June 12, 2012
The East Coast Washington was filled with West Coast style last week as the Northwest Credit Union Association’s (NWCUA) first-ever spring Hike-the-Hill event focused on lobbying for the passage of three separate pieces of legislation as Congress engages in a bitter election-year battle.
The Hill visit kicked off with a dinner with representatives from the Kansas Credit Union League, giving the Northwest delegates a chance to network with colleagues and compare the issues and challenges facing their Midwest counterparts. The days that followed were then filled with legislative visits,
“Smaller than typical, our group of 12 was mighty, and we got around the Hill efficiently and effectively as our meetings progressed,” said NWCUA Vice President of Legislative Advocacy Jennifer Wagner.
The delegation kicked off the day Wednesday by attending a meeting with the leadership team of the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), including Chairman Debbie Matz, who heard what Northwest credit unions are experiencing in the field.
“Chairman Matz was optimistic about the growth the industry has been experiencing and the national economy being on the ‘upswing,’” Wagner said, “and the fact that credit unions have successfully come through the recession.”
The regulatory meeting was followed by eight Hill visits to Oregon and Washington Congressional offices, where the delegation discussed three legislative priorities:
- Supplemental Capital
- ATM Disclosure
Spokane Teacher’s Credit Union CEO Tom Johnson shared with his senators’ offices a collection of 1,500 signatures in support of S. 2231 obtained from members in a week of explaining the MBL issue in branches, which was extremely well-received by the Washington legislators. According to Wagner, this is a reminder that the credit union community needs to keep up its advocacy efforts—and an example of the strength in numbers that credit union members are capable of exhibiting.
The group also earned a tangible example of the power of in-person Hill visits, as two Oregon legislators signed on as supporters of the ATM disclosure legislation after meeting with the credit union leaders.
“Most Congressional offices understand what’s riding on the first two issues, but the third—ATM disclosure—is exciting as well,” Wagner said. “The good news is that as of this morning, as a direct result of our visit, Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley and Rep. Greg Walden have both signed on as co-sponsors of the ATM disclosure bill.”
Last week’s event was capped by a first-time visit to the offices of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), where the Northwest delegation gained a better understanding of its organizational structure before making four final Hill visits.
Wagner said that this introductory spring hike earned good feedback from participants, and that it offered an important reminder that “out of sight” in Congress truly does equal “out of mind.” She also pointed out that with so many pressing issues facing Congress, reminding the body that issues important to credit unions are priority issues is the only way to make progress and get them addressed before the end of the year.
“Every effort to explain the issue to Congress helps,” she said. “Now is not the time to let up.”
Questions? Contact a member of the Association’s Legislative Affairs team: