With a major legislative battle continuing to brew, the Utah League of CUs added considerable muscle to its lobbying team last week with the appointment of Scott Simpson, head of the state Republican Party, as its new chief lobbyist.
The hiring of Simpson, who also served as liaison to powerful five-term U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, comes as the credit union league is gearing up for a major lobbying effort with the new legislative task force studying credit union issues, including the proposal to tax the largest state-chartered credit unions. Heading the task force are the two major advocates of the tax proposal, Republicans Rep. Jeff Alexander, and Sen. Dan Eastman.
The appointment of Simpson, who served two terms as executive director of the state GOP, adds special heft to the credit union lobby with Republican lawmakers, who control both the House and Senate, as well as the statehouse.
Scott Earl, president of the league, said he hopes Simpson will add a new dimension to the credit union lobby with his strong ties to elected Republicans, many of whom he helped into office. "What we hope is that he can help us translate the public support for credit unions into political support," said Earl.
The legislative task force, created by this year's bill that would have taxed three large credit unions, is expected to begin its work as soon as next month. Earl wondered about its direction now that those three credit unions-America First CU, Mountain America CU, and Goldenwest CU-have all applied to convert to federal charters to escape any state tax proposals.
While the bill would have applied the state's corporate franchise tax to large credit unions operating in multiple counties, concerted lobbying efforts by the league and credit unions helped delay the tax until further study by the task force. The creation of the task force, which will also study other issues, including field of membership (FOM), means that credit unions will be forced into a major lobbying campaign for the foreseeable future.
The credit union league has a recent history of hiring powerful political figures to lobby, having employed former House Speaker Rob Bishop during a 1999 legislative battle on FOM. The league and Utah credit unions eventually helped Bishop win a hard-fought campaign for Congress last year over a candidate supported by the banks. Simpson, said Earl, remained neutral in that contest because it pitted two Republicans against each other.
Prior to Bishop, the league employed another Republican Speaker of the House, Craig Moody, as a lobbyist.
Simpson will replace Travis Wood, who is leaving the league to start his own lobbying practice, according to Earl.