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Missouri CU act modernization bill passes

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JEFRESON CITY, Mo. (5/16/11)--Missouri credit unions successfully passed legislation modernizing the Missouri Credit Union Act during the final weeks of the 2011 state legislative session, according to the Missouri Credit Union Association (MCUA). Companion bills H.B. 465 and S.B. 306, sponsored by State Rep. Don Wells (R-District 147) and State Sen. Jay Wasson (R-District 20) respectively, passed unanimously in both chambers of the Missouri General Assembly. The Credit Union Act modernization:
* Provides consumer protections for personal information contained in examinations; * Lifts the $25,000 limit on unsecured loans for volunteers; * Authorizes electronic balloting for mergers and conversions; and * Establishes due process for removing a credit union volunteer or officer.
“It makes sense for Missouri credit unions to update and improve their charter, just like other businesses in Missouri,” says Mike Beall, MCUA president/CEO. “With the passage of this legislation, we’ve renewed that concept for the Missouri state credit union charter.” MCUA worked with the Missouri Division of Credit Unions to develop the legislation. MCUA Chief Advocacy Officer Peggy Nalls ushered the credit union legislation through the General Assembly. This is the first credit union bill introduced in the Missouri General Assembly since 2008. “There are a great many things credit unions can champion for consumers,” Nalls noted. “Modernization of the state statute allows us keep pace with changes in a fast-paced regulatory environment, which helps credit unions grow to meet the changing needs of their members. We are very appreciative that the bill passed unanimously. That indicates a strong level of support for credit unions in the Missouri General Assembly.” The 2011 legislative session officially ended Friday. During the next two weeks, Missouri Capitol staff members and the reviser of statues will be working to post the final versions of all bills, MCUA said.

Wis. provision in budget bill would make CU conversions easier

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PEWAUKEE, Wis. (5/16/11)--The Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee Thursday voted to include language in the state budget bill that would make it easier for Wisconsin’s 2.2 million credit union members to be stripped of their equity in the cooperative financial institutions they own--by permitting direct conversion from a credit union to a bank charter, according to the Wisconsin Credit Union League. The vote on the budget amendment came after the provision was inserted into the bill without any public hearings, without any notice to credit unions, and without seeking any input from credit unions or their members, the Wisconsin league said. The conversion of any financial institution from one type of charter to another is a complex matter that should require thoughtful consideration, appropriate information-sharing with stakeholders, and sufficient protections for the financial institution’s owners, the league said. A Wisconsin credit union whose management or board of directors wishes to convert to a bank already has two avenues by which it can bring its plan to its member-owners for their vote. The budget bill amendment for a new third avenue, slipped in surreptitiously, is unnecessary and bypasses all the considerations and owner protections provided by the two currently available avenues, the league said. “It’s no surprise that this anti-consumer provision was included at the request of the Wisconsin Bankers Association (WBA),” said Brett Thompson, president/CEO of the Wisconsin league. “They have made clear their intent to harm or eliminate not-for-profit credit unions and have no business determining public policy on behalf of Wisconsin credit union members.” The WBA represents dozens of bailed out for-profit banks that still have more than a 90% market share for banking services in the state. “We would certainly support a legislative discussion regarding the conversion issue, but this is a major policy item that stands to negatively affect Wisconsin credit union members and should not be part of a state budget bill,” said Thompson. “If the WBA thinks it’s good policy to make it easier for a credit union to become a bank, then it should have a stand- alone bill introduced, permitting all interested and affected parties a chance to speak up and be heard in an open discussion. “Attaching a non-budgetary amendment that affects the property and rights and interests of so many Wisconsin citizens to the budget bill--at the very last moment and under cover of darkness--is not the Wisconsin way,” Thompson added. Last year alone, credit unions returned almost $203 million dollars to their member-owners in Wisconsin--in the form of lower rates on loans, higher rates paid on deposits, and fewer and lower fees. Wisconsin’s credit unions are calling on Gov. Scott Walker to commit to vetoing the conversion provision when the budget bill gets to his desk.

N. Carolina Save to Win bill passes state senate

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RALEIGH, N.C. (5/16/11)--North Carolina’s credit unions saw a key step accomplished in their efforts to promote more savings among their members, as SB 513 passed the State Senate unanimously on Wednesday afternoon, according to the North Carolina Credit Union League. The bill would allow credit unions in North Carolina to introduce a special savings program--called Save to Win--which permits participants who save money to be eligible to win monthly prizes, and compete for a grand prize ( North Carolina league’s The Weekly Update May 13). Credit union members at participating credit unions in North Carolina will be able to open a $25 certificate of deposit account to enter the Save to Win program, just as Michigan structured its program. Members can then deposit additional money, in $25 minimum increments, into the Save to Win account each month to earn chances to win monthly prizes and the annual grand prize. Credit unions currently are limited to two raffle drawings per year. SB 513 would exempt so-called savings promotion raffles like Save to Win from this limit to allow for monthly prize drawings, and thus encourage credit union members to save more. Also, the bill defines a savings promotion raffle under the general statues governing credit unions, requiring that money be deposited into a special savings account in order to win. In 2009, Michigan conducted the first Save to Win program in the U.S. Working with the Doorways to Dreams Fund, the Michigan Credit Union League and the Filene Research Group, eight credit unions in Michigan launched Save to Win in January of 2009. In that year-long campaign, 11,000 credit union members saved nearly $9 million. The Michigan program has since been renewed and grown steadily in the past few years, with more than 28,500 accounts opened and $37 million saved. “Pending the passage of SB 513 in the North Carolina House, we plan to work with the Michigan league and Doorways to Dream to launch Save to Win in North Carolina in 2012,” said Lauren Whaley, the North Carolina league’s director of legislative and regulatory affairs. “Like most other states, people in North Carolina do not save enough money. This savings program can provide a safe, fun and powerful incentive for credit unions to get more families saving and help those who are financially vulnerable build financial security.” State Sen. Rick Gunn, a Republican from Alamance and Caswell counties, led efforts to get SB 513 through the Senate Chamber. “I’m proud to have been the primary sponsor of a bill that gathered unanimous support from the senate showing that we are serious about building a strong financial future, even through something as fun as a savings raffle,” Gunn said. SB 513 will now move to the House Chamber for a hearing in the House Banking Committee before it is voted on among all House members and then sent to Gov. Bev Perdue to be signed into law. In a related matter, Washington state’s prize-linked savings bill was signed into law by Gov. Christine Gregoire Tuesday, surrounded by supporters who championed the bill through a difficult legislative session that was in special session. The bill goes into effect 90 days after signing (News Now May 12).

N.Y. CU Foundation partners with co-op to hold fair

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ALBANY, N.Y. (5/16/11)--The New York Credit Union Foundation and Cabot Creamery Cooperative recently held a Health & Wealth Fair for more than 75 kids, teens, parents and grandparents in Syracuse, N.Y.
Click to view larger image Thom Dellwo, from Cooperative FCU, Syracuse, N.Y, reviews the basics of credit scores--including how they’re determined and how to improve them--at a workshop for adults at the Health & Wealth Fair, sponsored by the New York Credit Union Foundation and Cabot Creamery Cooperative. (Photo provided by the New York Credit Union Foundation)
The fair was created as a hands-on, fun way to connect grandparents to their grandchildren, and parents to their children. It featured finance workshops, led by local credit unions, specific to ages 5-8, 9-12, 13-15 and adult and health workshops for all ages led by Cabot and WellTrail Inc. The fair also served as the launch of the Growing Health and Wealth Program, an awareness campaign/kit for children (ages 6-10) and their families developed by the foundation in partnership with Cabot Creamery Cooperative. The campaign was created to promote correlation between health and wealth and to emphasize that, the earlier parents and grandparents help their young ones learn the benefits of a healthy diet and money management, the better off they will be. To help give kids that head start, the foundation and Cabot created a kit that includes a set of three saving, spending, sharing moneyboxes; a dual Growing Health and Wealth activity book; a financial goals poster; and a family guide. The kits were provided free of charge to fair participants. An additional 12,000 kits will be distributed by Central New York credit unions. “Many people get into financial trouble because of health-related issues,” said Diane LaVigna-Wixted, executive director of the foundation. “You can’t turn on the television or computer without witnessing news of the health care issue or the economy and its attending gloom and doom message. The sooner children are taught about the benefits of diet and exercise and managing money, the better prepared they will be for their futures.” Credit unions participating in the Growing Health & Wealth Program include: ACMG FCU, Solvay; AmeriCU, CU, Rome; Compass FCU, Oswego; Cooperative FCU, Syracuse; CORE FCU, East Syracuse; Empower FCU, Syracuse; Focal Point FCU, Syracuse; Liverpool (N.Y.) Central Schools FCU; MONEY FCU, Syracuse; Oswego (N.Y.) County FCU, Oswego Heritage FCU, Fulton: Syracuse (N.Y.) Fire Department EFCU and Westar FCU, Camillus. Fair partners included: Huntington Family Center, WellTrail, Inc., Open Hand Theater, Child Care Solutions and St. Lucy’s Church Community Garden. Cabot Creamery Cooperative has been in continuous operation in Vermont since 1919. The farmers who own Cabot--1,275 dairy farm families located throughout New England and upstate New York--support healthy initiatives for schools and, as a cooperative, reach out to other cooperatives to support that message.

SECU receives congratulatory visit from IRS

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RALEIGH, N.C. (5/16/11)--Michael Beebe, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) director of stakeholder partnerships, education and communication (SPEC) recently paid a visit to State Employees’ Credit Union (SECU), to share his appreciation for SECU’s efforts in helping North Carolina taxpayers through the IRS free Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.
Click to view larger image An IRS representative recently paid a personal visit to State Employees’ Credit Union (SECU), Raleigh, N.C. to share his appreciation for SECU’s involvement the IRS free Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. From left, Michael Beebe, director, IRS director of stakeholder partnerships, education and communication (SPEC); Tenesha Carter, SECU senior vice president, tax preparation services; Roger Burton, territory manager, IRS SPEC and Robyn Happoldt, SECU senior tax preparer. (Photo provided by State Employees CU)
In 2011, SECU helped nearly 48,000 members claim roughly $74 million in refunds while saving them over $7 million in tax preparation fees. SECU became a VITA partner in 2007, offering sites in all of its 237 branch locations statewide. “The support that credit unions provide to the VITA program clearly is a benefit to educating taxpayers in our communities,” said Beebe. “We are happy to see taxpayers taking advantage of these volunteer services and appreciate the support of our credit union partners.” “As a not-for-profit member-owned financial cooperative, the credit union has always been committed to providing low or no-cost services that are beneficial to members, and the VITA program aligns perfectly with that commitment,” said Tenesha Carter, SECU’s SVP of Tax Preparation Services said. “With the continuing economic climate and high unemployment rate in North Carolina, there has also never been a better time to help put money back in the pockets of those who need it most.”

National Fed. of CDCUs honors two

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NEW YORK (5/16/11)--The National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions has announced the recipients of the 2011 Annie Vamper “Helping Hands” Award, the organization’s highest honor for community development credit union (CDCU) staff and volunteers. This year’s recipients of the awards are Mignhon Tourné, president/CEO of ASI FCU, Harahan, La., and Kim Vermander, senior vice president of Communicating Arts CU, Detroit. “While presented to individual CDCU heroes, the Annie Vamper ‘Helping Hands’ award not only recognize each awardees selfless work to promote the credit union ideal of ‘people helping people,’ but they also honor the credit unions that have enabled these individuals to shine,” said Cliff Rosenthal, president of the federation. “Through the individual efforts of our honorees, and the collective efforts of their credit unions, thousands of low- and moderate-income residents of New Orleans and Detroit, have access to affordable and responsible financial services.” Tourné and Vermander will receive their awards at a special ceremony on June 17, during the federation’s 37th Annual Conference on Serving the Underserved in Hollywood, Calif. Mignhon Tourné served on ASI FCU board of directors for over twenty years, spending 10 years as board president. While serving on ASI FCU board, she was a champion of diversity, encouraging the credit union to extend inclusive banking services to those segments of the population left behind by traditional financial institutions. Under her leadership as board president, ASI FCU grew from $10 million in assets to more than $250 million. During her tenure as CEO, Tourné has been equally instrumental in the creation and development of a many innovative programs, products, and services to benefit ASI FCU’s membership. She has spearheaded the creation two new bilingual branches, offering a welcoming multi-cultural environment and greater access of the credit union’s services by the Vietnamese-American community and the Spanish-speaking community--groups whose numbers have grown significantly in the greater New Orleans area over the past several years. When Communication Arts CU opened a new branch in Highland Park, one of the most low-income and underserved communities in all of Detroit, “Kim was responsible for literally everything,” said Hank Hubbard, the credit union’s CEO, “from supervising the pouring of the cement floor to the selecting the shape of the counter, and from getting our name out in local churches to becoming treasurer of the Highland Park Business Association.”The Highland Park branch now serves about 2,500 members, accounts for nearly $2 million in savings and $3 million in loans. “And all of this was accomplished through word of mouth based on our service to the community--we have not done any traditional marketing--and Kim is a big reason for this success,” Hubbard said. Communicating Arts CU opened a second new branch in an equally devastated area in East Detroit in January, attracting more than 50 members in the first month alone. Successfully branching into neighborhoods forsaken by other institutions has become one of Vermander’s specialties. It is a skill that the credit union is putting to use as it refocuses its efforts to become Detroit's premier community development credit union. When told Vermander would receive a Vamper Award, Hubbard praised her selection. “Kim is our go-to person at the credit union,” he said. “She has been responsible for driving nearly all of the changes we have gone through since becoming a CDCU.”

Filene calls for i3 candidates

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MADISON, Wis. (5/16/11)--Filene is seeking new members for its i3--Ideas, Innovation, Implementation--team. Filene i3 is a work group of credit union professionals who have not yet reached the CEO level, but are in a position with substantial responsibility. Group members strive to be transformational leaders in building the future of credit unions and to create new ideas, innovate and implement for the benefit of the credit union industry, according to Filene. Filene seeks candidates who are passionate about the credit union system and believe that credit unions are poised to help members along the road to financial recovery. Executives from natural person credit unions in the U.S. and Canada are eligible to apply. The application deadline is June 19. Candidates will be selected and notified by the end of August. “Innovators don’t see obstacles--they see the current environment as an opportunity to contribute to transformational change,” said Denise Gabel, Filene chief innovation officer. Murray Barrick, a professor of business at Texas A&M University, will facilitate the recruiting process for Filene.