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LATHAM, N.Y.-The year 2005 promises to be a busy one for members of the New York State Credit Union League (NYSCUL). As state legislators gear up for the new session, league representatives are laying the groundwork for several key issues approved by the league board as its top priorities. “It will be a lot of work and an uphill battle,” says Amy Hines Kramer, vice president of governmental affairs. “But, they’re important issues that the membership has made clear they want to pursue.” Topping the list is the issue of municipal deposits. Although federal law allows credit unions to accept municipal deposits, New York state law overrides the federal law and reserves the right for commercial banks. “The irony is that our organizations are serving individual firefighters and town employees, but they can’t hold the municipal’s money,” says Michael A. Lanotte, senior vice president of advocacy services and general counsel. Municipal deposits have been an issue on NYSCUL’s agenda before, but several factors have influenced the decision to move it to the top of the priority list. For one, the league has growing grassroots support from organizations that want to invest their money with credit unions. A general trend also has been growing across the nation in favor of CU-held municipal deposits, with approximately half the states now allowing them. The trend in bank mergers is another point of concern. “As banks get bigger and you have foreign banks involved, shareholders’ money is going into foreign pockets,” Kramer says. “If you use CUs, the money goes back into the community as new loans.” Success of the municipal deposits issue also plays into NYSCUL’s efforts over recent years to create greater parity between its state and federal charters. “We’ve done a lot of work updating and improving our state charter-making it on par with or, in some areas, more progressive than our federal charter,” Lanotte says. “It creates a heightened sense of value to our state legislative agenda, and the time is right to move this up in the agenda.” Another parity issue the league has been working to address is a requirement for state-chartered CUs to pay state sales tax (granted, at a lesser rate than other organizations) while federally chartered CUs do not. The league has been lobbying the governor’s office to extend the exemption to state-chartered CUs through an item in the state budget, which is being presented to the legislature on January 18, 2005. “It only amounts to about a $2 million hit to the state,” Kramer says. “If it’s not in the budget, we’ll attempt to push it through as a single item in the legislation.” A new item added to the agenda this year is “subpoena spamming” (CU Times, Nov. 17, 2004). New York credit unions feel they are being unduly burdened by law firms and collection agencies seeking monies from delinquent individuals. The persons involved are not necessarily nor ever were CU members, but credit unions are mandated by law to review their records and submit any information about each individual. Because of the sheer number of subpoenas received-sometimes several hundred per week for one CU-the requirement has become burdensome. Credit unions would like to receive some type of compensation for their time involved or, at least, some type of prescreening by those issuing the subpoenas to determine a link to the credit union. Last but not least on NYSCUL’s agenda is the Excelsior Linked Deposit initiative, a loan program backed by state dollars. The league wants credit unions to be eligible for the program so as to get the best loan rates available for CU members. “We can’t get much closer [to getting the initiative passed] than we have come in the last few years,” Kramer says. “It’s really come down to the 11th hour. And, we’ll introduce the measure again this year.” In conjunction with its legislative agenda, NYSCUL also will further its CU Advocacy Plan started in 2004. Efforts included a voter survey prior to the election and CU economic impact report. This year, the league will continue with its consumer awareness campaign and may consider some type of cooperative advertising, depending on available funds. “We’re in a stage of the movement that can’t do one without the other,” Lanotte says. “By having a strong legislative agenda along with a consumer awareness campaign, we’re making sure that the CU difference is alive and well in the state.” [email protected]

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