Race On To Expand Reg Relief To Include CU-Backed Provisions

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Credit union lobbyists were working last week to expand a regulatory relief bill passed the week before by the Senate that was absent many of the credit union provisions in a bill passed earlier by the House.

The Senate's version had only four credit union-specific provisions, compared to 15 in the House bill, leaving the credit union lobby struggling to get some of the House measures added into the Senate version.

The situation created a scenario where the bill could be "ping-ponged" between the two chambers while a mutually agreeable bill is arrived at, according to CUNA lobbyist Dean Sagar, a veteran of congressional ping-ponging until recently as senior staffer on the House Financial Services Committee.

That means that the House could now take up the Senate bill and seek to amend it. If the House does amend it, the bill would be sent back to the Senate for another vote.

"The House could take the Senate bill, add a few provisions on to it, then send it back to the Senate and see if they approve it," said Sagar.

The Senate version has only four provisions specifically for credit unions, including allowing federal charters to provide check cashing and wire transfers to non-members within their fields of membership; extending the maturity on member business loans; fixing the new accounting rule to allow credit unions to continuing pooling their capital after merging; and allowing credit unions to continue paying discounted leases on federal property.

It doesn't include several key credit union priorities that the House bill has, like allowing credit unions to retain their select employee groups after converting to community charter; allowing privately insured credit unions to join the Federal Home Loan Bank system; raising the maximum amount a credit union may invest in a CUSO; allowing NCUA, instead of Congress, to set permissible investments for credit unions; or lifting the cap on member business loans.

Neither bill includes the top credit union priority of enacting a risk-based capital system for credit unions, which is central to the credit union-specific CU Regulatory Improvements Act, or CURIA.

CUNA is focusing on getting a few of the House provisions added to the Senate bill, like increasing the permissible investment limits in CUSO, which has broad support, according to Sagar. They are also discussing getting the provision that would exempt religious-based loans from the member business loan cap; and also the FHLB membership for privately insured credit unions, a measure that is backed by House Financial Services Chairman Michael Oxley (R-OH), who represents the district that houses private credit union insurer ASI.

"It's the difference between what you'd like and what's possible, given the political ramifications," said Sagar.

NAFCU's Approach

NAFCU is taking a broader approach and hopes to get as many of the House's provisions into the final bill, according to lobbyist Brad Thaler. "We're trying to get everything from the (House version) included in the bill," he said. "We haven't come to the point where we've singled out any particular provision."

The stakes on the bill are high because if Congress passes regulatory relief this year it is not likely to pass another bill for years to come, that includes CURIA. Sagar, a long-time veteran of regulatory relief lobbying while working on Capitol Hill, said he could see the House following up with another bill as soon as in the next Congress, but doesn't expect the Senate to do so for some time. "The Senate will take five or six years to revisit the issue," he said.

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