Charles O. Zuver isn't betting on when or if issues facing credit unions will come up during the current session of Congress, but he's keeping his travel plans flexible.
"I'm not planning on a long vacation in October," said the director of legislative affairs fort the Credit Union National Association. "And I'm not buying a nonrefundable ticket to the CUNA's convention in Cincinnati" Oct. 9-13.
Although some project Congress will recess early in October, Mr. Zuver said he would be surprised if it didn't scramble to close just before Christmas.
During that time, legislation for bankruptcy reform and community development financial institutions almost definitely will come up, credit union lobbyists say.
Other possibilities include campaign reform for the House of Representatives, flood-insurance reform, and, more remotely, taxation of credit unions.
A bankruptcy reform bill proposed by Sen. Howell Heflin, D-Ala., should go up before the Judiciary Committee later this month and appear before the full body in October, said David John, director of legislative affairs for National Association of Federal Credit Unions.
"Over the past five to eight years, bankruptcies have caused huge losses for a lot of credit unions. Credit unions have had a strong interest in reforming the laws," Mr. John said.
In 1992, bankruptcy filings against credit unions totaled $738.6 million, representing 165,263 customers. In 1991, filings by 160,327 customers totaled $744 million.
Under Sen. Heflin's proposal, eligibility for Chapter 13 repayment plans would be expanded by raising debt limits and lengthening the repayment schedule. Steps to punish deliberate fraud also would be taken.
The law would make it easier for creditors to avert some scams "and help them get their money back," Mr. Zuver said.
Legislation for community development financial institutions should come up in the House in September. Lobbyists will focus on how credit unions figure into the bill's final form.
A bill introduced by Rep. William H. Orton, D-Utah, and backed by the National Association of Federal Credit Unions would allocate $19 million of the $382 million proposed by President Clinton for community development to the community Development Revolving Loan Fund.
The fund is administered by the National Credit Union Association, and it offers low-income loans and technical assistance to low-income credit unions.
And if anything comes of an off-the-cuff proposal made by House Banking Committee chairman Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez's, D-Tex., to bring credit unions into compliance with the Community Reinvestment Act, it may fall under community development legislation, Mr. Zuver said.
Credit unions have a stake in House campaign reform because the Credit Union National Association has a political action committee, the Credit Union Legislative Action Council, that distributed more than $700,000 in campaign contributions during the last two-year election cycle.
Laws curbing the use of PAC money would affect the trade group's lobbying, but the result wouldn't be disastrous, said Gary J. Kohn, its senior legislative counsel. "Credit unions have great grass-roots power," he said. "Even if the money were eliminated, we would still have people power."
In the wake of the Midwestern flooding, flood insurance of homes has come to the fore for credit unions, particularly as they move increasingly into real-estate loans. Credit union lobbyists are supporting a recent bill introduced by Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., that would enforce compliance with flood insurance laws.
Although lenders usually include two years of federal flood insurance in the closing cost of a house on a 100-year flood plain, subsequent payment of flood insurance premiums is up to the homeowner. Frequently credit unions don't know if these premiums go unpaid.
Legislation to tax credit unions is a long shot, lobbyists say, but it may be raised if further budget cuts are made.