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WASHINGTON-Regulatory relief legislation has been plagued with starts and stops over its lifespan and 2006 does not appear to be much different. Though the Financial Services Regulatory Relief Act (H.R. 3505) has always appeared promising in the House, the Senate has failed to come to an agreement on the regulation of industrial loan companies, which stalled the bill all of last year. Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) had the federal banking agencies, including NCUA, create a wish list of items for inclusion to help draft the legislation, but no bill has been forthcoming. NAFCU Director of Legislative Affairs Brad Thaler said Senate Banking Committee staffers told him they expect to see a proposal from Crapo’s office in the spring and possibly some work at the committee level. Cliff Northup, congressional and governmental affairs director at NCUA, said he has not heard much on the matter lately. “It is my understanding that they would wait until they’re closer to getting a commitment to a mark up,” he said. As far as reg relief becoming law, CUNA Legislative Affairs Manager Linda Haer said that Senate Banking Committee staffers have reported, “They don’t have very high hopes for reg relief.” H.R. 3505 passed the House Financial Services Committee last year but two powerful Senate Banking Committee members have held up the promised companion bill in the Senate over the ILC disagreement. One provision for credit unions that cannot be put off much longer is the language that would allow credit unions to continue to count the retained earnings of a merging credit union as net worth for the surviving credit union. The Financial Accounting Standards Board has proposed changes to the accounting for mergers of non-profits, which could drastically reduce credit union mergers. FASB has told Congress that it agrees this is an unintended consequence and had no problem with the legislative change. A standalone bill, the Net Worth Amendment for Credit Unions Act (H.R. 1042), has passed the House. “There are senators that recognize that something needs to be done,” Thaler said. For now, though, they are “giving deference” to the reg relief bill. The Credit Union Regulatory Improvements Act (H.R. 2317) is in a similar predicament. It contains most of the provisions of reg relief, plus language to allow for risk-weighted capital for credit unions and expanded business lending powers. CURIA has received the backing of 107 members of the House, but no takers yet in the Senate. “We’re going to keep plugging away and doing what we’ve been doing,” Haer said. The lobbyists said they are still talking with a number of senators on CURIA. But before any sort of reg relief gets a shot, Haer said a number of other items will likely appear at the top of the congressional agenda including data security, flood insurance reform, and the completion of deposit insurance reform. The waning days of December 2005 saw deposit insurance reform nearly pass as part of the budget reconciliation package. It is still expected to take that course as one of the first items taken up when the House comes back into session following the President’s State of the Union address. “It’s expected to pass but it should be a close vote,” Thaler said. Regarding the stripping of NCUA’s authority regarding disclosures in mutual savings bank conversions, the so-called `McHenry Bill,’ Haer reported that no companion bill is being discussed in the Senate. [email protected]

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