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The recently introduced Credit Union Regulatory Improvement Act of 2003 (H.R. 3579) represents an important development for credit unions, and I want to commend U.S. Representatives Ed Royce (R-Calif.), Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.), Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio), and Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) for taking the initiative to introduce this landmark legislation. I also want to commend CUNA for the leadership role it has taken in this endeavor. If passed as essentially introduced, this measure will have a significant impact on all credit unions, including the areas of member business lending and risk-based capital. Rather than repeat previous efforts that tried to help one charter type at the expense of another, H.R. 3579 seeks to strengthen the federal charter, while also helping state charters. Congress has had five years since the passage of the Credit Union Membership Access Act in 1998 to observe changes imposed on the Credit Union Act. Folks will say, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” – but I say – if there is room for improvement, go for it! Five years is plenty of time to identify restrictions that have been unintentionally imposed on credit unions, as well as a chance to recommend common sense improvements and eliminate unnecessary and outdated provisions. Community bankers refer to this initiative as a “credit union expansion bill,” yet in reality, this measure helps credit unions fulfill their mission and provide greater service to their members at a lower cost. Are the bankers really concerned about increased competition from roughly 3% of the market, or do they just want to prevent credit union members from gaining additional benefits for their membership? H.R. 3579 focuses on removing burdens, improving options for credit unions, and maintaining safety and soundness. As the CEO of Sandia Laboratory Federal Credit Union, I feel the frustrations of unnecessary statutory burdens on a daily basis. For example, I am concerned about turning away small business owners not because they aren’t qualified but because of the 12.25% cap established in 1998 on business lending. This lending ceiling effectively precludes my credit union from expending the resources necessary to support a sound and effective member business loan program. That is because it is not cost effective to establish a program under which the ceiling will be reached with a small number of loans. I could provide numerous examples of how CURIA will help credit unions help continue to put people before profit, but I would run out of space. The bankers who constantly battle the credit union tax exemption easily forget that they profit from their activities, while credit unions, after meeting net worth requirements, return their overages to their members through more advantageous low savings rates. Furthermore, if federal laws and regulations are really so favorable towards credit unions, why aren’t any banks converting to credit unions? Christopher T. Jillson President/CEO Sandia Laboratory FCU Albuquerque, N.M. (Editor’s Note: Christopher T. Jillson serves on CUNA’s Board of Directors.)

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