WASHINGTON-As credit unions receive greater recognition on Capitol Hill, credit union lobbyists find themselves busier each year. In addition to key pieces of legislation, like the Credit Union Regulatory Improvements Act (H.R. 2317) and the enactment of bankruptcy reform, other credit union-specific legislation received broad support in the House. In April, the House unanimously passed the Expanded Access to Financial Services Act of 2005 (H.R. 749), which would allow credit unions to provide limited services to the `unbanked’ within their fields of membership. For those who choose not to become members but are within the FOM, credit unions would be able to sell them negotiable checks (like travelers checks), money orders, and electronic funds transfers. It would also permit them to cash checks and money orders and receive wire transfers for a fee. Currently, only members are permitted to use credit union services. Credit unions’ political might also enabled them to push The Net Worth Amendment for Credit Unions Act (H.R. 1042) through the House on a voice vote. The bill amends Prompt Corrective Action to allow the retained earnings of a merging credit union to count toward the surviving credit union’s net worth. The Financial Accounting Standards Board is planning an overhaul of the accounting for mergers between non-profits, which brought on the need for this amendment. So far the Senate has not moved on the bill. If the bill does not become law before FASB makes the change official, credit union mergers could be significantly curtailed because the surviving credit union’s net worth would plummet. The Federal Deposit Insurance Reform Act has passed both the House and Senate as part of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (S. 1932 and H.R. 4241), which Congress was hoping to take care of by this week. However, in typical inside-the-beltway fashion, the reconciliation process is likely to be held up. Congressman Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) announced an “agreement in principle” last week with the Senate Banking Committee and hoped to get the bill through before Congress wrapped up work for the year (See related story). Additionally, the House passed H.R. 3945, the Hurricane Katrina Financial Services Regulatory Relief Act of 2005, which provides for greater flexibility with PCA targeted at the institutions hit hardest by the devastating hurricane. In the annual appropriations competition, NCUA was able to obtain $950,000 in grant money for the Community Development Revolving Loan Fund to be spent over two years. The extended time frame-typically the agency has one year-was the result of NCUA seeking additional time to give out the funds given the difference between the congressional fiscal calendar that runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30 and NCUA, which goes by calendar year. Also, the Central Liquidity Facility was approved for its usual $1.5 billion borrowing authority. Congress also approved appropriations to aid the Federal Trade Commission in enforcing the privately insured credit union disclosures. Though this is the third year for the funding, the FTC has yet to come out with a final regulation on the matter. -

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