More Than 800 Bills Affecting CUs Debated During 2001

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During 2001 state credit union leagues worked on more than 800 pieces of legislation that could have affected or will affect their operations, according to a year-end summary produced by CUNA.

Colleen Kelly, CUNA's VP of state government affairs, said the trade group has categorized those bills into 83 topics ranging from Abandoned Property to Volunteer Protection, saying the information "allows the state credit union system to identify trends, share ideas on national issues, and determine effective strategies to ensure passage of favorable credit union laws at the state legislatures."

"We can expect to see the spirit of the Renaissance Vision Statements continue to be introduced in the state legislatures across the country," said Kelly. "Seventeen states worked on 20 bills this past session that would, among other things allow credit unions to control their geographic growth (Utah), expand MBL (Utah and Oregon), streamline the procedures for adding groups to FOM (New York), allow choice of share insurance (Louisiana), and grant new powers and authorities (Washington).

Although there hasn't been specific anti-credit union legislation introduced in Congress over the past two years, the bankers continue to attack at the state level, according to Kelly. "Some of the activity we saw this past legislative session included opposition to credit union public fund legislation, which included a bold move by the bankers in Illinois to repeal public fund legislation.

Kelly noted that Utah's credit unions successfully fought back a bill that would have called for a two-year study to "determine the threshold where credit unions cease to be credit unions," create a threshold where credit unions become "credit union associations" and are subject to a 38% corporate tax, and required credit unions to disclose salaries, board expenses and membership lists.

Kelly said that at least 33 bills were passed during 2001 that will affect respective state regulatory agencies, including legislation that mimics NCUA's "Reg Flex" program for small CUs in Washington State.

Privacy, Literacy & Employment

Among the other state-level efforts:

* Credit union leagues worked on 62 payday lending bills in 23 states, 45 predatory mortgage lending bills in 24 states and 65 privacy bills in 23 states. The privacy legislation at the state capitols ranged from requiring an "opt-in" before credit unions can share member information (Iowa), to changing a current "opt -in" requirement to an "opt-out" requirement similar to the federal legislation (North Dakota), to restricting the use of social security numbers (Texas), or even creating "do not call" lists for telemarketing purposes (Texas and Washington).

* While federal funding has been approved for financial literacy programs, "the real battle to get financial literacy programs in the nation's high schools will be fought at the state capitols, which we saw this past session in Texas, where a bill was introduced to require financial education for public school graduation (bill failed) and in Delaware, where a Joint Committee on Financial Literacy was established to review and improve the personal money management skills of high school students."

* Credit union leagues monitored 53 employment bills introduced in 15 states. The employment issues range from discrimination to child support, from health insurance to employee benefit plans, from FMLA to unemployment compensation, as well as comp time, ergonomics, and employer reference liability.

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