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WASHINGTON-Eight lawmakers have signed on to co-sponsor the Credit Union Regulatory Improvements Act (H.R. 2317) so far in March, bringing the total number of lawmakers backing the bill to 117. Democratic Representa-tives Hilda Solis (Calif.), Daniel Lipinski (Ill.), Anna Eshoo (Calif.), and Zoe Lofgren (Calif.) added their names to the legislation March 16. It would provide credit unions with greater business lending powers and a risk-based capital framework. Also lending their support this month were Democrats Tom Lantos (Calif.), Eddie Bernie Johnson (Texas), Alan Mollohan (W.V.), and Carolyn Kilpatrick (Mich.). Credit unions are excited about the high number of co-sponsors the bill has garnered, but with all eight signing on in March of the minority party, the proportion of Democrats to Republicans is closing in on 2-to-1. Including Ed Royce (R-Calif.), who introduced the bill, there are 42 Republicans backing the bill while the number of Democrats is 74. There is also one independent, Bernie Sanders (Vt.), who leans Democrat. “We take-with every piece of legislation we do-a bipartisan approach,” said CUNA Senior Vice President of Political Affairs Richard Gose. As for the apparent party split, he said, “There’s not a magic number. There’s not a magic mixture.” Dollar Associates Partner Dennis Dollar agreed, “I think it shows good bipartisan support. I don’t think it has to be 50/50 to be bipartisan support.” He is not lobbying for any clients on this particular bill but has been following it with great interest and is working with the Association of Corporate Credit Unions on a risk-based capital structure for corporates. Credit union lobbyists denied that the bill’s progress would be hindered by the heavy Democratic support. “Is it a problem in terms of the bill moving forward?” NAFCU Director of Political Affairs Murray Chanow posed. “I don’t think so.” He emphasized the overall show of support is what is most important. Getting over 100 legislators to agree on anything is a chore, Gose added, and CUNA just plugged away at building grassroots support for CURIA. “I believe in just keeping your nose to the grindstone and working hard,” he said. The large number of co-sponsors is plenty to get the point across to lawmakers, the lobbyists said. “It’ll send the message that these provisions are important to a lot of people,” Chanow said. He explained that it is also significant to point out, “We haven’t had any members of Congress come out and say they’re against the bill.” Dollar said that he feels it is unlikely both the member business lending and the risk-based capital provisions would be added to the legislation, but one or the other is a strong possibility. “The momentum for the risk-based capital is perhaps greater than for the member business lending cap,” he suggested. It is also difficult for the bankers to argue against, he pointed out, since every other part of the financial services sector uses a risk-based capital system. Dollar added, “Showing that you can make a risk-based system work for the corporates would be a real feather in [NCUA's] cap.” Probably the best chance for the credit union legislation is to get some of the key provisions tacked onto the overall regulatory relief package. The House has already passed its bill without the provisions, but the Senate has yet to introduce a bill. Senate Banking Committee Member Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) has been charged with penning a bill, which he said he was working to get introduced this month, but Chanow said to give it 30 to 60 days. He added that he would expect some action on the bill prior to the August recess; after that, there is very little left to the legislative calendar before elections swing into high gear. “There’s always a lot of strategy in terms of when to recess,” Chanow observed, depending upon how races are shaping up. NAFCU’s Congressional Caucus takes place in September, just prior to Congress’ target adjournment. He said the trade group hopes to raise awareness of credit union issues during a flurry of activity at the end of the session. -

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