OLYMPIA, Wash. (2/13/14)--Gloomy winter weather was no match for the golden glow of brightly colored scarves worn by Washington credit union advocates during Credit Union Day at the Capitol in Olympia last week.
Northwest Credit Union Association Vice President for Legislative Affairs Mark Minickiello, left, and Harborstone CU's Roger Johansen, senior vice president and chief credit officer, and Vicky Nelson, business sales and services manager, show off their "Northwest Credit Unions: Stronger Together, Better Than Ever" scarves during Credit Union Day at the Capitol. (Northwest Credit Union Association photo)
"Everyone showed a brave face as they struggled to keep warm in our tent on the Capitol lawn," said Mark Minickiello, vice president for legislative affairs, Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA). "But what they didn't struggle with was the high energy they passed along to legislators throughout the Capitol," he told
Legislators quickly warmed to the more than 110 credit union delegates. Reps. Sam Hunt (D-22) and Brandon Vick (R-18) both stepped out of committee hearings to meet with visitors from Thurston and Clark counties. Jane Parker, an advocate from Federal Way-based Woodstone CU, shared the benefits of credit union membership with Rep. Hans Zeiger (R-25) and Sen. Bruce Dammeier (R-25).
The response was so great that after Rep. Jeff Holy (R-6) met with Spokane-area advocates, he immediately pulled HB 2140, the NWCUA-backed credit union merger bill, out of the House Rules Committee, making it eligible for a floor vote,
"Even non-legislators got caught up in Credit Union Day," Minickiello said. "Many of our advocates were stopped in the cafeteria and in hallways by folks outside of the Legislature who wanted to ask about credit unions or share their love for credit unions."
Credit Union Day came at a time when the Legislature is struggling with the state budget and tax reform. It's imperative, Minickiello said, that every legislator understands the difference between credit unions and banks, and why the credit union tax exemption is so important.
The credit union employees, members and volunteers were armed with information: Washington's 106 credit unions represent 2.9 million members, and those members saved more than $200 million when compared to typical bank customers from June 2012 to June 2013.
Legislative leaders also stopped at NWCUA's tent on the Capitol lawn to talk to constituents and to watch a financial reality fair in action. Rep. Joel Kretz (R-7), deputy House minority leader, said that credit unions are a key player in bringing financial services to his rural district. "I appreciate that you are part of the community," he told the bundled-up audience.
Minickiello told them to keep in mind the unique credit union structure and value, but ultimately, he said, "It's your voice as a member, as a credit union employee or director that is most important. Tell your story."