WASHINGTON — Credit union trade groups are prepping their witnesses for a hearing before the House Financial Services Committee on the Credit Union Regulatory Improvements Act (H.R. 1537) and other regulatory improvements for CUs.

The committee has not yet formally scheduled the hearing and has not released a formal name for it yet, but CUNA, NAFCU and NASCUS have all been asked to testify at the March 6 event.

CUNA Vice Chairman Tom Dorety, CEO of SunCoast Schools Federal Credit Union will testify for CUNA; At-Large Director Mike Lussier, CEO of Webster FCU will testify for NAFCU; and Chairman George Reynolds will testify for NASCUS. There will also be a representative from a banking organization testifying.

Representatives Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) and Ed Royce (R-Calif.) introduced CURIA for this Congress in March 2007. The bill includes a risk-based capital framework for credit unions, increases the member business lending cap, and adds requirements related to credit union conversions.

The hearing was scheduled during the week of CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference, when thousands of credit union executives will be in Washington.

“While we have the attention, we will take the opportunity to make our cases for greater regulatory relief for credit unions, particularly in the areas of expanding business lending to members, granting more flexibility in net worth requirements and allowing all types of credit unions to serve underserved areas,” said CUNA President/CEO Dan Mica in advance of the hearing.

He added, “While we realize there are no guarantees, a hearing does serve to build further support in Congress for our legislative goals and enhances the likelihood Congress will take action on credit union legislation.”

“This is a very positive development,” said Ryan Donovan, CUNA vice president of legislative affairs. “It is the first time in nearly five years the House Financial Services Committee has focused exclusively on ways to provide credit unions with regulatory relief, giving our issues great visibility before this key committee and positioning us well for future action.”

Donovan said the steady momentum behind CURIA, which now has 143 cosponsors as the result of the CU system’s grassroots lobbying efforts, created impetus for the hearing, which takes place on the final day of CUNA’s 2008 GAC. Both CURIA chief sponsors Royce and Kanjorski will be speaking at the GAC.

Donovan also said the regulatory improvements likely to be discussed at the hearing will not be limited to those in CURIA. “We expect to discuss additional ways Congress can provide regulatory relief to credit unions,” he said. “New ideas will be put on the table and we look forward to having that discussion with committee members.”

NAFCU Director of Legislative Affairs Brad Thaler also expressed a degree of satisfaction with the news.

“NAFCU is pleased that the committee will hear how removing outdated regulatory burdens from credit unions will enhance their ability to serve the underserved,” said Thaler.

NASCUS said Reynolds, senior deputy commissioner of the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance, will represent NASCUS at the March 6 hearing. Reynolds will discuss NASCUS’ position on CURIA and regulatory relief priorities for state-chartered credit unions. He will highlight regulatory reforms to strengthen the state system of credit union supervision and enhance the capabilities of state-chartered credit unions to meet the financial needs of their members.

–dmorrison@cutimes.com