SAN ANTONIO- An impassioned call to political activism was therecurring theme throughout the two-and-a-half hour delegate sessionat the Texas Credit Union League's 70th Annual Meeting & Expo.The League's chairman, CEO, several committee chairmen and specialguests cited political advocacy as a top priority. TCUL Chairman ofthe Board Watt Prichard called on credit unions to present a unitedfront and to be involved in communicating with legislators and thepublic through tools such as Project Differentiation, Project ZipCode, and Hike the Hill. Referring to Texas Bankers Association'srecently published plan to seek taxation of large credit unions,Prichard said bankers are now waging war on credit unions not onlyon a national basis, but also within the state. He said hepersonally was aware of small credit unions that had receivedletters from community banks wanting them to rally against largecredit unions. "Your commitment and involvement is critical,"Prichard said. "Let's not let anyone dictate our future." TCULPresident/CEO Dick Ensweiler said TCUL's legislative efforts in2003 were very successful, and somewhat unexpected because of theantagonistic climate that existed due to congressionalredistricting. The League fought for, and received, full funding ofthe Texas Credit Union Department, a TCUD modernization bill, andhome equity reform legislation. But, he said, credit unions couldsee "the worst of times" if they do not remain politicallyinvolved. The Texas Legislature currently is in a special sessionto address state funding of public education, and according toEnsweiler, they will be pressured by bankers to consider creditunion taxation. The League's stated legislative priorities for 2004and beyond are to prevent taxation of credit unions and prevent adivision of credit unions, large versus small. TCUL has developedthe following guidelines to facilitate their implementation: 1) Setour own agenda; 2) Stay politically involved; 3) Remain united; 4)Put our members first; and 5) Tell our story. "We cannot remain asbystanders, we must be players," Ensweiler stressed. "I'm proud toannounce, though, that in the last couple of days, as a result ofthe backlash received from Texas Bankers Association's animositytoward credit unions, the credit union attack stuff has come offTBA's website." With the increase in comments about credit uniontaxation being made by bankers, and in turn legislators, CUNAPresident/CEO Dan Mica felt it imperative to address TCUL AnnualMeeting attendees. In a videotaped speech, Mica issued Texas creditunions a "serious" request for support of CUNA and Texas Leagueefforts in combating bankers' misinformation campaign withlegislators. "I'm not sure anyone realizes how wide, deep andperverse the bankers' attacks are. We will be calling on you for avery direct, loud, and vociferous effort this election year," saidMica. "We didn't start the battle, but we're going to finish it. Wedeserve the status we've been given. We are the good guys, we wearthe white hats," he said. "Their tactics are already backfiring. Wealready have a letter from President Bush that says he does notsupport taxation of credit unions. Senator John Kerry also hasstated that he is not in favor of taxing credit unions, so we havethe support of both presidential candidates." NCUA Board ChairmanDennis Dollar told participants that taxation of credit unionscould present safety and soundness issues as a result of taxescoming out of credit union retained earnings. Dollar urged creditunions to continue communication with legislators, stating thatmany are beginning to understand that credit unions may look likebanks, but their not-for-profit structure makes them uniquelydifferent. Goals for funding the TCUL Political Action Committeewill ramp up significantly beginning in 2005, according toCommittee Chair Ayn Kleiber. In 2003, $175,000 was raised to fundlawmaker election campaigns; for 2004 the goal is $195,000; and in2005, TCUL PAC is shooting for $300,000 annually. The League'sMember/Owner Advocacy FORCE, which channels funds toward suchprojects as political analysis and research, also feels aheightened sense of urgency to prepare for bankers' attacks oncredit unions, according to FORCE Committee Chair Gary Davis. Thefund received a boost for its efforts as a result of a $55,000contribution at the Annual Meeting by Southwest Corporate FederalCredit Union. Outside the political arena, TCUL president/CEO DickEnsweiler reported that 2003 was TCUL's best year financially inthe past 15 years. In addition to battling banker attacks, theLeague will place greater emphasis on shared branching, Hispanicoutreach and financial education over the next year. At themeeting, delegates also unanimously approved the 2005 League DuesSchedule. -


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