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WASHINGTON-The Credit Union Regulatory Improvements Act (H.R. 3579) attracted nine more co-sponsors as CUNA closed out its annual Governmental Affairs Conference. Representatives Robert Andrews (D-N.J.), Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.), Bob Filner (D-Calif.), Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), C.L. (Butch) Otter (R-Idaho), Ron Paul (R-Texas), and Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) all signed onto the bill last week, demonstrating the bipartisan nature and support of the bill. Congressmen Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) authored the bill. Representatives Joe Baca (D-Calif.), Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) and Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) had previously signed onto the bill for a total of 15 co-sponsors. The legislation would lighten several restrictions on credit unions, including stretching the loan maturity limit from 12 to15 years and expanding investment powers, which are also in H.R. 1375 (the Financial Services Regulatory Relief Act). In addition, CURIA would raise credit unions’ member business lending cap to 20% and create a risk-weighted Prompt Corrective Action system. Royce paid particular attention to this last provision in his remarks to the GAC. He pointed out that NCUA had informed him that the agency felt risk-based capital will help improve the safety and soundness of credit unions. “It makes a whole lot of sense to [oversee] all credit unions under a smarter and better regulatory regime,” he concluded. Royce, as well as Kanjorski who spoke after him, made a push to get the conference attendees to push their representatives to co-sponsor the bill. Of the provision to increase the minimum voter requirements, Kanjorski acknowledged, “I know even among this audience, I may lose some support for that concept.” However, he remains committed to the 20% requirement, he said. Though House Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee Chair Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) has not signed onto the bill, his speech to 4,000 GAC attendees sounded like an endorsement. He stated, regarding credit unions service to their communities, “The credit unions are playing an even greater role in fulfilling that need.” In order to continue to serve members’ needs, Bachus said, credit unions need to go up to Capitol Hill during GAC and back in their home states and get their message on CURIA across to their representatives. “We are interested in passing the Regulatory Relief bill first, and many of the same provisions found in that bill are found in HR 3579 as well. As a rule, I do not co-sponsor legislation put before my sub-committee because I feel there is an obligation to be fair and impartial to all legislation. Only at the urging of House Leadership and Chairman Oxley do I become an original sponsor of certain legislation in my sub-committee,” said Bachus. He urged attendees that the best way to deliver their message is to provide “concrete day-to-day, practical examples.” Explain to your lawmakers why credit unions should be permitted to expand beyond the 12.25% cap to 20% and why the capital requirements must be amended, Bachus emphasized. In his remarks, he explicitly supported the provisions to allow credit unions to offer check cashing and money orders to anyone within their field of membership and some relief from the current member business lending restrictions. Though CUNA does a good job representing credit unions on the Hill, credit unions need to represent themselves, Bachus stressed. Kanjorski also told attendees to “get annoyed about it” when their representatives try to divert them to staff. “Don’t let them put you off to staff because you deserve and have the right to meet with your member,” he stated. In an attempt to cast a dark cloud over the credit union Hill Hikers preparing to descend upon Washington, D. C. last week, American Bankers Association Executive Vice President Edward L. Yingling sent a letter to every member of the House to remind them of the organization’s opposition to CURIA. At the time, he wrote the lawmakers that credit union representatives would be on Capitol Hill next week lobbying for CURIA. “It is also worth noting that this legislation helps the very large, expansion-minded credit unions and should be of little interest to those credit unions that are following the traditional credit union philosophy,” Yingling told lawmakers. Attached to the Feb. 19 letter was a letter previously sent to the House members Dec. 19, shortly after CURIA was introduced. In the earlier letter, ABA wrote, “In sum, the credit union industry’s lobbying campaign to expand its commercial lending powers, while reducing capital levels at the same time, should raise significant safety and soundness concerns to policymakers.” [email protected]

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