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MCUA addressing patent abuses, multiple issues in state session
ST. LOUIS (2/3/14)--It will be a busy spring for the Missouri Credit Union Association advocacy team. More than 900 bills have already been filed in the Missouri General Assembly, and the league figures to track at least 10% with direct or potential impact to credit unions, according to Amy McLard, MCUA senior vice president of advocacy, and David Kent, director of state legislative affairs.
"The state legislature is quick out of the gate," McLard told News Now. The Missouri General Assembly is a part-time or "citizen" legislature, which meets each year from January until mid-May.
Of course, some bills have more impact than others, McLard noted. Among those at the top of the list so far are bills to limit patent troll abuse that have been introduced in both the Missouri Senate and House. The bills are based on similar legislation passed in Vermont, McLard said.
The Credit Union National Association backs federal legislation that would curb abusive patent litigation by removing some of the financial incentives sought by firms that assert low-quality patents.  So-called "patent trolls" continue to use low-quality patents to try to extract settlements from credit unions and others.
Credit unions have been sued for the use of certain ATM technologies, check-imaging applications and check cashing applications, and providing members with mobile transactions through their smartphones.
"We know of specific instances where our member credit unions have been directly affected by patent trolls," McLard said. "It's important we explain to lawmakers the severity of the issue, and that the costs associated with patent trolling affect both the credit union and the consumers that the credit union serves."
The league testified in support of a pension advance bill that was heard in committee in January. A pension advance is a financial agreement promising access to up-front cash in exchange for a portion of the individual's pension plan, which can ultimately cost retirees thousands in interest and fees. Pension advance contracts are unregulated and often do not fully disclose the effective interest rate and other fees associated with them.
The league is also monitoring a condo lien bill which specifies the order of preference of liens on unit owners. "We're checking with our membership to make sure that any legislation would not have a negative impact on them," McLard said.
Not all action is taking place in the legislature.  There is a petition effort under way that would place a constitutional amendment on the ballot that could limit political action committee contributions by financial institutions as well as other businesses and organizations, McLard said.  "We are working with all of the groups affected in hopes to come to a resolution with the initiative petition that won't limit citizens' ability to participate in the political process."
Missouri's credit unions are closely scrutinizing the impact of data breaches, following both the Target breach and a credit card breach that affected an estimated 2.4 million cards, used at 79 stores, by Missouri-based Schnucks Markets Inc. in early 2013. "MCUA is asking our credit unions to respond to a survey assessing the overall impact the Schnucks data breach, as it gives a very state-specific example to demonstrate just how much data breaches are negatively affecting consumers and credit unions," McLard said.
McLard said multiple tax bills are filed every legislative session in Missouri, and "you always have to be diligent in monitoring them," she said.


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