The Top Ten List For Credit Unions In Washington

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As we head into this year's Governmental Affairs Conference, which stands on the threshold of being one of our most well-attended ever-more than 3,500 souls in attendance-and perhaps one of our most important, we face a significant number of challenges and opportunities.

Banker attacks, bold proposals to reform the nation's tax code and Social Security programs, long-needed regulatory relief, a fully-staffed NCUA Board, and the challenges of complying with a myriad of rules and regulations on the federal and state levels are all examples of the vital issues-and tests and prospects-ahead for credit unions.

With those issues and more in mind, here then are our 10 top priorities for CUNA in 2005 as we enter the GAC:

Strengthen credit union political involvement to exceed the power of our adversaries, and protect the interests of the credit union movement. Success in all of our goals begins right here. While we have come a long way over the past eight years, including having the ninth largest PAC nationwide with $3.2 million total spent in the last cycle, it is vital that credit union people themselves become involved in the process to fend off bankers, and achieve our overall objectives.

Counter and halt attacks on credit unions by the nation's banking industry, particularly efforts to change the tax status of credit unions. With its "Operation Credit Union" going full bore, and actions in Utah, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Maine and other states, the banking industry is signaling no let up in efforts to curb or eliminate credit union service to members. We are also keeping a close eye on any attempts to alter the tax status of credit unions, as Congress takes up issues related to tax reform and federal financing in general. Further, we view the bankers' attempts to derail credit union regulatory relief efforts as part their broader effort to cripple credit unions.

Pursue effective regulatory relief for credit unions to provide optimum flexibility in serving members. Ever since our Renaissance Commission determined that credit unions were in need of more flexibility in serving their members, we have been working toward this goal. With the CUNA-led effort for the Credit Union Regulatory Improvements Act (CURIA) in the 108th Congress, and the effort to put CURIA-like legislation on the table in the current Congress, we are following through on the commitment to win regulatory relief. Credit union members want and deserve the best service they can receive. We cannot allow the bankers, or anyone else, to block efforts to obtain comprehensive relief.

Achieve meaningful and lasting reform of federal bankruptcy laws, to end abuse but continue to protect credit union members. The fact legislation has been introduced in the Senate is a great step forward, and something we worked for to address a problem that is consistently ranked by credit unions as one of their top concerns.

Support and promote regulatory policies that augment the safety and soundness of credit unions-but maintain the ability of credit unions to respond to their members' needs. There are a number of particulars involved in achieving this goal, including: pursuing reform of net worth requirements under prompt correction action; monitoring Fed implementation of Check 21; and working with the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and NCUA on significant accounting issues, such as mergers and loan participations.

Maintain a stalwart and sound three-tier system of credit unions, the leagues and CUNA. For credit unions, this unity is the strongest structure for the future health and growth of the movement. That's the essence of credit union success.

Advance financial literacy, among both our nation's youth and credit union membership at large. While credit union partnership with the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) reached nearly 54,000 students in about 1,000 high schools nationwide, we believe the challenge is just as great for teaching our members and potential members the value of understanding money and its uses.

Build momentum for reaching out to the Hispanic community, the nation's fastest-growing group. The 2004 report of the CUNA Hispanic Outreach Task Force set the stage for new energy by credit unions, particularly in developing a vision, a mission, cultural intelligence, and a commitment to excellence in reaching out to and serving Latinos/Hispanics. And we've provided a wealth of information for credit unions in our new online Hispanic Resource Center on www.cuna.org.

Provide a strong, well-managed trade association that is ready to provide services for its members' needs well into the future, while offering leadership for the movement in the 21st century.

Expand a list of products and services for credit unions and leagues that answer their most pressing needs with the latest technology and techniques.

Attendees at this year's Governmental Affairs Conference will no doubt see these 10 priorities reflected in words and deeds in various venues throughout the conference, if not all in one place. Other priorities will no doubt emerge as the future unfolds. For now, however, this list gives credits a substantial list of challenges and opportunities on which to concentrate, and thrive.

Dan Mica is president and CEO of CUNA.

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