Missouri credit union leaders took their message to Capitol Hill as part of the Credit Union National Association’s Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC), March 18 – 22. The group included 47 attendees from 15 credit unions who visited with each office in Missouri’s Congressional delegation.
Legislative meetings took place on March 20 and 21. Member business lending (MBL) was the top legislative priority, and attendees urged members of Congress to support H.R. 1418 and S. 509, the Small Business Lending Enhancement Act. Immediately following the GAC, the Senate MBL bill was reintroduced as S. 2231 in order to place it on the Senate calendar and be ready for a quick vote. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has stated the Senate will vote on member business lending this session, and a vote could take place as early as this week.
“Our visits allowed us to get a clearer picture of where lawmakers stand on member business lending now that a vote is imminent,” said Mike Beall, Missouri Credit Union Association president/CEO. “It is important for credit union leaders to keep the pressure on and make sure federal lawmakers know this is vitally important for small business owners and job growth.”
Missouri gained cosponsors on other bills of interest to credit unions. U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-District 3) signed as a cosponsor to H.R. 3993, the Capital Access for Small Business and Jobs Act, and made the announcement during his meeting with Missouri credit union leaders. Carnahan joins U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-District 1) on the bill, which would allow credit unions access to supplemental capital. Both U.S. Rep. Clay and U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-District 8) stated during their meetings with credit unions that they will join as cosponsors to H.R. 3461, the Financial Institution Examination Fairness and Reform Act. Another bill that would require only an electronic disclosure on ATMS, rather than both a physical and electronic disclosure, is expected to be introduced soon with several Missouri Congressional members in support.
“Attending the GAC certainly heightened my awareness of how critical it is for credit unions to be fully involved in the political process. We need to understand the issues affecting credit unions and encourage legislators to support those issues,” said Jim Woods, Mid Missouri Credit Union volunteer. “Participation in Capitol Hill visits are more than just important - they are absolutely critical. We must tell our story. If we don't, the bankers will tell it for us and we won't like their version.”
Bankers oppose the MBL bill, and 1,000 were on hand to lobby against credit union issues. More than 4,000 credit union leaders took part in the GAC.
“Our industry faces complex challenges and therefore increases the necessity to share our perspectives with the men and women who draft legislation,” said Brandon Michaels, president/CEO of Mazuma Credit Union. “The bankers’ trade associations are very powerful, so the more credit union participants we have at GAC, the more powerful our message. The camaraderie and cooperativeness of credit union friends remains our greatest asset."
“The majority of our officials seem to have a great respect for the bankers. They need to have the same respect for credit unions,” said Cindy Atteberry, president/CEO of Joplin Metro Credit Union. “We must become more present with Congress and our elected officials.”
Missouri participants included many first time GAC attendees.
“This was my first year and it was a wonderful experience. I would really encourage others to attend and lend their support to this great effort,” said Carole Wight, president of Holy Rosary Credit Union. “I truly believe it has helped to assure the future of the credit union movement. It is also a great example of what we can do, when we all cooperate together.”
“I do believe that everyone visiting the conference took away the importance of being there, as I did,” said Jean Capriglione, Arsenal Credit Union AVP of member services. “We can make a difference!“
Credit unions that participated in the GAC included: