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From time to time I have used this space to extend kudos to credit union people and organizations. With the proposed legislation known as CURIA (Credit Union Regulatory Improvements Act) very much on page one again, more kudos are warranted. Kudos to all the credit union industry leaders who put their heads together to identify, prioritize, and craft the list of timely and wide-ranging proposals that comprise the expanded and improved CURIA over last year’s version. Each proposal is seen as needed by today’s credit unions if they are going to be able to continue to compete and move forward on behalf of the 87 million CU members in this country. (For complete CURIA details see continuing Credit Union Times news coverage.) A big double dose of kudos to senior U.S. Representatives Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) for introducing H.R. 2317. These two friends of credit unions, and a growing number of their colleagues already jumping on the co-sponsorship bandwagon, see CURIA as the means for credit unions to operate more effectively and efficiently. Kudos also go to the bill’s co-sponsors, past, present, and future. During the last CURIA go-around some 69 co-sponsors threw their support behind this legislative proposal. With 22 (13 Republicans; nine Democrats) on board at press time, toward an ambitious goal of 100, CUNA is optimistic that the co-sponsor list will again grow quickly. In making new laws, a large number of co-sponsors sends many positive messages. Kudos also go to NCUA for lending their support to CURIA. Not surprising, NCUA Chairman JoAnn Johnson and Board Member Debbie Matz are enthusiastic about any changes that would help credit unions operate from a stronger base and thus contribute to their ability to operate in an even safer and sounder manner. But the biggest kudos of all go to community bankers and to their trade group ICBA (Independent Community Bankers of America), and to House Financial Services Committee Member Jim Ryun (R-Kan.). On behalf of ICBA, Ryun introduced H.R. 2061, a bill community bankers see as their answer to long sought regulatory and tax relief. The bill is known as “The Community Banks Serving Their Communities First Act.” Although that title is a mouthful, it is pretty clever (note the word “first”), frankly, more so than the duller, “Credit Union Regulatory Improvements Act” which by comparison sounds a bit more self-serving than does “serving their communities”. Nevertheless, the timing and content of the banking bill does credit unions a big favor and should be a big help in moving CURIA through the legislative pipeline. While attacking CURIA for giving credit unions more powers than banking lobbyists think they should even have with a status quo, bankers apparently think lawmakers are pretty stupid. How else could community bankers expect to promote a bill that contains all sorts of good things for themselves, while in the next breath, blast credit unions for trying to modernize in sync with changing members’ financial needs and today’s competitive marketplace? With this obvious and blatant hypocrisy, the ICBA just made the credit union industry’s job a tad easier by showing lawmakers the banking industry’s true colors. The banking industry is in effect saying we deserve whatever legislative changes we want but credit unions need to stay put, or better yet, regress back to their 1930′s ways of conducting business Here’s just some of what H.R. 2061 has in it: allows a 20% tax credit for Sub Chapter C banks and bank holding companies, as well as Sub Chapter S banks on 20% of distributable income, with limits; and provide qualified community banks and bank holding companies in distressed areas with a 50% tax credit with caps; and exempt agricultural real estate and mortgage loan income from taxation in communities under 2,500. And that’s just for starters. I’ve saved a special kudos for CUNA for assuming the lead sled dog position in both efforts to advance CURIA, and establishing a win, win position in connection with the community bankers’ bill. Put simply, CUNA is saying, help us make credit unions more effective, efficient, safer, and stronger. If the community bankers feel they need to do the same, more power to them. We won’t oppose their bill but ask in return they not oppose ours. To do so would be hypocritical on their part. Don’t hold your breath that bankers and their allies think this makes any sense. Here’s what a banking industry spokesperson said seconds after CURIA was introduced: “The credit union industry is once again seeking legislation disguised as regulatory relief. We strenuously objected to CURIA in the last session of Congress and we will do so again.” Here’s what a CUNA spokesperson said: “The banking industry’s objections to CURIA and its attempt to hobble credit unions is hypocritical. Bankers are seeking to reduce their regulatory and tax burdens while denying credit unions the same opportunities.” I have a couple of kudos left over. They go to all the state and national credit union trade groups who are really earning their keep by working overtime to make CURIA a reality. Also to a growing number of individual credit unions as well that are doing everything they can to transform CURIA from bill status to the law of the land. Working together, they are seeking and getting co-sponsors. They are conducting a variety of educational activities to bring all credit union supporters on board. They are leading the charge in generating grassroots support. But just like they couldn’t do H.R. 1151, The Credit Union Membership Access Act, alone, CURIA will once again end up in the “nice try” category, especially with unrelenting banking industry opposition to it (70,000 letters last time), unless the credit union industry manages to also generate all-out support at the member level. Without massive grassroots support, despite excellent leadership at the top, CURIA will go nowhere this year, or the next, or the next. Comments? Call 1-800-345-9936, Ext. 15, or Fax 561-683-8514, or E-mail [email protected]

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Peter Westerman

 

Credit Union Times

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