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CU System Briefs (12/16/2013)

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  • WASHINGTON (12/16/13)--Twelve staff from the Credit Union National Association's Washington, D.C., offices were on hand Dec. 12 to help man the phone lines for three hours during a WPGC Radiothon benefitting Children's National Medical Center in Washington. The telethon raised more than $85,000 for the children's hospital, which is a local Children's Miracle Network Hospital. Assisting in the efforts were Angela Barnett, Jamie Bell, Adam Engelman, Felicity Guerin, Jillian Hitt, Carmen Mercado, Megan Mundt, Grace Sanchez, Alicia Schmitz, Ruth Shirley, Shane Singh, and Katie Wingo.  Pictured from left are: Wingo, executive assistant of CUNA's government affairs; Guerin, development manager of Credit Unions for Kids, and Hitt, executive assistant of legislative affairs. (Photo provided by CUNA) ...
  • ST. PAUL, Minn. (12/16/13)--Judy (Root) Greff, an Associated Healthcare CU employee, is set to be honored as a Credit Union Builder by the Minnesota Credit Union Foundation before her impending retirement. An industry professional for more than 30 years, Greff has also worked for NSP Highbridge CU, MTC Employees CU, and Bluestone FCU. She worked on the successful merger between Bluestone and AHCU in 2011, and has served on the MnCUF board of directors for six years. Greff also served on the Minnesota Credit Union Network's Credit Union for Kids, awards and election committees, was a member of the Grass Roots Education and Action Team, was active in the network's River Cities chapter, and offered financial education to women in the Eagan Homeless Shelter. Greff is among 23 people awarded MnCUF's Credit Union Builder Award. AHCU is based in St. Paul, Minn., and has $43 million in assets ...
  • RALEIGH, N.C. (12/16/13)--Truliant FCU President/CEO Marcus Schaefer has been named to the Center for International Understanding board of directors, said the North Carolina Credit Union League (The Weekly Conversation Dec. 12). The CIU, which was founded in 1979, offers educational programs for business, policy and academic leaders. "Truliant's mission to enhance the financial lives of its member-owners ties in nicely with The Center for International Understanding's mission to globally engage our state through awareness and action, and I'm honored to be named a board member," he said. Raleigh, N.C.-based CIU is part of the University of North Carolina system. Schaefer has led Truliant since 1995. He serves on the Small Business Technology Development Center advisory board for the Triad Region, and as chair of the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce. He also serves on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's Credit Union Advisory Council, and on the Credit Union National Association's World Leadership Development Committee. Truliant FCU is based in Winston-Salem, N.C. and has $1.6 billion in assets ...

Dakota CUs' Advocacy on Tax Status Declared a Victory in Brookings

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BROOKINGS, S.D. (12/16/13)--South Dakota credit union advocates succeeded again in stopping bankers' attempts at getting city and county municipalities to adopt resolutions challenging credit unions' tax status, this time before the Brookings, S.D., City Council.

Local press declared a clear victory for credit unions after a two-hour volley of discussion between the South Dakota bankers and advocates from the Credit Union Association of the Dakotas at the council's Dec. 10 meeting, said CUAD (Brookings Register Dec. 12).

The council rejected the banks' resolution that would have urged Congress to tax credit unions and Farm Credit Services. Instead, it sided with the credit union argument, saying there were potential conflicts of interest and it wanted to avoid taking sides in choosing one business over the other, said CUAD (The Memo Dec. 13).
Council member John Kubal questioned whether supporting the bankers' resolution meant "the local government wasn't being turned into a lobbyist for the bankers' organization," and added, "I don't know how, if we send this forward, we can't be seen to be on the side of the banks."

Council member Tom Bezdichek said it would be "a conflict of interest for the city because the local banks hold literally tens of millions of dollars of city indebtedness."  He noted "there are places for both banks and credit unions, and I can't quite believe that the city council should be making a resolution when millions and millions of our debt is held by a bank."  The vote was a tie, 3 to 3.

Although the bankers' resolution is dead, the council substituted and passed, 4 to 2, another resolution calling for a congressional review of all federal taxation as it relates to local governments. It does not address the debate between credit unions and banks, CUAD said, noting that it is a victory for credit unions.

CUAD Vice President of Advocacy Jeff Olson, as well as Dan Cumbee, president/CEO of  Dakotaland FCU, Huron, S.D., and  Evelyn Friezen, a credit union member, spoke on behalf of credit unions at the meeting.

So far credit unions in the state have won the tax status debates before municipalities in Brookings County, Yankton City, Yankton School Board, Vermillion City, Clay County and Campbell County. Only the Brookings Economic Development Corp., where credit unions did not have the opportunity for rebuttal, has passed a resolution.

CUAD is remaining active on the issue. It will argue credit unions' position before the Brookings School Board today, the Brookings Chamber of Commerce's legislative affairs committee on Jan. 2, and the Vermillion legislative affairs committee on Jan. 14, Olson told News Now.

To access a video of the Brookings Council meeting, use the link, and scroll to item No. 18 on the agenda, where the taxation debate begins.

Georgia Magazine Names GCUA a Top Trade Association

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ATLANTA (12/16/13)--A Georgia magazine ranked Georgia Credit Union Affiliates (GCUA) as the No. 8 top trade association in the state in its latest issue.
Published by Insider Advantage, James Magazine is a political and news magazine for Georgia governmental and civic leaders.
"One of the most important aspects of working for a trade association is the ability to effectively advocate for that industry," said Cindy Connelly, GCUA senior vice president of government influence.
The magazine tapped Brandee Bickle, GCUA director of government affairs, as one of nine "Rising Stars" among the state's lobbyists.
Bickle's recognition is an example of GCUA's determination and drive to help credit unions succeed, said Stacy Tallent, CEO, Health Center CU, Augusta, and GCUA board chair.

CUs Continue to Push Tax Status with Lawmakers

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MADISON, Wis. (12/16/13)--Credit unions continue to meet with their state's individual congressional representatives to drive home the point that credit unions' tax status centers on their cooperative, member-owned structure, not on asset size, products offered, or their growth.
U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.), second from left, met Thursday with credit union leaders from his state at an event hosted by the New Jersey Credit Union League at Credit Union House in Washington, D.C. Pictured with Holt are, from left: League Director of Governmental Affairs Chris Abeel, XCEL FCU President/CEO and NJCUL Board member Linda McFadden, and league President/CEO Greg Michlig. (Photo provided by the New Jersey Credit Union League)
At an event hosted Thursday at the Credit Union House in Washington, D.C., by the New Jersey Credit Union League, the state's credit unions took the opportunity to meet with U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) (The Daily Exchange Dec. 13).
Holt is an avid supporter and has publicly announced his support of credit unions' tax exemption on corporate income tax, said the league.  In August, Holt's office responded to a league survey of the state congressional delegation and confirmed that "Rep. Rush Hold does support the continuation of the federal tax exemption for the nation's credit unions. He always has and will continue to support the credit union tax exemption because credit unions provide needed and valued services in our local communities."
Among those at the event were league President/CEO Greg Michlig; Secaucus-based XCEL FCU President/CEO and league board member Linda McFadden; and league Director of Governmental Affairs Chris Abeel.
In Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Credit Union Association Board Director Paula Nihoff and PCUA Governmental Affairs Committee member Vic Gioiosa met with Jim Frank, district director of U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster's (R-Pa.) office in the Hollidaysburg district to discuss credit union priorities and concerns, including preserving credit unions' tax status.
Nihoff is president/CEO of  Johnstown, Pa.-based  Healthcare First CU, and Gioiosa is president/CEO of ARC FCU, Altoona.
In addition to implications for credit unions from tax code reform, the group discussed the complexity and cost of regulations, and charter enhancements, said PCUA (Life is a Highway Dec. 12).
The meeting with Shuster's office completes PCUA's goal of coordinating credit union meetings with all of Pennsylvania's 18-member congressional delegation and two U.S. senators.
On the state legislation level, Maine Credit Union League President/CEO John Murphy and league Director of Governmental Affairs Quincy Hentzel recently  met with state Sen. Anne Haskell (D), the new Assistant Majority Leader in the state Senate (Weekly Update Dec. 13).
Haskell, who visited the league office, replaces Sen. Seth Goodall, who resigned to become the new Small Business Administration Administrator for New England.
The league reached out to Haskell to set a meeting before the next legislative session begins Jan. 8 to discuss credit unions' issues, share information and to engage in a dialogue on her new position.
During the meeting, Haskell complimented credit unions for having "a strong presence in Augusta, and for being a great resource to answer questions on issues that impact financial services. The credit unions are engaged and involved with legislators."
The Credit Union National Association, in its national Don't Tax My Credit Union campaign and other advocacy programs, has often noted the important of grassroots credit union efforts  in making credit unions' positions on issues clear to both federal and state-level lawmakers. It and the leagues often urge making contact with new legislators to help open dialogue so credit unions have a presence when issues, such as preserving the credit union tax status, are being addressed by state legislatures and/or Congress.

Bill To Expand N.J. Advisory Council Passes Assembly Committee

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TRENTON, N.J. (12/16/13)--Legislation to expand New Jersey's Credit Union Advisory Council to seven members and provide for representation of federally chartered credit unions passed the state Assembly's Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee by a 7-0 vote Thursday.
The bill expands the CUAC from five members. It designates that no fewer than four seats be held by representatives of state-chartered credit unions, and no fewer than two seats can be held by representatives of federally chartered credit unions, said the New Jersey Credit Union League (The Daily Exchange Dec. 12).
The legislation will now move to the full assembly for a vote. If it is approved there, it will go to Gov. Chris Christie for signature.
Christie's signature is not a certainty, even if the legislation passes the assembly, said Christian Abeel, league director of government affairs.
"The governor has had an initiative to consolidate boards like this to save taxpayer dollars," Abeel told News Now. "We argue that this board is funded by credit unions so it doesn't cost the state money."
Earlier in this legislative session, New Jersey credit unions persuaded legislators to squash a plan that would have replaced CUAC with a consumer finance advisory board, where only two of nine seats would be held by credit union representatives.
The CUAC was established through legislation enacted in 1984 as a vehicle for state-chartered credit unions to advise state government on credit union-related matters. Members are nominated by the governor and must be confirmed by the state Senate.
"The original council was to advise was really focused on state-chartered credit unions," Abeel said. "Since 1984, there has been so much more regulation, but regulation by activity, so that a federally chartered credit union in New Jersey, while exempt from some New Jersey law and regulation, is still subject to others, particularly in the area of mortgage lending and collections. So while the state is not the primary regulator by charter, it is a regulator by activity, and not all of these activities are pre-empted."
Federally chartered credit unions may be exempt from some state laws and regulations, but certain activities, such as mortgage lending and collections, are subject to state regulation, Abeel said.
The newest CUAC bill recognizes that federally chartered credit unions, though primarily regulated by the federal government, are also subject to numerous state laws and regulations and should have a voice as well.
The Senate bill passed by a 38-0 vote in November.

N.Y. Judge Approves Credit Interchange Settlement

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NEW YORK, N.Y. (12/16/13)--A $5.7 billion class action interchange suit was approved on Friday by U.S. District Judge John Gleeson in the Eastern District of New York, Brooklyn.
The settlement is the largest private antitrust damages recovery in U.S. history. The approved settlement follows a 2008 suit in which merchants alleged MasterCard and Visa set artificially high credit card interchange fees.
The settlement requires a reduced interchange rate fee (IRF) of 10 basis points for an eight month period. The reduced fee will apply to all card issuers, including credit unions.

If the total credit IRF reduction is $1.2 billion, credit unions with credit card programs would lose about $50 million in total revenues, or about 0.5 basis points on their total assets, the Credit Union National Association said. The loss would be concentrated among a relatively small number of credit unions with very active credit card programs.

The approved settlement also calls for Visa, MasterCard and the banks to create a fund to repay retailers for past fees charged and says retailers would be permitted to assess "check out" fees or surcharges on credit card purchases, which has previously been prohibited by Visa and Mastercard rules.
Some merchants have indicated they will opt out of the approved settlement.
About 216 merchants in August filed a separate antitrust lawsuit in a Marshall, Texas, U.S. District Court against Visa and MasterCard, claiming the card companies' policies force them to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in excess interchange fees. That suit seeks unspecified damages, along with punitive damages and attorneys' fees.

Lien Rules Unsettling, Oregon CUs Tell State Legislature

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PORTLAND, Ore. (12/16/13)--Oregon credit unions and the Northwest Credit Union Association are pressing for changes in a state law that allows mechanics to place liens on vehicles for unpaid work (Anthem Dec. 12).
The league, accompanied by representatives from $3.38 billion asset OnPoint Community CU, Portland, Ore., testified before the state House Consumer Protection Committee last week.
Under Oregon law, mechanics who work on vehicles may enforce a lien against the title holder if they are not paid for the work performed. To do so, the law requires mechanics to obtain authorization to complete the work, and notify any existing owners and lienholders of their intention to file the lien. If the lien is placed, others with interest in the vehicle--including the mechanics' customer and any lenders--are stripped of their title rights.
The Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles processes mechanic's liens without requiring mechanics to demonstrate that they have met the legal requirements. Some mechanics have placed liens for inflated amounts--with additional fees for storage and other unsupported items--and gained possession of vehicles, then disposed of them, NWCUA said.
The vehicles original title holders--Oregon consumers and lenders--are left with few options, NWCUA said. Filing suit to regain the title requires posting a bond for twice the amount of the mechanic's lien and paying legal costs that are not reimbursed by the defendant, even if the plaintiff prevails in litigation. That financial burden, along with the time and documentation required to build a case, usually make such lawsuits prohibitive, NWCUA said.

Councils Sponsor Eddie Money at GAC Concert

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MADISON, Wis. (12/16/13)--Known for his hits "Take Me Home Tonight" and "Two Tickets to Paradise," '80s rocker Eddie Money will open the 2014 Credit Union National Association Governmental Affairs Conference Feb. 23 in Washington, D.C.
Money's appearance during Sunday night's opening is sponsored by CUNA Councils. "His music spans genres and generations," said Rudy Pereira, president/CEO, Royal CU, Eau Claire, Wis., and chair of the CUNA Council Forum. "It's sure to bring this year's attendees together and get them energized for the high-impact week ahead."
Money's career began in the late '70s with his self-titled album and the hits "Baby Hold On" and "Two Tickets to Paradise." Throughout the 1980s, Money had a string of Top 40 hits. Proceeds from the sales of his 2011 single "One More Soldier Coming Home" go to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund that supports U.S. military personnel wounded or injured in service.
For more information about CUNA's signature conference, which runs Feb. 23-27, use the link.

Holiday Cheer Spreads to Overseas Soldiers

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MADISON, Wis. (12/16/13)--The number of shopping days is quickly dwindling as Christmas nears, but credit unions' holiday spirit continues to swell.

  • Click to view larger image Nearly 120 employees and volunteers packed boxes for more than 5,000 soldiers deployed from North Carolina. This is the fourth year that State Employees' CU, Raleigh, N.C., has sent holiday packages overseas. (Photo provided by State Employees' CU)
    More than 5,000 packages will be sent to North Carolina soldiers who are deployed overseas. State Employees' CU, Raleigh, N.C., has been collecting items for its Support the Troops program since mid-September. Nearly 120 credit union employees and volunteers filled boxes with first aid items, games, snacks, toiletries, and cards and letters from North Carolina students.

    In 2012, Army Sgt. Odaliska Almonte received one of the care packages last year and was on hand for this year's project. "The care packages were great, especially all of the cards we received from children," she said. "They were the highlight of the box and many soldiers posted them over their bunks so they would be the first thing they would see. The cards just lifted your spirits."

  • In Idaho, employees from Pioneer FCU teamed up with the Shop with a Cop program. Across the town of Mountain Home, businesses opened their doors to children, letting them purchase gifts for their families. Law enforcement, emergency service and military employees chaperoned 130 children, watching their smiles as they picked gifts for their families (Mountain Home News Dec. 13). Once the children and their "personal shoppers" were finished, credit union volunteers took over the final stages of gift wrapping. Mary Morin, a Pioneer FCU employee, has helped organize the event for the past 11 years.

  • Andrews FCU shared its spirit of giving internationally. The credit union, which is headquartered in Suitland, Md., has seven branches in the U.S. and five overseas locations. All participated in the food drive that collected more than 2,700 items for food banks and charities in their area (The Daily Exchange Dec. 10).

  • Children in Massachusetts' Central Berkshire County will have a warmer winter thanks to Greylock CU, Pittsfield, Mass. The credit union is collecting new winter hats, scarves, mittens and coats for the ELF Holiday Warm Clothing Program. Greylock CU is working with Berkshire County Action Council to distribute items to more than 600 children (The Berkshire Eagle Dec. 9)

  • Travis CU supports a number of community charities during the holidays, including the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, Opportunity House's Festival of Trees, Christmas Wish 2013 and Toys for Tots.  The Vacaville, Calif., credit union participates in Children's Miracle Network activities that help the UC Davis Medical Center and Valley Children's Hospital Central California. Proceeds from its employee craft fair go to the Heather House Homeless Shelter (The Davis Enterprise Dec. 8).

  • Twenty-five food pantries and hunger programs will receive more than $275,000 from Fox Valley, Wis., businesses and residents. The Fox Cities Chapter of Credit Unions pledged $25,000 of the initial $120,000 matching grants for the Stock the Shelves campaign (The Post-Crescent Dec. 8).

  • The 14 Southern California branches of NuVision FCU served as collection centers for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program. Last year, the Huntington Beach-based credit union collected more than 10 bins of toys, and Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations L.J. Tarman said they hope to exceed that amount with this year's drive.