WASHINGTON — Officials of the two national credit union trade groups spent last week mostly working behind the scenes to shore up support for legislative efforts to provide regulatory relief for credit unions.

Lobbyists for CUNA and NAFCU said their meetings with top lawmakers and aides made them cautiously optimistic that some legislation will pass this year.

On May 2, both CUNA President Dan Mica and NAFCU President Fred Becker held separate meetings with House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.), but Frank set no firm timetable on when legislation will be brought to the floor.

The Credit Union Regulatory Relief Act (H.R. 5519) had been scheduled to be voted on April 29, but the vote was postponed because of concerns raised by bankers. The bankers’ concerns centered on their belief that the measure gave credit unions permission to provide more services that would provide competition to banks.

NAFCU Director of Legislative Affairs Brad Thaler said the credit unions had already taken the concerns of bankers and their congressional allies into consideration when agreeing to changes during the legislative process.

“CURRA was crafted as a compromise. Two key items, increasing the lending limit and risk-based capital reform, were taken off the table,” he said.

In the Senate, both CUNA and NAFCU are working to get lawmakers to co-sponsor a more comprehensive regulatory relief measure, the Credit Union Regulatory Improvements Act (S. 2957), introduced by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.); as of May 7, it had no co-sponsors. The measure has 149 co-sponsors in the House, where it was introduced by Reps. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) and Ed Royce (R-Calif.).

On May 2, Mica wrote all senators that by co-sponsoring CURIA they would be “helping credit unions continue their mission of serving working families, making needed services available to lower-income or underserved consumers and helping promote economic growth and well being.”

CURIA includes risk-based capital reform and raises the member business lending cap from 12.25% to 20%, among other things.

CURRA includes a provision to let a credit unions include an underserved area in their fields of membership and would allow credit unions to offer payday lending services to anyone in their fields of membership and encourage small-business development in rural communities. It also would exclude loans to nonprofit religious institutions from credit union business lending caps.

–cmarx@cutimes.com