buying). We are also committed to helping credit unions better serve the Hispanic community, the fastest growing minority in the country. In particular, we develop a Web-delivered “manual” for credit unions to use in serving the Hispanic community. To date, thousands of copies have been downloaded and are being used by credit unions. Were there any disappointments in 2003? Perhaps the only major one to me was that the credit union movement was not fully united. We are close, but not quite there. But as CUNA enters its 70th year in 2004 of service to credit unions, it is clear to me that unity can be among the most substantial tools for credit unions to employ in achieving key goals. For me, then, unity will continue to be an area of particular concentration in the next year. We have so much more to accomplish for credit unions!

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