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CU reps Hike the Hill as Congress returns

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WASHINGTON (9/6/11)—Members of Congress returning to Washington this month will find around 450 credit union representatives from more than 20 states ready and eager to cover the credit union difference, and key issues, during the 2011 edition of the Credit Union National Association’s Hike the Hill. Credit union advocates from across the country will cover member business lending, alternative capital, the regulatory burdens faced by credit unions, credit unions’ tax status, and other related topics during these meetings, which will take place between Sept. 14 and Oct. 12. "Whether here in Washington or at home in their districts, it’s critical that lawmakers hear firsthand, and year-round, from their credit union constituents about credit union issues," CUNA Senior Vice President of Political Affairs Richard Gose said. "Hike the Hill plays an important role in this dialogue and we're excited to have such great participation this fall." Credit unions and the leagues have also launched an all-out effort during Congress’s August district work session to make contact on key credit union issues. The list of hikers is scheduled to include Alabama and Florida credit unions, accompanied by the League of Southeastern Credit Unions. League President/CEO Patrick La Pine said his delegation will cover “what credit unions are doing in the current economic conditions as well as real life examples of how credit unions are helping consumers, and helping small businesses. La Pine’s delegation is scheduled to visit with House Financial Services Committee Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) and Senate Banking Committee Ranking Minority Member Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), among others. “We will ask our members of Congress to allow credit unions to be a greater part of the economic recovery, specifically by increasing the MBL limit, which is a win-win for the economy that won’t cost taxpayers a dime while helping small businesses,” La Pine said. The Montana Credit Union Network will meet with another member of the Senate Banking Committee, Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and will thank Tester for his strong support of credit unions during this spring’s debit interchange fee cap debate. Ohio Credit Union League Vice President of Governmental Affairs John Florian said the D.C. visit gives his group an excellent opportunity to “firm up strong relationships with Ohio members of Congress,” including Sen. Sherrod Brown (D), Sen. Rob Portman, who is a member of the Congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, and Rep. Patrick Tiberi (R), who serves on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Aside from the standard credit union advocacy that comes with every year’s Hill hike, Dan Schline, North Carolina Credit Union League senior vice president of association services, said that this year presents a new opportunity for the many new staffers at the league. “This trip will be a good opportunity for them to develop relationships with some of the new Hill staffers handling financial services issues for our congressional members, and to educate those Hill staffers on the basics of credit unions and our issues,” he added. Credit union groups have also planned visits with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the National Credit Union Administration. Leagues and credit union representatives from Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming are also scheduled to travel to D.C. by the time this year’s hike is over. For more on CUNA’s 2011 Hike the Hill, use the resource link.

Inside Washington (09/05/2011)

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* WASHINGTON (9/6/11)--Easing payments for homeowners will help pave the way to economic recovery, Federal Reserve Board Gov. Elizabeth Duke said Thursday. Speaking at a housing finance conference hosted by the Fed, Duke acknowledged that despite near-record-low interest rates, credit conditions remain tight for both consumers and real estate investors. “One way to reduce the flow of foreclosed homes is to ease the payment strain on borrowers, which can be accomplished by modifying loans that are past due or by refinancing performing loans at lower rates,” she said. Duke cited several reasons why the Obama administration's Home Affordable Refinancing Program has not been successful. These include loan-level pricing adjustments, which are upfront fees that are added to refinancing costs; putback risk; and junior lienholders who refuse to let their loans remain subordinate to a possible new refinance loan. She said policymakers have to find a way to make the refinancing process easier for consumers. “Finding different approaches to the policies that are hindering refinancing would likely provide some support to the economic recovery while improving the circumstances of homeowners and reducing the overall level of credit risk borne by the various holders of the risk,” she said … * WASHINGTON (9/6/11)--The Federal Reserve will require more time to release a package of Dodd-Frank-related rules, which were expected to be released by Labor Day. The rules, consider by many as the core of Dodd-Frank, include such issues as risk-based capital requirements, leverage, resolution planning and concentration limits (American Banker Sept 2). The proposals will provide a regulatory outline of how the Fed will oversee a system of interconnected financial institutions including banks and non-banks. They also will address related issues such as capital surcharges and how to unwind systemically important financial institutions. The regulations, which implement Section 165 of Dodd-Frank, are rumored to range between 1,000 to 2,000 pages …

Joint deficit committee sets up first meetings

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WASHINGTON (9/6/11)—The first meeting of the Congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction will take place this week when that group meets to consider proposed committee rules in the Rayburn House Office Building at 10:30 a.m. ET on Thursday. A hearing has also been set for Tuesday, Sept. 13 at 10:30 a.m. ET. That hearing, which will take place in the Hart Senate Office Building, is entitled: “The History and Drivers of Our Nation’s Debt and Its Threats.” Both meetings will be open to the public. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) will serve as co-chairs of the committee, which was created as part of an agreement to lift the debt ceiling while making some budget cuts, has been charged with creating more than $1 trillion in deficit reductions. Committee recommendations will be subject to votes in the House and Senate. If both congressional bodies fail to approve the cuts, automatic spending cuts will be made. The other members of the committee are:
*Democratic House members Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and James Clyburn (D-S.C.); *Republican House members Dave Camp (Mich.) and Fred Upton (Mich.); * Democratic senators Max Baucus (Mont.) and John Kerry (Mass.); and * Republican senators Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Pat Toomey (Pa.) and Rob Portman (Ohio).
Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Vice President of Legislative Affairs Ryan Donovan said CUNA will be following the activity of this joint select committee closely because of the possibility, currently viewed as remote, that the credit union tax status could come under scrutiny. "CUNA will continue to emphasize the positive impact that the credit unions have on the members and communities that they serve," he added.

CUNA launches Operation Comment for CUSO plan

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. (9/6/11)—A controversial proposal that would require credit union service organizations (CUSOs) to directly file their financial statements with the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) has drawn the attention, and criticism, of credit unions nationwide, and the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) is encouraging those credit unions to make their thoughts known through its latest "Operation Comment." The NCUA’s proposal, released in July, would also subject subsidiaries of CUSOs to the same financial reporting standards. Financial reports would also need to be forwarded to appropriate state supervisors under the rule. CUNA strongly opposes many of the proposed provisions. The NCUA currently has the authority to inspect the books and records of some CUSOs, but that authority is not universal, and the agency works with natural person credit unions that obtain services from the CUSOs to provide the majority of financial information on CUSOs. The agency has said that this method is inefficient and restricts its ability to conduct offsite monitoring and evaluate systemic risks posed by CUSOs. Agency leaders in a release said that the proposal, if enacted, would "enhance protections to consumers, credit unions and the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund." The NCUA is accepting comment on the proposal until Sept. 26. CUNA is also seeking credit union comment on the proposal through its own comment call, and will accept comments until Sept. 16. For more on Operation Comment, use the resource link.