LaFalce In For Tough Fight After Redistricting

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House Financial Services Committee Chairman heir-apparent John LaFalce could be in for the toughest campaign of his congressional career if a proposed redistricting scheme for the state's House delegation is agreed upon. The proposal would pit the 14-term LaFalce, in line to chair the key congressional panel if the Democrats win control of the House, against Louise Slaughter, an eight-term Democrat who won easy reelection last time with 66% of the vote.

LaFalce has been champing at the bit to take over the chairmanship since the retirement of former Chairman Henry Gonzalez of Texas, leaving him next in line for the post. A slew of press releases on LaFalce's legislative agenda preceded the 2000 congressional elections when LaFalce and many observers expected the Democrats to retake control of the House, leaving LaFalce in charge of the financial services committee, formerly known as the banking committee.

As the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee, LaFalce has played an instrumental role in all important legislation that has affected CUs over the past half-decade, including HR 1151, the CU Membership Access Act, which he helped write. But LaFalce's input on the landmark credit union bill was not a slam-dunk for credit unions. Early on in the debate he expressed his concerns about the expansions of large, diversified credit unions, at the expense of smaller, traditional, single-common bond credit unions, and the ramifications of that on the credit union tax exemption. Since the HR 1151 debate, LaFalce has tried to court the credit union movement by promising (at CUNA's GAC) legislative efforts that never materialized to assist small CUs, and to reform the federal credit union charter (NAFCU's Congressional Caucus).

The redistricting plan is still being negotiated by the state Senate Majority Leader and Speaker of the House, who will send it on for approval by the governor and the full legislature, according to a spokesman for LaFalce. The proposal would also pit two Republican incumbents against each other, 15-termer Ben Gilman and Sue Kelley, a four-termer. The Empire State will lose two seats, giving it 31 under the plan, because of a loss in population over the past decade.

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