The Meeting Doesn't End At The Hotel Check-Out

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This week, more than 400 credit union representatives will come to Washington to hear from key players on important credit union legislative issues at NAFCU's Annual Congressional Caucus. As part of their visit here, they will journey to Capitol Hill to deliver the credit union message to their elected representatives at a very important time.

The speakers at NAFCU's Congressional Caucus will talk about a number of key issues that are pending in the 108th Congress that are important to credit unions-bankruptcy reform, enhancing the federal charter, regulatory relief, Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) reauthorization and more. Those attending Congressional Caucus will be here at an important time as these issues and more are currently on the Congressional plate. But once they leave and return to their credit unions, in their home states and their legislators' districts, credit unions must continue to work with their legislators to advance credit union issues just as they did during their visits to Washington.

We have seen the bankers increase their attacks on credit unions in recent months, and it is now more important than ever for credit unions to be building strong relationships with their elected officials. With a number of credit union issues pending for action on Capitol Hill, the remainder of the 108th Congress promises to be a critical time for credit unions.

Credit unions demonstrated their ability to work with their elected legislators five years ago during the battle over HR 1151. However, many new members of Congress have been elected since the passage of HR 1151, and many new relationships need to be forged. NAFCU devotes a great deal of time to this kind of alliance building, but lawmakers always place the greatest importance on relationships with constituents, not trade associations.

With that in mind, the hope is that each and every credit union considers it their responsibility to build strong relationships at home to help the credit union community make progress on several pending issues. This responsibility includes, at the very least, knowing the issues and setting up regular meetings with legislators in your home districts. It may extend to any districts where you have members or do business. It may include attending fundraising events or volunteering to support campaign efforts, and networking with lawmakers and/or those individuals who are able to get you access to lawmakers in your district.

There are many key issues for us to be aware of and concerned about moving forward at this time. The House Financial Services Committee, under the leadership of Chairman Mike Oxley (R-OH), Ranking Member Barney Frank (D-MA) and House Financial Institutions Subcommittee Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-AL), has reported a regulatory relief bill (HR 1375) to the full House. This bill has a number of provisions that are important to credit unions. As of press time, this legislation was awaiting action on the floor of the House. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) has indicated his desire to advance a regulatory relief bill in the 108th Congress as well.

The House also recently passed its version of Federal Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) reauthorization-The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (The FACT Act), HR 2622-and the Senate is currently working on its version of the bill. The reauthorization of the seven federal preemptions that is included in this important legislation will allow credit unions to continue to provide top-notch loan services to their members.

At a time when personal bankruptcies remain at an all-time high, meaningful bankruptcy reform in the form of The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2003, H.R. 975, awaits action in the Senate.

These issues and many more such as savings reform, financial literacy, serving the underserved, check truncation reform, and deposit insurance reform are all on the congressional agenda and may yet see more action in the 108th Congress. Detailed and up to date legislative issue briefs concerning all these areas are available on NAFCU's website www.nafcu.org.

With more than 83-million credit union members nationwide, the issues that are important to credit unions affect the constituency of every member of Congress. When these bills come before the full House or Senate for a vote, every legislator - regardless of their committee assignment and their general area of expertise - will be voting on an issue important to us. We need to tell them why these issues will also benefit their constituents.

So, we continue to stress that it is important for credit union representatives to work with their legislators and urge them to advance these important issues, not only while they are in Washington this week, but then continuously when they return home. We need every credit union to work with their elected representatives on these important issues, so that the credit union strength in numbers will continue to be demonstrated on Capitol Hill.

Mike Vadala is CEO of The Summit FCU, NAFCU Vice Chairman, and Chairman of NAFCU's Legislative Committee.

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