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WASHINGTON – CUNA has designated September as `National Hike the Hill’ month, and CUNA’s tallies at press time show more than 40 state credit union leagues have indicated they will be bringing representatives to Washington for the month-long event. The focus on September’s `National Hike the Hill’ will be to allow credit unions in face-to-face meetings with their members of Congress before the November elections, to address and refute the anti-credit union rhetoric being espoused by the bankers. CUNA spokesman Pat Keefe said even before the association officially designated the month it had planned to do about 16 Hike the Hills in September, “and that certainly played into our decision since we were already going to have so many leagues in town for that month,” he said. But September being the last month Congress is session before November’s election made designating it `National Hike the Hill’ month and urging all Leagues to participate all the more critical, he added. Keefe also pointed out that September in general is very important in the legislative season. “Bills have been introduced and hearings held in the spring, in the summer features of the bills are worked out and maybe there’s been a mark up. But the real politicking starts in the fall. The fact that this is an election year adds something extra,” he said. “We are certain that the bankers are planning their own blitz before the end of that month. We cannot allow them to have the final word before Congress leaves for the year,” said CUNA President/CEO Dan Mica. He added that, “We hope to have as many credit union representatives as possible on the Hill, to make the point that credit unions have an impact on the legislative process, primarily through the 85 million who are credit union members nationwide.” Keefe said the Leagues are taking the lead in pulling together participation of credit unions in their respective states and coordinating the scheduling of Hike the Hill visits for their credit unions. He noted that the Association of American Credit Union Leagues (AACUL) is also “fully involved.” On its end, CUNA is coordinating the scheduling for the visits, as well as other special events planned during the month, and Keefe said CUNA’s political and legislative affairs staff is heading that effort. The New York State Credit Union League plans to make its `Hike the Hill’ visit Sept. 7-9 and is urging all credit union districts in the state to be represented. The League’s Director of Governmental Affairs Amy Kramer said so far the League was unsure how many credit union delegates planned to make the trip to Capitol Hill, but in previous Hike the Hills about 15 attended, plus League staff. Kramer said the NYSCUL normally visits with federal legislators on Capitol Hill several times during a year including one each in July and September, another in the spring with Empire Corporate Credit Union, and one in February during the GAC. Because of scheduling conflicts this year and the visits made with Empire Corporate CU, the League didn’t make its usual July visit. “So that makes September’s Hike the Hill all the more important,” Kramer said. “It’s always important to visit with legislators and touch all the important points with them before they start to think about what their final acts will be before they adjourn.” The New York Credit Union League also stays in regular touch with state legislators in Albany, and Kramer said although the bankers in the state have been relatively quiet, “a lot of their work is done behind the scene. When we walk the halls in Albany we find out the legislators have heard from the bankers.” Kramer said it’s just as important to use the Hike the Hill visits to educate an elected official’s staff, as it is to talk with the legislator themselves. “The staffers are typically young people in a tough game. There’s usually a high turnover so it requires a lot of re-education. We make sure if a staff person is new that we take them through credit union 101,” she explained. At press time, CUNA was still working on the details of the Hike the Hill visits and other events expected to be held during September, and Keefe said CUNA intended to use Credit Union House “to the greatest extent” for meetings and receptions with elected officials. “It will certainly be a challenge arranging for credit union representatives from many states to be on Capitol Hill,” said Keefe, adding that it’s likely credit union reps from several states will be visiting with their federal legislators on the same day. “Deciding which league will do their Hike the Hill will be a function of many things such as when their congressmen and senators will be there and when there are votes on bills. We’ll be juggling a lot of factors,” said Keefe. – [email protected]

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