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Just five years ago, credit unions were emerging from the most demanding legislative battle they had ever waged – the fight for passage of the Credit Union Membership Access Act. In the process of that emergence came the stark realization that the allocation of resources for their trade groups – in particular, CUNA – needed changes. As we enter our 70th year of operation which could be, in the aggregate, just as momentous as the year HR 1151 was passed, the changes credit unions approved five years ago in allocating resources for their national trade group ensure that the challenges of 2004 will be met effectively and dynamically. Here’s a sampler of what credit unions have to tackle this year: * Favorable consideration (and passage) of the “Credit Union Regulatory Improvements Act” (CURIA), HR 3579. The bill is the first-ever stand-alone credit union legislation not introduced under adverse circumstances which would (among other things) seek more reasonable restrictions on credit union business lending and smarter application of prompt corrective action (PCA) for credit unions, particularly in meeting capital levels. * Passage and enactment of H.R. 1375, the “Financial Services Regulatory Relief Act,” which includes a separate title for credit unions (and is the first such “regulatory relief” legislation to hold a separate credit union title). * A resolution of credit unions’ responsibility (if any) to pay “Unrelated Business Income Tax” (UBIT). * Defending credit unions from more attempts by bankers to convince state legislatures to change the tax status of credit unions. * Standing up in court on behalf of credit unions to answer lawsuits brought by bankers in Utah and Missouri. . and much more. By any analysis, this list of tasks by itself is a daunting challenge to accomplish over any period of years, let alone just this one year. Yet, this is the hand that credit unions have been dealt. And their trade associations have to be ready to play the hand – perhaps in a very limited space of time, with sparse notice or none at all. Fortunately, the dues restructuring achieved five years ago ensures that the resources needed to address this extensive list of challenges, and much more, are in place. And that is all the more satisfying, because that was exactly the purpose of the dues restructuring – to ensure that financial resources provided through the payment of dues covered the core purposes of the trade association. That is: legislative and regulatory advocacy, unity of the three-tier system, communications and public relations, and research and policy. Dues cover the operations of these functions nearly entirely. In fact, since adopting this approach in 1999, the level of dues dollars that are applied to these core functions has risen to and then remained steady at between 95% and 100% of total expenses of these core functions. Essentially, what this means to credit unions is that the dues dollars they entrust to their national association are used strictly for the purposes they expect them to be used. There is also a benefit in this system for all credit unions – federal or state, association member or not. Because core activities are driven by the needs and desires of credit unions, and since the vast majority of all credit unions are represented (only one of 10 CUs is not a member), nearly all credit unions can have confidence that the strength and collective power of the nation’s largest credit union trade group is working in their interests. Additionally, the system of applying dues only to core trade association functions and activities has served the credit union community in ensuring a strong and dynamic national trade group representing credit unions’ interests, despite the vagaries of the economy. A clear example is the economic downturn that occurred almost immediately following the tragic events of the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington. For nearly two years, the economy staggered and reeled, and many businesses (including CUNA) felt the sharp sting caused by the uncertainty. But advocacy and other core services did not feel the pain during this time, and continued to offer credit unions a continuous high level of service and responsiveness despite the vicissitudes of the economy. Further, because of greater stability in providing core services to credit unions, the association’s business interests were able to rebound from the slow economy and reestablish growth. The dues plan adopted five years ago has proven its value and is today, and for the foreseeable future, operating exactly as intended. To that end, CUNA feels well positioned to pursue a number of goals in 2004 on behalf of its member credit unions, including: * Protecting credit unions from attack, particularly those aimed at erasing or changing the tax status of credit unions; * Developing the best operating environment for all credit unions, regardless of charter or size; * Promoting unity among credit unions, particularly in support of beneficial legislation and regulation for credit unions, and in presenting a solid front in confronting the adversaries of the credit union mission of serving their members; * Sharing with the public the value of credit unions, and pointing out the advantages that credit unions offer to everyday Americans facing their daily financial challenges and goals; * Interpreting for credit unions the meaning of changes in the economy, and providing insight to them, policymakers and lawmakers for their best response to those changes. For 70 years our emphasis has been on representing and serving credit unions nationwide. Over those three score and 10 years, the association has evolved and changed always in an effort to best embody the interests of credit unions. As 2004 gets underway, we believe credit unions are well positioned to meet the challenges ahead and reach for their goals. And CUNA, because of good decisions made not so long ago, is equally well positioned to help credit unions along the way.

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