September 13, 2012
While demands pile on a just-back-from-recess Congress and full-throttle campaign schedules compete with a backlog of legislation, Northwest credit unions are not giving up on pending legislative initiatives. A delegation of credit union advocates escorted by the Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA) is in Washington for “fly-in” opportunity to showcase legislative initiatives.
A key focus, the member business lending legislation known as the Credit Union Small Business Jobs Act, got a boost on the House floor Wednesday when Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) spoke in support of H.R. 1418. Blumenauer was an early co-sponsor of the legislation, which would raise credit unions’ business lending restriction to 27.5 percent of assets from its current limitation of 12.25 percent.
In his address, which has been posted online and entered into the Congressional Record, the Congressman noted Americans and small businesses continue to pay the price “for the near collapse of our economy.”
“Let’s give small businesses more choices for the financing they need, and let’s help credit unions get more capacity to meet that need,” Blumenauer said.
“It wasn’t the credit unions on Main Street that almost brought the economy to its knees,” he said. “It was Wall Street gamblers and too often cheaters in the financial system.”
The Senate version of the legislation, S.2231, remains on the radar screen for consideration this fall, but the clock is ticking in the lame duck session. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promised a vote before the end of the year, “and we will not let up preparing for that vote,” said Jennifer Wagner, vice president of legislative advocacy for the NWCUA.
The legislation has also earned the support of Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who told the group that she wanted to help move the MBL package along in the lame duck session.
“As part of the senate democratic leadership, her support with the package is encouraging,” Wagner said. “She mentioned that there are many issues that are important to move in the session and this was one of them.”
“Every day, we have more confidence in our ability to win an up-or-down vote on the Credit Union Small Business Jobs Act,” added Ryan Donovan, senior vice president of legislative affairs for the Credit Union National Association (CUNA).
All told, the Northwest credit union delegates met with nine legislators on Wednesday, including all four Senators from Oregon and Washington. In addition to MBL, another key focus for the delegation has been to educate legislators and gain support for supplemental capital legislation. A piece written by NWCUA President Troy Stang in support of supplemental capital was featured in the Credit Union Times earlier this month, and Wagner noted that legislators from the Northwest are “really ahead of the curve on this issue,” and added that both issues were “well received.”
Wednesday was highlighted by a forum regarding access to capital for small businesses hosted by CUNA and "The Hill," a D.C.-based news source focused on Congress, business, lobbying and politics. Brooke Van Vleet, president and CEO of St. Helens Community Credit Union, gave testimony, and new research was released showing the need for small-business access to capital, supporting the need for expanded member business lending.
The day was capped by a reception at the Credit Union House on Capitol Hill, where the group joined counterparts from the Southeast Credit Union League, which encompasses Florida and Alabama. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) was in attendance and received a CULAC check, and Blumenauer was on-hand as well to share news of his entry into the Congressional Record.
This morning, the Northwest credit union delegates met with National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) Board Member Gigi Hyland before returning to the Hill for another round of meetings with legislators.
Questions? Contact a member of the Association’s Legislative Affairs team: