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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – The days of credit unions being too timid or inexperienced to meet with elected officials are long gone. CUs have honed their lobbying skills and learned to apply them confidently to state and federal legislators. When they’re not in Washington, D.C. involved in Hike the Hill visits, credit unions are holding rallies at their state capitals, participating in fundraising events for state officials and meeting with state legislators to reinforce the credit union message. Arizona Credit Union League’s Pat Bodnar, vice president, public affairs said it all boils down to one thing – “relationship building, that’s what it’s all about” – and that’s an effort that has to be made constantly, not just in election years or when there are critical credit union issues that require an elected official’s immediate attention. Bodnar says the Arizona League wants credit unions to see “this has to be one of their priorities. Even in off years, we want to engage our credit unions in the political process in any way possible.” The Arizona League has been pursuing an on-going relationship with Arizona Congressman Rick Renzi (R) a member of the House Financial Services Committee and someone Bodnar says “has been very supportive of credit unions and open to credit union issues. “He’ll have a tough race in November,” she said, noting the area the first term congressman is running for in Northern Arizona is a “huge area” that covers several Indian reservations. In January, Renzi invited credit unions to participate in roundtable discussions with himself and Wayne Abernathy, assistant secretary for financial institutions for the U.S. Treasury to discuss financial services legislation and how to use it to better serve Arizona communities. Renzi is holding another fundraiser February 13. The Arizona league bought a table for the event which will feature Rep. Michael Oxley (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee as guest speaker, and is expecting 10 credit union representatives to attend. The Arizona League has also instituted a political captain program where CUs designate an employee besides the president who’s responsible for providing the CU with political news. “We get the captains involved on both sides of the aisle and use them to stir up interest and sign people up to do things like petition walking, phone calling, and stuffing envelopes,” she explains. “Every little bit helps.” According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 78% of state legislative seats “are up for grabs” in this year’s elections. “A collision of political and legislative schedules make for an interesting mix in 2004.,” stated the organization in a release. “With 44 of America’s state legislatures holding regular sessions – and the likelihood of several special sessions – this means many state legislators will be working on public policy while keeping a close eye on their political future,” it continued. Elections will be held for every state legislative chamber in 2004, except for Alabama, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia. Elections also will not be held for the Michigan and Minnesota Senate seats. For some leagues, such as Arkansas where Gov. Mike Huckabee has already “called” for a special session of the state legislature to focus on education funding reform, credit unions are keeping their eye on any legislative solutions to the problem that could adversely impact CUs. Other states have met with state legislators about charter issues and to emphasize the importance of a vital state-charter credit union system. That was the purpose of state-charter day held in Albany, N.Y. Feb. 10 by the New York State Credit Union League and SCCU leaders. At a roundtable discussion, credit union representatives and NCUA Region I Director of Supervision John Bilodeau met with New York State Banking Department representatives. Among the topics of their discussion was the banking department’s support of state charter parity with FCUs. Time was also set aside that day for credit union representatives to meet with state legislators and their staff. Credit unions in Virginia had one message to deliver to state legislators: Credit unions are structurally and philosophically different from for-profit financials, and they staged their largest rally ever – more than 1,000 CU supporters showed up – on Feb. 11 to deliver that message to state lawmakers. Because of the state’s budget crisis, sluggish economy, and an unprecedented campaign by the Virginia Bankers Association to tax CUs, the Virginia Credit Union League is readying itself for the introduction of tax-related legislation during the current General Assembly. League President/CEO Rick Pillow says rallies such as this drive home the point that “we are a force to be reckoned with and that any legislation that negatively impacts credit unions only punishes Virginia’s working families.” [email protected]

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